Task 1: Soundwriting with Audacity

Wednesday, March 31

This week you’ll be introduced to two tools: one you likely know well (Google Drive) and another that is probably very unfamiliar to you (Audacity). The overarching goal of this week is to familiarize yourselves with tools and processes for revising writing for a different mode; that is, you’ll be drafting writing in one mode that is familiar to you (text/visual) and revising it for another mode (sound/ear).

Writing tool #1: Google Drive

We will be using Google Drive to share files and folders throughout this semester. Here’s how to use it.

Getting to your IWA student folder

  1. Go to http://drive.google.com/ and log in with your usual Rowan credentials. (NOTE: to access or share any Drive materials you must be logged into your Rowan account.)
  2. Go to the “Shared With Me” tab on the left.
  3. Find or search for your IWA student folder. It should include your last name, first name, followed by “IWA” in brackets (i.e. “Luther, Jason [IWA]”). If searching just try IWA.
  4. Click on it. This is the folder you will use to share work with me that is not on a public site; it saves us the trouble of using Blackboard or sending files via email.

Create a folder and document

  1. Create two folders by clicking the big + NEW button at the top left and choosing folder. Name the first folder “Mic Check” and hit the Create button. Name the other “Phono Project.”
  2. Open the “Mic Check” folder and click the big + NEW button again, only this time choose Google Doc. Title this doc “script.”

In-class: Use this document to tell the class a story about your relationship to music. This can be as simple as crafting an ode to your favorite artist, album, or genre, or it could be a story about an instrument you were forced to play in high school, or perhaps a memorable concert you went to, or an anti-music story. Give yourself only 10 minutes for this — just get it on the page for now.

Bonus tools for Google Drive

  • Drive app for iPhone or Android. Allows you to save or access Google Drive files from your phone.
  • Drive File Stream for your computer. Allows you to navigate and back up Google Drive filed from your operating system rather than a web browser.

Introduce yourself with Audacity

We’ll be using a free, cross-platform (i.e. PC or Mac) sound-editing program called Audacity quite a bit in this module (alternatively if you use a Chromebook, you can use Beautiful Audio Editor). Audacity allows you to record, import, and mix audio files as well as manipulate them with different effects. Like other robust software, learning how to use Audacity takes time and can be challenging. Yet, one of the core approaches to learning to compose and create with new media is trial-and-error experimentation. This initial activity, then, will get you to experiment and problem-solve as best you can. After I show you a few ways to rip, import, and mix tracks in Audacity, you’ll manipulate them to create a new, multi-layered track that you’ll use to introduce yourself.

Finding & saving audio: working between interfaces & formats

For this activity you’ll begin by collecting audio files that will likely come in different formats: mp3, WAV, and m4a (if using iPhone). You’ll save these to that “Mic Check” folder you just made (which, again, should be nested within your IWA Google Drive folder):

  • one from a free sound you download from the web (as mp3 or WAV),
  • another that you’ll rip from streaming content on the web (mp3), and
  • yet a third file from your phone (m4a if using iPhone).

Once you have all three files, you will drag them from your computer (the Downloads folder or the Desktop) to your “Mic Check” folder, which should be opened in your browser. Like so:

In-class: Download a free sound. I like to think of web is a giant archive or repository of various media, including texts, images, videos, and — of course — sounds. However, the degree to which these are available and the forms in which they take depends upon who owns them. There are many sites that offer free sounds and here are but a few:

° The BBC’s Sound Effects site — searchable and browseable by various categories.
° The Folksoundomy on Archive.org — see the Sound Effects & Recorded Ambience section in particular.
° Freesound — requires a login but has a searchable and tagged repository of thousands of clips.

Once you find a sound (or sounds) you like, download the format to your computer and drag to the “Mic Check” folder as shown above.

In-class: Rip content. In addition to repositories of audio files, there are also millions of sources for streaming audio. Content/copyright owners often choose streaming rather than downloading audio to exercise some control over their content; however, a number of options exist for converting streaming audio/video to files, some that are link-based like YTMP3 and others that are app-based, such as ClipGrab. (For more, see the Wikipedia entry on Youtube downloaders.) For this track, choose a sound file that somehow enriches your script.

Homework: Record a voice memo. Open your voice app on your phone (in iPhone this is the Voice Memos app; on Android you might have to download Voice Recorder). Use the app to record your script from the Google Doc above. (It will probably take a few tries to get this to sound right — try not to sound like you are reading from a script!)

Once you have a decent version, export the file to your computer. You can do this several ways. If you have an iPhone, and you are exporting to a Mac, the quickest is by using Airdrop. Alternatively, if you installed the Drive app on your phone, you can save the file directly to your IWA folder via that app (not unlike saving a photo there). You can also email it to yourself and drag it into the Drive folder as shown above. If you can’t get to this in class today, do it for homework.

Writing tool #2: Audacity*

Homework: Download Audacity or, if you are using a Chromebook, try Beautiful Audio Editor. Both are cross-platform, free sound-editing programs; however, BAE is a cloud- and web-based application, while Audacity is downloadable software. Audacity allows you to record, import, and mix audio files as well as manipulate them with different effects. But because they are free, they require some patience from users. All tutorials are based in Audacity, but many of the same processes can be applied to BAE.


Wednesday, April 7

Let’s start:

  1. If you files aren’t on your computer, navigate to your “Mic Check” folder in Drive. Download this folder by right clicking it (control+click) and choosing Download from the options.
  2. Open the zip file it downloaded and you should see your content in a folder. Leave this window open.
  3. Open Audacity. To do so in a Mac, go to Finder > Applications and look for Audacity. It looks like this:

Track 1: Once it is open, drag your first file into the main editing panel in Audacity, like so:

Track 2: Now drag your other file into Audacity the same way. You’ll see it show up below the other track.

Track 3: Audacity needs help importing and exporting some formats, including m4a, which was originally a proprietary format developed by Apple. There are a few ways to do this, but the least complicated is to use a safe online converter like 123App’s Online Audio Converter. Choose mp3 and “Good” quality (192 kbps, which is CD quality). Once you convert/download your file to mp3, drag it to Audacity.

Audacity basics

Watch my YouTube below on how to use Audacity, which aims to teach you how to:

  • Use the toolbar.
  • Name and mute tracks.
  • Move tracks around.
  • Split tracks and delete content.
  • Fade tracks in and out.
  • Mix volume [also see this]

You might also check out LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), a high-quality, video-based tutorial site that Rowan pays a hefty fee to subscribe to. The fact that you can have a free account to LinkedIn Learning is a real perk of being a college student here. To use it, login with at LinkedIn Learning using your Rowan email. Once you’re in, you can search for different videos, courses, and other content including “Learning Audacity” (released only a month ago!).

Audacity: Saving vs. exporting your work

Once you’re happy with your mix, you’ll need to save, backup, and export your work:

Saving. When you save a project in Audacity the program saves both a file (.aup) and a folder with your stuff in it; it is named the same but includes “_data” as a suffix (i.e. “miccheck_data”). You’ll need both to open the project again. Save this somewhere on your machine where you’ll be able to find it easily.

Exporting. Audacity is a special format that requires Audacity to play it. But obviously most people who make projects in Audacity want to export them for outside audiences. Thus, mixes must be export to a format that is compatible with common devices and interfaces (iTunes, smartphones, etc.). To do that choose Export > Export as WAV. [Note: you can export as mp3 but Audacity might need some help with that command.]

Assignment: Once you export your project to your machine as a WAV or mp3, drag it to your IWA>Mic Check folder in Google Drive so I can access it. Please title it “Mic Check FINAL.” Then convert your essay to SoundCloud. Add a title and appropriate image.