How To Use Audacity

Download How to use Audacity (PDF 375.8 KB)


Audacity is a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems.

Audacity can record and play sounds and import and export WAV, AIFF, MP3, and OGG files. Edit your sounds using cut, copy, and paste features (with unlimited undo functionality), mix tracks, or apply effects to your recordings. Audacity also has a built-in amplitude-envelope editor, a customizable spectrogram mode, and a frequency-analysis window for audio-analysis applications.

Audacity is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux- check hardware requirements.

Hardware & System requirements

PCs- running Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 or higher

Macs- security settings on OS X 10.7 or later may block Audacity being launched. Most users on OS X 10.9.5 will experience this, due to changes made by Apple. (To permanently enable Audacity launch, right-click or control-click on the Audacity application in Finder, choose "Open", then in the dialog box that appears, choose "Open").

GNU/Linux(latest version) as long as it is compatible with your hardware specifications.

Video Camera- Ensure you have a good-quality video camera

Microphone– To achieve better quality audio use an external lapel mic or headset microphone


If you haven’t already done so:

  • Install Audacity onto your Mac or PC.
  • Connect the microphone to the computer’s audio input jack, or use a USB microphone if you have one available.
  • Ensure it is set to record using Line In in System Preferences (see image below)

Set to record

If there is only one audio port, check the audio settings to make sure that the audio jack is set to Sound Input as below.

Sound output


Start recording in Audacity and ask the subject to say a few sentences in a normal tone of voice so you can check the volume levels.

  • Check the recording levels
  • Start the video camera recording.
  • When the interview is over, stop the camera and Audacity recordings.
  • Save the Audacity file to a convenient location and export it by going to the File menu and choosing Export. Choose either the WAV or AIFF format as they are uncompressed and will keep the best quality. The native Audacity file format does not work with other programs.
  • Import the video file from the camera to the Mac or PC

Putting it together

  • Now that you have separate audio and video files, you need to combine them into your finished product. You can combine the files using iMovie; Movie Maker; the process is nearly the same for other video editing programs.
  • Open video editing program iMovie or Movie Maker
  • Click the Create button in the toolbar to create a new event; name and save it as you wish.
  • Click the Import button in the toolbar to pull in the audio (AIFF or WAV) and video files.
  • Drag the video to the timeline and choose Detach Audio from the Modify menu. Then drag the audio to the timeline as well. Note that the two audio sources will have peaks and valleys in different locations, because you likely did not start the audio and video recordings at exactly the same time (see below).

Audio track

  • Detach the audio and it will appear in the blue track
  • Trim and move the audio track to closely match the audio that the camera’s built-in mic captured, and then play to listen if the two audio tracks line up. If they’re close, delete or mute the camera’s audio track and move the audio recording back and forth slightly until the sound matches the subject’s lip movements in the video. Notice how the orange marker shows two peaks in the audio tracks lining up with each other.

Camera/audio track

  • Line up the recorded audio track with the camera’s audio track
  • When finished adjusting the audio and video, put on any other finishing touches such as intro slides, transitions and export the finished product

View the video on recording and tagging audio

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