Basic Audio Editing with Audacity

If you are new to Audacity’s sound editing software, here are some basic things you need to know.

If you are installing Audacity on your personal computer, follow steps 1 to 3. If you are using the computers in Bozorth 134, then skip to item 4. 

1. Install Audacity on your personal computer

2. Install the LAME .mp3 encoder so you can export .mp3s of your sound project

NOTE: You only have to do this once, the first time you set it up and use it.

Follow these installation instructions for your computer (Mac or PC)


3. Set your preferences. 

Note: You only have to do this once.

For Macs:

Audacity > Preferences

Click Quality tab

Set Default Sample Rate: 44100Hz

Set Default Sample Format: 32-bit

Click Libraries tab on the left.

Click “Locate…” under “MP3 Export Library”, then “Browse…” in the “Locate Lame” dialog.

Navigate to and open the folder you extracted the zip to, select “libmp3lame.dylib”, click “Open” then “OK” and “OK”.

4. Learn your Audacity workspace


5. Import audio files

File > Import > Audio

Then click on the file you want to load into Audacity.

6. Play, Pause and Stop

  • Press the Play button Play button to start playback.
  • Press the Pause button Pause button once to pause playback, and again to resume.
  • To stop, press the Stop button Stop button.

NOTE: You must press Stop in order to edit. You can not edit if you press Pause.

7. Save Project

Save early and often. File > Save Project

8. Select sections of audio to edit

Choose the Selection tool. selectiontool

Now click the left mouse button anywhere inside of an audio track, and click and drag to the other edge of your selection, and release.

You can also select using the keyboard and toolbar. Read more details about Selecting Audio

9. Split Delete

This allows you to select a section of sound you want to get rid of without shifting the following audio over.

Select the section using the Selection tool selectiontool

Then Edit > Remove Audio or Labels > Split Delete

Read more about splitting a track into clips

10. Duplicate

This allows you to copy a section that you want to keep and create a duplicate of it on another track.

Highlight a section of audio using the Selector tool selectiontool

Then Edit > Duplicate

11. Moving Clips

Highlight a section you want to move using the Selector tool selectiontool

Then click on the Time Shift tool timeshifttool

Then click on the clip and drag it to the left or right. This is called time-shifting because you are changing the time at which that audio will be heard.

12. Split and Move

This allows you to split a clip so you can move one section independently.

Highlight a section you want to move using the Selector tool selectiontool

Then Edit > Clip Boundaries > Split

Then click on the Time Shift tool timeshifttool

Then click on the clip and drag it to the left or right.

13. Zoom in and out

Select the Zoom tool tools_zoom_basic7

You have several options:

  • Left-click zooms in one step
  • Shift-click or right-click zooms out one step
  • Middle button zooms in or out to Audacity’s default zoom level of about one inch per second

Read more about zooming

14. Adjust volume of clip or fade in/out

Select the Envelope tool envelope

A thick blue border will appear at the top and bottom of the waveform.

Put cursor on the blue border at the top. Click and hold it and drag the blue line down to lower the volume. Drag it up to raise the volume. The smaller the waveform, the quieter it will sound.


To fade volume in and out, you can create multiple points on the blue border by clicking on it. Then move just a section up and down.

Read more about the envelope tool

15. Mix multiple tracks into one single track

You can physically mix multiple selected tracks using the Tracks > Mix and Render. The original tracks are replaced by a single Audacity track that combines the audio from the original tracks.

Read more about joining tracks

16. Noise removal

You can get rid of an unwanted noise in the background (like a hum or buzz.)

Click on the Selection Tool selectiontool

Highlight a section of your audio that only contains has that unwanted noise. It can only be a few seconds long.

Effect > Noise Removal

Click on Get Noise Profile button

Then select all of the audio track from which you want to remove noise.

Effect > Noise Removal > OK

Read more about noise removal

17. Export as .mp3

File > Export

Save As: Give your file a name

Where: Desktop

Format: MP3 Files


Insert or skip Metadata

The first time you export you will need to tell Audacity where to find the LAME encoder.  The file will be located where you downloaded it in Step 2 above.

For Macs:

“Browse…” in the “Locate Lame” dialog.

Navigate to and open the folder you extracted the zip to, select “libmp3lame.dylib”, click “Open” then “OK” and “OK”.

It will create a .mp3 file

18. Backup your work

In Audacity, File > Save

Save your original Audacity file (.aup) on an external drive for safe keeping.

Video: Audacity Basics for Journalists (MBG) NOTE: This video walks the user through all of the steps above. However, it was created in 2010 using an earlier version (1.3.12 Beta). The concepts are the same, but software and tools have changed.
Editing an Audio File (Audacity 2.0.5 manual)
Mixing a Narration with Background Music (Audacity 2.0.5 manual)
Audacity Tutorials (Audacity 2.0.5 manual)

About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine,, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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