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Tools and Effects Affecting Volume in Audacity

Video Tutorial

Review of All of Audacity's Volume Commands, Effects and Tools

Audacity has an array of tools for controlling volume. This video tutorial is an introduction to all of them. OK admission time, a couple of tools slipped below the radar. The leveller effect didn't make it because it does oh-so-much-more than alter volume (wink wink), the silence command doesn't need any introduction, however the auto-duck is probably deserving of mention as it operates solely on volume and can be very useful. We'll put the omission of Auto-duck down to tiredness, lack of caffeine and lack of familiarity - it's a good effect and perhaps deserves its own video.

A Word on the Envelope Tool

The envelope tool, which might go by the name of volume automation in some software, is potentially a very good tool, but still suffers from unreliability - unexpected results, resetting of nodes without warning etc. Visually it's as cute as a 1950s Mercedes Benz, functionally it's as reliable as a 1980s Ford Capri driven by an 11 year-old with attention deficit issues. Until the tool gets a full overhaul, it really is an application-switcher.

But the envelope tool is nonetheless very useful and it is included here along with the compressor, normalize and amplify effects and the equally useful but somewhat incomplete mixer board.

Choosing a Version

There are currently several versions of Audacity you can download and choosing the choosing the right version isn't always a straight and easy decision, so you'll find here some useful advice.

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Alternative Software

There is a huge selection of software availabe for music editing and production, below is a representive selection. You'll find here free, trial, and paid-for software. The time-unlimited demo versions which Ableton and FL Studios provide are well worth an inspection. Most of the software houses below have several offerings to suit pretty much every pocket. The equation is not simply one of "You get what you pay for," however and the trick is in knowing both what you need and what is most likely to satisfy that need.

Sony Acid Xpress (Free)

Ableton (Time-unlimited Trial - Saving disabled)

Zynewave Podium (Free and Demo versions)

Sony Acid Pro (30 Day Trial)

Adobe Audition (30 Day Trial)

Ableton (Time-unlimited Trial - Load disabled)

Cubase (30 Day Trial)

CakeWalk Sonar

Apple Logic Studio (Macs)

Choosing Version

For some time the latest beta versions of Audacity have been more stable and more reliable than the "stable" version 1.26 release. For this reason, you shouldn't shy away from the 1.3 beta series which at the time of writing is, in my view, the no-brainer choice.

"But wait!!" you say. "Aren't beta versions deadly, unfinished, pieces of near-trash just waiting to wreck your PC and which should only EVER be touched by iron-clad geeks?"

Yes and No. If a software package has a very large user base, has a development team with an excellent track record - and Audacity answers to both requirements - then consider trying out the beta versions. The large user base should spot significant flaws early on and alert the developers quickly. So a useful provision is not to upgrade to the very latest beta release until a couple of weeks have passed since it is likely any major problems will have been spotted by then.

Naturally, if a piece of software is critical to your computer's operation, then you may be reluctant to try out anything other than a tried-and-tested version. Finally, remember that with free software - and most GPL/GNU like Audacity software is free - the development team may be small and it may take a very long time to release a final product. A slow steady approach to getting things right shouldn't be penalized, but remember that the purpose of beta software is to discover and iron out imperfections in software by releasing it into the wild, so always expect imperfections in beta software.

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