As mentioned before, you don’t need to be a professional sound engineer to create an audio memoir. You do need to be patient and persistent. You also need to be willing to learn some new skills. Thankfully, they aren’t too difficult. Last time we looked at the cheapest recording alternatives. This time we’ll look at a couple more, one which costs a bit. But both programs take sound recording–in terms of the experience required to use them and the result–to a higher level. Once again, I’m beholden to Steven Whitworth for his help in sorting all this out.
He recommends one of two programs available on-line: Audacity and/or Reaper.
Audacity (available here) is open source shareware, meaning that the code is freely available to both users and developers. Though Audacity is available for your use at no charge, remember that many people donated their time and expertise to create and maintain it; the least you can do is pony up a few bucks in a donation aimed at encouraging them to keep the program viable.
(Side note: a major upgrade to the Audacity code was developed by Paul Licameli who is not only a brilliant programmer, but a gifted voice-over artist as well. He single-handedly produced the amazing Audible version of my short story collection, Christmas Beyond the Box, which you should rush out and buy right away! Or, you can order your copy here.)
According to Steve, Audacity provides a well thought out setup and a thorough range of features. I can attest to that, too. I’ve used the program to do soundtracks for book trailers. Below is a screen shot of Audacity in action. Try not to freak out over all the controls. It’s actually less complicated than it looks. The documentation for both programs is more than adequate, and if you take your time, you should have little difficulty navigating either one.
Reaper (get your copy here) has much more going for it than a creepy name. Once again, according to Steve, it provides an excellent set-up in their virtual mixer with adequate but easy to use enhancements–features somewhat superior to those on Audacity. You’ll have to pay for it, however. The standard home edition is listed on their website for $60. That’s an excellent deal.
Also note: Older versions of far more sophisticated programs like Logic Pro (for Apple) and Pro-Tools (for the PC) are available for download at greatly reduced prices. The cost is in the $30-40 range. HOWEVER, the learning curve is much steeper, and they take up a tremendous amount of space on your hard drive.
Either Audacity or Reaper will do a great job and are not much harder to use than a garden variety tape recorder. Their output can be markedly improved, however, by the use of some additional hardware, which we’ll discuss next time in the final installment of this topic.