Quick Tips on Audio Recording from Years of Hating My Results

Today on Twitter Eric Lawrence, creator of one of my favorite debugging tools, Fiddler, mentioned that he wanted to clean up some crumby audio that had lots of noise in it.  Having spent most of my adult life as an amateur musician and having recorded some pretty lousy audio I thought I’d share some tips from my experience.  These will not help everyone (possibly even Eric) but they’re here for posterity.

The first issue I faced was having a built in microphone on my laptop.  In my experience this always leads to bad results.  The first problem is that fans and electrical currents always seem to interfere here.  You can try to use tools like Audacity or Adobe Audition to clean up the recordings, but they’ll often sound different when you’re done because pieces of the sound wave will have been clipped due to the filters that remove the noise.  If you can: get a secondary microphone that is away from the laptop even by a foot.  You may still pick up some background fan noise, but it will be significantly better.  I have a simple recording studio set up in my office and I still get laptop fan noise in the background if my microphone is too close to the MacBook I have.

I mentioned to Eric that I’ve used my Samsung Galaxy 4S to get great recordings of conversations and aside from people touching the phone the microphone is already geared to handle a speaker-phone setup so it does a good job.  If you can’t get an external microphone for your computer a phone may be a good working solution.  Several apps exist for the different platforms for recording lectures and these tend to work well.  The smart phones don’t have fans, and they tend to be designed for picking up audio.

One useful trick for making sure you don’t get feedback and to confirm you’ve got good audio input is to use headphones.  I like over-the-ear headphones because they are not noise canceling [which is cool, but can also fool with your perception of what you've recorded], but will block some of the external sounds.

In addition to equipment sound settings on your computer/laptop/recording device can have a big impact.  To get louder sounding audio some hardware/software combinations will do either hardware or software amplification and this can really add to background noise or distortion.  It can also amplify electrical interference or line noise.  Check the settings on your device and confirm that you don’t have the microphone or line-in volume set to 100% as this can be a problem.  Rather than assuming this is the problem it’s recommended you do a test with the settings adjusted at 100%, 90% and so forth.  It’s funny, but you can use the microphone at 70% [for example] get your recording and then use Audacity or a similar package to normalize the audio and it will up the volume, but you’re less likely to run into distortion or clipping.

On my mac I use GarageBand for all the recording I do because it’s there.  GarageBand gives me control of the input sources under preferences.  It gives me control over the master volume, the track volume, and I can enable the compressor to maximize volume consistency for each channel.  If you’re not familiar with the workings of GarageBand you may need to do some help file scanning, but it’s pretty direct and you should be able to get to a stable starting point relatively quickly with its podcast settings.  I haven’t used Windows for musical recording for about 7 years now so I’m a bit behind on what’s there except Audacity and Audition.

I hope this help!  If you’ve got questions please feel free to leave a comment.

15 Years

There are few things that I’ve done for 15 years.

Programming? 13.x years.

The guitar, the drum and the piano. All for 20+ years.  But with moderate commitment and I’d burn some of my guitars if I needed a fire.  The piano needs a good tuning and at least one key repaired.

Reading? 31 or so years.  But I don’t read so gooder compared to this.

Parenting? 11.1 years.  But nothing as important as being married to my Jessica.  Being a dad is a pretty big deal.  But I need the one before the other.

I think being married to Jessica is the second most important relationship I’ve got.  God, then Jessica, then my kids, then the rest of everything else.

Thanks for all the rest of you for helping support this pretty darn important relationship! You have witnessed a miracle in 15 years and I can’t  wait for you to see the rest of  it.

Avatars

I keep changing my avatar on Facebook because my former piano teacher poked at me for my white square avatar saying it confused her. I don’t always like to confuse people. 

I do like to exceed expectations, though, so I’ve been trying to change it daily.

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Those a few of them. And don’t be shocked if I go back to the white square every once in a while.

Spend Your Nights Awake and Your Daze Wishing You Were Asleep

I’ve been working long hours lately.  It’s taken a toll on my health.  In case you weren’t sure what that term means every time I walk into my office I have to pay $0.75 at an actual toll booth and gain a half pound in weight.  It’s not pretty.  Toll booths should be prettier given the fact they’re going to take your money.

The good news is that the feature I’ve been pouring myself into is likely going to ship in the next 24-48 hours and we’ll be good to go. I might get some sleep again.  But my body will take a few weeks to move into “tired because it is night time” mode.  Which is a fun transition because it takes me a few weeks to get into “Spending Your Nights Awake and Daze Wishing You Were Asleep” mode.  Working long hours is sometimes part of my job, and that is not a complaint.  What my real complaint is is the fact the clock has hours between about 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM.  I would like to do away with those, or take a siesta, and then all would be right with the world.

Except for that ugly toolbooth.  That I could do without.  I’m still trying to figure out why it’s in my hallway.  Also: where does this fat come from?  I’m pretty sure that it’s not organic cow-beef fat.  I’m guessing it’s from pig, in which case, I want to get it with bacon. Lots & lots of bacon.

Jesus Paid It All

There’s a hymn with the name Jesus Paid It all. I enjoy the song a lot, it’s got great lyrics except for the first line of the chorus. It goes like this:

Jesus paid it all
all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Except we don’t owe Jesus. He has redeemed us and made us adopted sons. This is the kind of position that negates any sense of owing.

So we changed it to this:

Jesus paid it all
His grace and love to show
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

That’s a chorus I can sing with great gusto!

First Day of School

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The girls went to school this last week for their first day of the sixth and second grades respectively. Abby is freshly 11 and Evie is going to be 8 in a few months.  It’s pretty amazing being their dad. I am already prepared to throat punch the boys. Stay away from my daughters.

Free Stuff

A neighbor put this fine sign up near the entrance of our subdivision.

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Only the arrow did not point to anything. In much smaller letters below that it said to go to the first cul de sac. Except there are two cul de sacs right across from one another.  It was the one on the right.

The free stuff reminded me of a saying my old boss at my old job used to say, “You can’t sell what you can’t give away. ” Free trash isn’t in high demand. The free stuff is still out on their driveway.

Part of me wants to move some of it into the other cul de sac just to mess with people. Part of me doesn’t want any such sign up in my neighborhood. Part of me wants to knock on their door and ask if they have any nicer free stuff I could have.

Welcome Sports Fans

This blog has been more active lately.  It has been a surprise,  even.  But here’s the reason: I got a new smartphone.  I got a Galaxy S4.  It is the perfect laptop for me when I don’t want to carry a laptop.  WordPress has a native app for it so I can snap a picture,  tell a story, and move on.

I am, of course, writing this on my laptop while I wait on a phone call ;)

Brewing with my Brother

Not everyone should drink alcohol & I’m not advocating drunkenness, but this post is about brewing beer with my brother, which was fascinating.  Cooking often involves heat and chemical reactions, but rarely at such a scope as this process which takes weeks to months.

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We brewed two small batches this day. 2 & 3 gallons each.  An amber and a wheat beer.

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Grains are the backbone of the color & flavor. They need to be milled to extract the sugars (maltose).

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The milled grains were placed in a sack to make their removal easier.  After you heat them you need to get them out.  Rather than straining the water this lets you just pull out the barley and other grains.

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Hops carry the preservative quality of vitamin c and also counter the sweetness to bring balance to the beer’s flavor.

Yes, they are related to hemp. No, you don’t smoke them.

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Once the wort (pronounced wurt) is boiled you need to cool it down. This can be done several ways including with this chiller.  The smaller pot was rested in some ice water in the sink.

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The yeast & wort go into a carboy. This is a container that will keep the CO2 in, and the oxygen out to prevent funky flavors & spoiling from contamination.

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After some time fermenting you can finally drink it.  This is not the beer we brewed, this is some other home brew my brother made.  It was delicious, just like it looks.

Waffles

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These were the tasty, tasty waffles that I had to “judge” last night. The 10yo decided that she was going to challenge her aunts. So they had a throw down. And the aunts made jessica compete.

So in clockwise form (stsrting top left) they were a delicious gluten free waffle, a delicious chocolate stout waffle with cream cheese sauce and salted caramel drizzled on it, a delicious raspberry-lemon waffle, and a delicious jalapeno cheddar bacon waffle with scrambled eggs and cheese sauce on top.

All were delicious and that pained the judges. Who won because they got to eat them :)