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.

Coming Cross Post

Trint Ladd, from Surely You’re Not Serious, and my friend, and co-worker, and brother-in-Christ and I will be doing a cross-post soon.  That’ll dust some of the dust off this blog.  Which is good.  I was supposed to be posting some thankfulness here anyway.

What do you want to see him post about?

Thankful Thirteen

This is the first of many posts I plan on posting this year for 2013.  I’m going to try to make a few rules about this so that I can try to setup safe, but useful constraints to what I post.  I’m sharing them here so you can lower your standards 😉

  1. Doesn’t have to be every day
  2. Don’t just be thankful for a person – be specific
  3. “Funny be – there is no try” – Master Yoda

I’m going to start in an interesting place: I’m thankful for Tony Nuzzi.  He’s my friend, he’s a brother-in-Christ, and he’s got a great sense of humor.  The stuff that he has been through has not defined who he is, he’s grown from it.  He has dyslexia and he pushed through that to become one of the more accomplished writers I know.  You won’t read most of his writing, though, because he’s a coder and has written numerous patents. Those aren’t “sit down and read” material, sorry 🙂

Tony and I met because his dear wife (whom I will be thankful for on another day to be fair) and I worked together at the Manger Christian bookstore in Carson City, NV.  Tony came by on his lunch break and immediately I wasn’t sure what to think of this guy.  I hoped he was good enough for my friend Erin.  As it turns out I’ve learned quite a few things from him about being a dad and husband and I think he’s perfect for her 😀  He still married up.

Tony has not been afraid to lovingly confront me in my shortcomings and he’s also not been afraid to run out of a grocery store next to me laughing hysterically because one or two of us may or may not have farted and left a smell so rank in the magazine aisle that our wives were embarrassed enough for all four of us.

I’m thankful for the friendship that has endured for almost a decade and a half. I’m thankful for the laughter, some tears, some guitar time, computer time, Bible time, and of course taking our families to Disney World two years ago.  He’s one of my best friends and I hope you get to meet him some day if you have not met him (yet).  Ask him about a Rolls-K’nardly.

35 and 14

So I turned 35 last week.  This week Jessica and I will be having our 14th wedding anniversary.  I don’t feel a day older than 21 (most days) and yet it feels like I have always been married to Jessica.  When I turned 21 it was 8 days before I got married and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It’s been the best kind of trouble, the best kind of fun, and the best kind of love.

I can’t wait to see what 46 and 25 looks like, not to mention 71 and 50.

I love you, Jessica!

A Vote For Third Party

Creative Commons: source

I’ve heard from some folks lately that voting third party is a lost vote or a vote for ‘the other guy’.  Let’s think about how that plays out.  If I talk to a democrat and I say I’m voting third party they say, “That’s a vote for Romney.”  If I talk to a republican and I say I’m voting third party they say, “That’s a vote for Obama.”  So really I’m voting for both candidates when I cast a third party vote based on this logic.  I’m kind of OK with that since a ‘split my vote between these two people’ option doesn’t exist on the ballot.

Or, there’s the other position: a vote for a person that represents (most closely) your views is a vote for that position, even if it carries little to no electoral weight.  In other words the larger two major parties will see over time that their platform does not represent the third party position and may come around, over time, to represent other ideals.

Vote third party this next election – or at least split your vote between the lesser of two weevils.

Talk About Rights and Responsibilities Before You Talk About Guns

That title is pretty straight forward and is sure to draw fire (no pun intended) from various folks, but let’s be frank: you can’t jump into an argument about gun control (or the second amendment) unless you recognize that rights come with responsibilities.  If you’re not going to carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately execute your rights with responsibility, then you don’t get to keep the right.  Let me explain:

You have the right to drive a car in the United States starting at about 16 years of age all the way until (depending on the state) they take that license, and right, away from you.  You could lose the right for getting DUI’s too many times (I’m all for 1, but let’s say 3 is a safe number to let drunk driving happen on accident the first two times).  You can lose the right because you’re too old and you’re dangerous to other drivers.  You can lose the right if you speed excessively.  In other words, you have the right, but you can lose it if you don’t take responsibility.

I want US citizens to be able to have various weapons for various sorts of safety, target shooting, hunting and of course looking like Chuck Norris:

But after we get over looking like Chuck Norris if you’re not a safe, responsible, rights-aware citizen, then you probably shouldn’t be having a gun.  You probably lost that right.  As a civilization I’m actually for more citizens having guns.  But with training.  I really do think every healthy US citizen should be required to go through 2 years in the military and serve the country.  I didn’t do this.  i was chicken.  But I also think that even if you’re cleaning latrines you should know how to handle a weapon, deal with intense situations, and generally be aware.  Not that I’m obsessed with war, but that I’m concerned that rights like gun ownership need training, and making it mandatory (like drivers ed) except for those who are really, really fringe, makes more sense than removing the rights.

Now: let the flaming begin!

It Can’t Be Done

How many things in your day are you pre-loading with the assumption “it can’t be done.”?

How right are you with that assumption?  I’m guessing you’re probably wrong.

If it’s too hard, too long, too stressful, too much work, too (insert excuse here) you’re probably justifying that which you should question.

Flash: Not as Evil as Bad Coders

I’m tired of the argument that Flash crashes browsers, consumes CPUs (and thus electricity and your laptop battery), and keeps your fan going.  Guess what?  Bad code outside of flash, and in HTML5, can do the same thing!  Open Google Chrome and launch Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader and check your resources.  Is Chrome eating up system resources?  You’ll probably not be surprised to discover that it is.  Advertisers are using Flash and they’re using it in intensive ways.  Flash by its nature sits as a plugin for most browsers (Chrome actually being an exception) but those browsers and Flash rely on developers doing certain things.

Worse, in HTML5 web workers you can set up a loop that will take a machine to its knees even if it doesn’t do anything.  I’d make a demo page, but someone will undoubtedly use it for evil, so just trust me that a bad coder doing bad things can use non-flash things to take down your computer.  I can do it without HTML5, too.  I can probably write bad code in every programming language and probably take down every machine – because it’s bad code.  Don’t blame the messenger [AKA Flash]!  Blame bad coders and people who are using it irresponsibly.   There are bugs, there have been security problems, but Flash is just as vulnerable as the browsers, and even your word processing software (ahem, Office + Macros).

I should also point out: I don’t code/program in Flash.  I have nothing to gain from Flash being anywhere (except of course when I play Scrabble on Facebook, which I quite enjoy). I just don’t like it when people point their fingers at one technology or another like has  happened to Flash pointing to the middle of the problem instead of the root.

I Call Shenanigans on Legalists

I’m tired of hearing folks beat up other believers over some thing they need to be doing.  The latest one I just watched part of (until I couldn’t take any more and had to shut it off) was about how Christians need to be really overt and blatant about being Christians on Facebook or MySpace.  I’m not sure how your religious status on Facebook ties into your actual walk.  I am sure how your life and status updates in general can reflect your walk, but I’m pretty sure that they’re not the things that show your spiritual growth.  I love the idea of folks wanting to see passion in the lives of believers, but what about growth?  Growth is not just that you can quote Bible verses to people.  Growth doesn’t mean how intense you are about others “living according to the Bible” (by which they almost always mean rigid rules and standards).  Growth has very much to do with what Peter closed his second Epistle with:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are subtleties in these last two verses that make me want to scream and shout at legalists.  The apostle is warning the readers to watch out for those who twist God’s word to their own destruction in the verses leading up to this thought.  He warns them with this in full view so that they would watch to not be carried away by the error of unprincipled men.  In the context of Paul there are two ways I have seen people take the message out of context: 1) Paul really was a closet legalist and wanted to see people burdened by the Law  or 2) Paul was too gracious (as in Romans 5 & 6).  Here’s the real deal: If you’re not being accused, like Paul, of saying people should be liberated to sin because you’re teaching grace like Romans 5 & 6 state clearly, then you’re not preaching grace appropriately.  And like Paul writes in those very same chapters: sin should not abound because grace is a motivator and motivates us to stop sinning and to be living a life of abundant abiding.  The measuring stick is not the Law, it’s grace.  Grace is a tough measuring stick because it is infinite.  Deal with measuring growth by grace like Peter suggests: grow in your understanding of it.

If you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not just by studying to be better, but by pursuing Him and His grace, you will grow in a measurable way: in context of grace.  Grace, as a motivator, leads us to righteousness, but it doesn’t lead us to a rigid system that burdens and beats up.  Grace leads to conviction unto relationship, legalism leads us to guilt and more flesh based works to try to make up for past failings.  I call shenanigans because there is no good deed that goes unpunished in a legal system.  Its not good enough.  It isn’t meritorious, it isn’t paying God back.  Grace is always sufficient.  Always.  Because its our justification in Christ that brings about our measurement in grace, it always measures up infinitely.

Christ when speaking to the woman at the well in John 4 talked about living water.  The woman at the well was obsessed with getting that living water and which well it came from.  Christ was referring to spiritual things that brought life abundant.  When legalists bring out their rulers for success and growth I scoff.  I used to have one of those rulers.  I used to pull it out, measure myself by it in front of other believers, and then go back to my sinning in private.  The legalist has outward works to judge by, but the heavenly minded believer doesn’t even see the ruler.  The legalist can sin in private without being caught (until they’re being caught and are then found in scandal) while the grace based believer finds himself out of fellowship and quickly comes back to the Father through the past forgiveness of sins due to the totally adequate work of Christ on the cross.  The legalist is constantly looking back wishing with regret that he had never sinned before while the gracious believer is constantly looking back at awe that the Lord forgave such a sin as the ones the believer committed.  One would give anything to change the past, the other sees that Romans 8:28 is true: God can use anything, even shenanigans, for good.  Give up the Law my Christian friends and the rulers that come with it, instead walk by faith in grace, grow in your knowledge of Grace, because it gets it definition, its source, and its motivation from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.