In this post I share five digital tools that I use to edit and work with audio files, which I feel might be of interest to folks wanting to do oral interviews. I don’t use any of these tools to record interviews or my podcast, but I do use them to edit and work with my recorded materials. This is no way an exhaustive list, but I hope it will be a starting point for folks to also share their useful digital tools.
Audacity is an impressive free audio editor for both the Mac and PC. While you can use it to make recordings it is also a great editing tool. You can amplify your sound files if they are too soft, perform nose reduction to remove background noise, and edit the content. You can also use this program to export the data into other derivative files in alternate formats such as wav and mp3. To be honest, this brief overview cannot do justice to this great open source software.
Express Scribe is a useful piece of freeware from NCH Swift Sound who create transcription products and tools for legal and medical transcriptionists. They give Express Scribe away for free to entice users to support the use and sales of their other tools. The software allows the worker to listen back to the files at reduced speeds and easily rewind and move forward within the file. If you intend to transcribe your recordings or index them, Express Scribe makes the task easier.
ID3 Editor allows users to simply edit and embed metadata into their mp3 files. These tags allow the producer to pack important information into audio files, which are called ID3 tags. From photographs, and copyright restrictions to transcripts and key words, this software provides important additional information to audio files. While mp3s are not good long-term preservation files, they are great for sharing your recordings with family and friends. ID3 tags makes sure that important facts stay with your audio files.
Levelator is a simple drag and drop program that easily levels tracks. Often when doing an interview the interviewer is off microphone so they sound a little softer than the person being interviewed. Levelator levels both voices to the same general volume. While this is not a replacement for good recording practices, it does simplify working with interview files.
MP3 Trimmer is a program that it does one thing extremely well—it trims files. While other editors can be used to do this, with Trimmer, users can cut out the noise often found at the beginning and end of interviews. It can also auto-trim silence from the beginning and endings of files as well as batch processing multiple files.
In closing, these are just a few of the free and affordable prams that I have found to be useful in working with audio files. I would love to hear about other programs. Please let me know what you like to use. All the best, Jon