Students will create a multi-track, stereo sound file while learning the Audacity interface elements.




This tutorial is intended to provide students with a basic knowledge of sound design. It encompasses basic Mac OS functions with the integration of Audacity’s tools & operations.

Alternative sound recording options not included in this tutorial may be demonstrated by instructors separately. Additional recorded sound files may be used at the discretion of the instructor.

Review prior to the tutorial:


Topics Covered

In this tutorial, students will learn to:

  • play a sound using Audacity

  • select, copy and paste portions of a sound

  • change the pitch of a sound

  • work with multiple tracks within a document at a time, mix them, set left/right balance and volume

  • apply Effects (amplify, reverb, echo, pitch shift, tempo, fade in, fade out, normalize, equalize)

  • generate noise, silence, tones

  • record sound & voice at appropriate levels to avoid distortion

  • exporting Audacity project files to MP3 or WAV for integration with other applications



Students should use their own pre-recorded stereo files in this exercise. Your final sound file should be at between 10 and 20 seconds and contain at least 3-layers of edited audio tracks. If you did not bring any audio, download this folder of audio to use.

When finished, confirm that your project folder contains all audio files that you used.

Export an mp3 (or other audio format file) and upload it to the proper folder on the class Google Drive.




Before you begin, check your audio settings. Open System Preference and set the SOUND>INPUT to Internal Mic (iMacs) or External Mic (Mac minis and Pros). Plug in your headphones and check the volume output of your computer as well. If you are getting audio from Finder but not from Audacity, you will need to explore settings in Audacity.


1. create a New file

Forewarning: Once this file and folder are named, you MUST NOT change them.
Name it [your_last_name]-ex3.aup and Save As… to a New Folder titled [your_last_name]-Ex3 on your Desktop. Be sure to include your name in the title of the Audacity file…this will ensure that the data folder that is created automatically by Audacity will also have your name on it.

When Audacity asks if you want to Save all Audio into your project, the answer is Yes.

For the sake of this class and your sanity, you are to check the Audacity import preferences and ensure that you are using the safer option. This puts a duplicate sound file into your project folder. You have been warned.

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 10.31.27 AM.png

IMPORTANT NOTE: Audacity saves out two elements: a Project file (.aup) and a Data folder. The data folder may contain numerous sound samples. The .aup file and its accompanying data folder must always be moved together, and never renamed.

2. upload a background track or get one from the web.

Make sure you have your audio files that you will be using on your machine or an external drive. Navigate to this file in finder, right click on it and open with Audacity.

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 10.41.49 AM.png

Use the selection tool to select 10-20 seconds of interesting audio. copy it, click off the current layer and paste onto a new layer. Alternatively, you can select bits you do not want and delete.


⌘S your document.

3. manipulate 15 second background track

Select all or portions of the track and experiment with applying the following Effects:

Change Speed
Change Pitch
Change Tempo
Fade In/Out

Stop when you’ve altered the sample so that it is no longer recognizable and you feel you’ve got something interesting to start with.

⌘S your document.

4. Pan stereo audio track from L to R

A. For this part, I we will cover how to split a stereo track (2-channel) into two individual mono track so that we can manipulate them individually.

Import a new audio track and cut it down to 20 seconds maximum. If you only have a mono track, duplicate it by clicking the drop down arrow on the track.

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 2.26.34 PM.png

The first thing we need to do is look at the left panel of our track. This is where the tracks basic info resides. The small drop down arrow there allows us to access ways to alter this tracks basic properties. Changing the name to something logical is just as imperative here as it is image editing programs, if not more important. First give it a name, then click the arrow again and split stereo track.


B. Once we have the track split into mono, we can begin the panning process. We will now select the pan tool from our tool bar:


Once selected, we will get blue highlights at the top and bottom of our tracks. We essentially want one layer to have full amplitude from the start, fading evenly to 0dB, and the other track to to do the opposite. Here is an example:

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 2.49.11 PM.png

Once you have this done, test your track by muting all other layers and then press the spacebar. (to preview only a section, use the selection tool and highlight that section and then hit the spacebar. To repeat one section, highlight that then shift+spacebar).

If your pan does not function accordingly, take a look at the left info panel of your mono tracks and adjust the level of pan from R to L accordingly.

⌘S your document.

5. import additional sound segments

Drag-and-drop additional sound samples, or use the Import command under the Project menu. If you don't have more of your own, just grab a few more from online for now. The imported file will appear on an additional track. You can then use cut, copy, paste and the time-shift tool and move around the chunks of sound you are starting to assemble.

Try selecting a portion of one of your samples, then experiment with the Edit> Clip Boundaries> Split command and the Edit> Duplicate command. What is the difference between them?

Remember to Normalize and adjust Gain and Pan as needed.

Your goal here should be to have at least 3 separate tracks running simultaneously in your piece. Apply the effects you used in step 3 to further manipulate your samples.

⌘S your document.

6. record audio with mic or external recorders

You can try to record audio into the built-in mic of your computer. Go to the Audacity menu and select Preferences. Set the input device to Built-In Audio and select a 2 Channel Stereo file. Then, make sure that the microphone is set to “Monitor Input”. When you want to record, you don’t need to make a new track…a new track will be made automatically for you. Be sure that your cursor is at the beginning of your file, and when you’re ready, just press the Record button (with the red circle) and start making sound.

How does this audio compare to the audio you recorded on a higher quality device? You can always Undo Record if you don’t like the results.

7. generate tones, silence, noise

Select a short portion of one of your tracks. Then go to the Generate menu and choose Tones, Silence or Noise to see the difference between these sound generators. You can Undo what you create in this step, or leave it in the final work if you like it.

⌘S your document.

8. export the Audacity file to an Mp3

Export as MP3, (smaller, lower quality file). Make sure that the tracks you wan’t to be present in the mix down are not muted. If you want to preserve stereo channels, make sure your final mix down contains both channels.

Go to File, Export. Choose either MP3 and title as “your-name_exercise_03”. You might be asked to “edit id tags” for your Mp3…you can ignore this step and just hit OK.

9. submit your first clip!

put a copy the Mp3 file to Google Drive

Note on file management:

Save and Close your project file. Do not change the names of either your project file or it’s accompanying data folder. Do not move one without the other. Do not put the project file inside the data folder. In other words, do not change the relationship between the project file and the data folder.