How to Make Your Voice Sound Sexy with Audacity

How to Make Your Voice Sound Sexy with Audacity August 3rd, 2015, by Matthew Setter

Whether you're making a podcast or a screencast, how do you make your voice sound as professional as possible - without an expensive recording studio? Today I'll show you how to do it using the free, open-source tool Audacity.

I do an increasing amount of audio work; whether that’s for my Free the Geek podcast, technical training videos, or longer courses. So it’s important to me that I sound professional, and not like I’m all alone in a room.

I’m not saying I want to sound like I have access to a professional recording studio. As it’s nice to still have a slightly more relaxed sound. So in my never ending search for that perfect sound, I’ve come across a good process which works for me.

Best of all, it’s using Audacity. Audacity, if you’re not familiar with it Audacity is:

A free, open source, cross-platform (Mac OSX, Linux, & Windows) software for recording and editing sounds

It has a very healthy range of features; but here’s a short list:

  • Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together
  • Numerous effects including: Normalization, Equalization, Fade In, Fade Out, Silence Truncation

I’ll be honest, at first I was a bit dubious about it, thinking it wouldn’t give me the kind of sound I wanted, instead preferring stick to the “safe” route of using GarageBand. But after some experimentation, I’ve found that Audacity’s definitely the better choice.

Honestly, given I’ve been in open-source for so long, I should hold my head in shame for not using it sooner. But hey, using it was a bit of a learning curve. Or did I just tell myself that.

In saying that though, it’s not really that much of a learning curve. To be honest, what I really had to learn wasn’t the Audacity UI, but audio terminology.

Not coming from a studio or music background, terms such as compression, normalization, high pass, and low pass were all gibberish to me. But once I gained a basic understanding of some of these terms, everything else started becoming rather natural.

Anyway, I’ve rambled a bit. Today I’m going to show you how I took a basic recording and made it sound pretty polished, even sexy, using only a handful of effects in Audacity.

Recording One

This is a simple phrase which I remember from My Fair Lady. Nothing special, but allows for a clear, and simple recording. You can hear that the room sounds a bit empty, with not much in the way of sound deadening or padding.

Recording Two

Now have a listen to the second one. Better? I’m confident you’ll agree. I kid you not, it’s not a different room or setup. It’s the same recording with a series of effects applied. Specifically, in order, here they are.

1. Noise Removal

Noise Removal, or reduction, is the process of removing certain noises, such as low background noise, hums, whines, and taps from the recording. To do that, you first need to get a profile of the sound which you want to remove.

To do this, you select a section of the recording which reflects what you want to remove, then click Effect -> Noise Removal... -> Get Noise Profile.

With the profile created, you then select the entire track, and click Effect -> Noise Removal... -> OK.

Note: A tip I picked up from Cal Evans, is to always include 5 seconds of normal room or background noise at the start and end of a recording. This can then be used as the base of the noise profile. Thanks Cal.

2. Normalise

Quoting Wikipedia, normalisation is:

Audio normalization is the application of a constant amount of gain to an audio recording to bring the average or peak amplitude to a target level (the norm).

In short, the key reason why I do this is to attempt to ensure that the entire track stays roughly at the same volume level. Everybody has natural variances when they speak, as well as reasons why some sections will be louder or softer than others.

This is exacerbated when you’re recording audio at different times, as the sound is naturally, without a very controlled environment and recording process, going to sound different. So when you want the final piece to be consistent, you use normalisation.

To apply normalization in Audacity, with the entire track still selected, click Effect -> Normalize -> OK. I don’t play with the settings.

3. Compression

Audio compression, or dynamic range compression, reduces the difference between loud and quiet, of an audio waveform. Here’s an excellent description from TutsPlus:

Compression is the process of lessening the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of an audio signal. This is done by boosting the quieter signals and attenuating the louder signals.

To apply compression, with the entire track still selected, click Effect -> Compressor -> OK.

4. Equalization

Equalization is:

The process commonly used to alter the frequency response of an audio system using linear filters.

Why I’m using it is to both bring out the bass in my voice, giving it a rounder, deeper, bassier sound, as well as adding some treble to it, for extra crispness and vocal clarity.

4a. Bass Boost

To apply compression, with the entire track still selected, click Effect -> Equalisation. In the popup window, near the bottom, click “Bass Boost” from the dropdown box next to “Select Curve“. Then click OK.

4b. Treble Boost

To apply compression, with the entire track still selected, click Effect -> Equalisation. In the popup window, near the bottom, click “Treble Boost” from the dropdown box next to “Select Curve“. Then click OK.

That’s a Wrap

And that’s how, just using Audacity (OK, and a decent microphone, such as the Blue Yeti), you can take a fairly average recording and give it some sexiness, and professional sounding aesthetics.

Just a reminder, if you’re not male, perhaps skip on the bass boost. But then, you already knew that, right? Anyway, if you’re an audiophile, or do voice recordings, what is your process for making your voice sound at its best? Share your thoughts in the comments.

BTW: I am open to voice over work :-).

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