Music, the way you want it

The iPod has revolutionised my life. Ever since I forked out my hard-earned cash for this electronic saviour, I cannot think of a single minute when it hasn't come to my aid at appropriate times. Be it on the bus journey to and from work, riding my bike, running along the beach - my iPod has been there for me every time.

And what about the iTunes store? Well, that's been there for me as well, but unfortunately, not every time I've needed it. Although it's safe to say the Australian iTunes music catalogue is growing day-by-day, it still doesn't have everything I want to listen to, such as some of my old vinyl and - dare I say it - tape collection.

Thankfully, analog to digital transfer is not too difficult these days, and there are many programs out there that can help you get your dusty record collection onto your PC. One program is Audacity. It's free and has many powerful features.

The following pages give you some handy tips on how to manipulate your digital music to sound and play the way you want, ready to transfer to your MP3 device or burn to disc.

HOW TO MANIPULATE DIGITAL MUSIC WITH AUDACITY


1. To record a track, open Audacity and select your recording option from the drop down menu. Choose Line-In if you are recording from an external drive, such as a record player. Make sure this device is plugged into the Line-In socket on your sound card or motherboard.


2. To select part of a track, click the selection icon (top left corner of the toolbar) and left-click where you want to start selecting. Drag the mouse and release the button when your selection is made. To highlight the entire track hit <CTRL>, <A>. Now you are ready to apply filters, effects and other editing tools to your selection.


3. To remove part of a track, highlight the section and click Edit-Delete (or hit your keyboard's <Delete> button). "Silencing" is a second technique for removing unwanted sections while keeping the entire track the same length. Highlight the section to silence and click Edit-Silence.


4. After removing part of a track, it may start or finish rather abruptly. Using a short fade in and out can make a track sound much more natural. To do this, select the area you want to adjust (at least two seconds worth) and click the Effects menu, then choose Fade in or Fade Out.


5. Some audio tracks have significantly different volume levels to others. The solution is to normalise the tracks to the same level. To use the normalise feature, select the entire track and choose Effect-Normalize. It may take some trial and error to get the right levels, but after a few attempts, the results should speak for themselves.


6. To split a lengthy audio fi le into smaller more manageable files, highlight each section you want to separate and go to Edit-Split. The highlighted selection will now move to a separate audio track. Repeat this process until your entire file has been split to your satisfaction. To export these newly created tracks, go to File-Export Multiple.


TIPS & TRICKS

DIGITISING MUSIC DIRECT FROM YOUR HOME STEREO Recording from a standard turntable or stereo is easy. You'll need an RCA cable with red and white line-out connectors at one end and a mini stereo jack at the other end (these can be picked up at most electronics stores for approx. $15), which plugs into the line/mic port on your PC's sound card. The RCA connectors then plug in to the pre-amp for your home stereo system, or directly to the turntable.

The same principle applies when connecting to a cassette deck. For the best results, choose the internal sound card option as it's designed to process audio.


HELPFUL DOWNLOADS

WINDOW TO YOUR TUNES Don't wait to see what Vista has to offer. Its updated version of Media Player is already available as a download and is a great way of bringing all your digital content, including your music and other audio files you've recorded, into a central area where you can instantly see what's what (www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia).

MUSIC DOCTOR If a taster of audio editing has whet your appetite, try the public beta version of Adobe's capable Soundbooth editor to see how effective its restorative powers are on your old records. Soundbooth's Auto Heal tool is a particular treat if your vinyl has the odd scratch or five (labs.adobe.com/technologies/soundbooth).

GRAB THAT AUDIO One of the easiest tools to grab audio from all your old vinyl (and even tapes) is LP Recorder. Just hook your external device, such as record player or stereo system, to your computer and let this software do the rest. You can get it at www.cfbsoftware.com


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