Audacity in the Elementary Music Classroom

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Back in 2007, Dr. Joe Pisano wrote a great post on this site titled, “Best Music Freeware: Audacity Audio Editor.” Seven years later, Audacity is still around, still free and still an excellent program for elementary music educators. There are four ways that I use Audacity often and very effectively in my elementary music classroom:

1. Change the pitch of a recording. Have you ever needed to change the key of an accompaniment recording? This is something that Audacity does very well. To do this:

  • Download Audacity at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/.Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.19.02 PM
  • Install and launch Audacity.
  • Click and drag the audio file that you would like to change the pitch to Audacity’s screen.
  • Click on the gray portion of the audio track to select that track (ie highlighting the track).Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.30.41 PM
  • Click on the Effects Menu and scroll down to Change Pitch…
  • A new menu pops up where you can now change the pitch. Audacity will try to decipher the key of the music or you can input it and change it to make it higher or lower.
  • Click OK and listen to your the track in your newly selected key.
  • Save the Audacity File. Exporting the audio file is at the end of the post.

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2. Change the tempo of the recording. Have you ever had recordings that were too fast? When my third graders are testing for their recorder stars by performing certain songs with accompaniment tracks, there are times when the accompaniment tracks are too fast for them. I can have them perform the songs without the accompaniment tracks. However, by using Audacity, I can have them perform the music with the same accompaniment tracks at slower tempos. To do this:

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.40.40 PMLaunch Audacity.
  • Click and drag the audio file that you would like to change the tempo to Audacity’s screen.
  • Click on the gray portion of the audio track to select that track (ie highlighting the track).
  • Click on the Effects Menu and scroll down to Change Tempo…
  • If you know the beats per minute (bpm), then input that metronome marking and input the metronome marking that you would like the recording to play. Or, if you do not know the bpm, use the percentage slider and experiment with percentages, like 10% slower.
  • Click OK and listen to the track in the newly selected tempo.
  • Save the Audacity File. Exporting the audio file is at the end of the post.
  • You will notice that though the tempo is changed, the pitch has remained intact.

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3. Remove the vocals from an audio track. Have you wanted to utilize a recording in your classroom, however, you would like to remove the lead singer’s vocals? Audacity can do this with some audio files. When it works, you are successfully creating a karaoke track for your students to sing along.

  • Launch Audacity.
  • Click and drag the audio file that you would like to remove the lyrics to Audacity’s screen.
  • Click on the gray portion of the audio track to select that track (ie highlighting the track).
  • Click on the Effects Menu and scroll all of the way down to Vocal Remover (for center-panned vocals)…
  • Click OK and listen to the track to see if the vocals were removed. The track will sound a bit different with the vocals removed, however, if your students are singing with this newly created track, it will be a successful performance.
  • Save the Audacity File. Exporting the audio file is at the end of the post.

4. Basic editing tool. You can use Audacity to perform basic editing functions on audio files like deleting a portion of the audio track or mashing two or more audio tracks together. Personally, GarageBand or Mixcraft are a bit more friendly to use for this circumstance.

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How do I export my newly created audio file? Once I am happy with my

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audio file that I created in Audacity, I click on File and scroll down to Export. A new window appears and you have choices of audio formats to save your file. I save mine as .AIFF files, which is an audio format for MACs. If you are on a PC, the

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.57.56 PMWAV format would be more beneficial. If you want to export it as an MP3 format, you would need the LAME audio encoder (found here: http://lame.sourceforge.net/) or you could export it as an AIFF or WAV file and have iTunes convert it to an MP3 for you (place it in iTunes, click

on the track, click on File>Create NewVersion>Create MP3 Version).

Audacity has become a staple in freeware. When it comes to the first three items on this list, Audacity is one of the best freeware tools to perform these functions. As much as I love GarageBand (and I do love GarageBand), changing pitch, tempos and removing vocals are not its strong points and I would choose Audacity first when performing these functions.

amy

Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award and the 2016 NJMEA Master Music Teacher Award. TI:ME . You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com
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