Audio Editors Mindset

I spent most of my years as a professional sound engineer working on studio music sessions, recording anything from heavy-metal through to Yugoslavian folk songs, and from light Opera through to acid techno dance music …sometimes in the same day!It was an interesting time with a great of variety of people and different styles of music.

I also enjoyed the thrill of working at many live events such as WOMAD and Glastonbury, and London’s South Bank and Docklands festivals. Live events are always full of surprises, with the potential for things to go horribly wrong, either minutes before a band went on stage…or in the middle of the show in front of 12,000 people!

Actually things very rarely went wrong, but that’s because at a live show you work really hard to make sure everything goes right…because there is no second chance!

And then there were the studio editing sessions…

Listening to the same piece of music…or speech….in great detail….sometimes over and over again….sometimes for hours and hours…..just to get the edit perfect.

Not the most glamorous part of audio production, but one that makes a huge contribution to a high quality end result.

Audio Editing Engineer: A Glamorous Job?

I was the main editing engineer in a busy London studio for a few years, and I got to do pretty much all the editing work.

There was one editing session which was working with a recording of a corporate presentation that was several hours long. I think they recorded the whole day…and it was my job to edit it.

The guy who did the presentation didn’t do a very good job, and whatever it was he was speaking about was incredibly boring…well, to me, anyway. And the worst thing was that every three or four seconds he ‘ummed’ and ‘erred’….for hours and hours…all day long.

And guess what?

It was my job to edit the recording and remove all the ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ from this guy’s speech (zzzzzzzzz……..) to make him sound smooth and slick!

It took me something like three full days of concentrated editing to clean up this guy’s presentation and make it sound like a well rehearsed presidential address!

By the time I’d finished with him, he sounded absolutely fantastic…(even if I say so myself)…and absolutely nothing like the fumbling, mumbling recording I was presented with…

…and it was the single most mind numbing and boring job of my entire recording career!

But I learnt a great deal in that editing suite, and I want to share the key points with you in the following pages.

Audio Edting Is Easy

I wrote this book as a simple guide to editing audio, so that you could take voice recordings made on your computer or on a digital voice recorder and edit them to a good standard.

Editing audio is not difficult at all. In fact it is very similar to editing text in a ‘word’ document, just like you would in a letter.

The principles are exactly the same.

In audio editing, you are still working with words on your screen, except these words are in the form of sound waves instead of typed out groups of letters, phrases and sentences.

In simple terms, you ‘highlight’ the audio you need to edit and use ‘cut’, ‘copy’, ‘paste’ and ‘delete’, just like when you type something out and make mistakes or want to make changes.

I would guess you’re properly already quite familiar with working like that in some way.

The big difference in working with audio, especially with speech, is that you have to listen…carefully.

You have to listen to the words that are being said, to identify exactly which you want to keep, which you want to delete and sometimes which words, phrases or sections you may want to cut and paste into a different part of the recording.

Most Important

You also have to make sure that the recording ‘flows’ naturally. It’s important to remember that we all listen to the human voice every single day, and have done since the day we were born. So we are very familiar with the subtleties of human vocal expression.

In other words, when we speak we communicate with far more than just the words we choose to use. A great deal of communication is in the vocal tones that we use, the way we actually use our voices to express a certain feeling.

When you are editing speech and you make changes to the way the sentences were originally spoken, it is important to check that the edited speech still sounds like it flows naturally.

Remember, you can always ‘undo’ your last edit if it doesn’t sound right by using the ‘Ctrl’ and ‘z’ keys together, or by selecting ‘undo….’ from the edit menu.

Edit Sound By Looking!

Editing audio is as actually made much easier just by seeing the sound waves on screen. You can see everything clearly, and with a bit of practice you will begin to link the words you hear to the shapes you see on your computer screen.

That in itself is a big step forward, and your audio editing speed will increase dramatically when you reach this point.
Apart from listening carefully, the other important point to keep in mind is the big picture – what will the end result sound like?

You may be taking several sections of audio from different recordings to edit into one final piece, a bit like a radio show, with a main presenter, sound bites, bits of music, interviews, some advertising etc. It’s important to know what you want the whole thing to sound like once you have finished.

You can do this in your head or on paper, but plan it out somehow. It will make your job much easier…

Taken from my ebook ‘Easy Audio Editing’ – ‘How To Edit, Clean Up, And Remove Noise From Your Audio’  – a series on audio recording, editing and product creation.

audio editing, audacity, audio products


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