Background Recording with Audacity

Hey, there!

Audacity records perfectly, even when you can’t see it.

In class the other day, I casually mentioned viewing your scripts on your screen when auditioning, rather than printing them out. And it quickly became apparent that several of the students didn’t think that was possible.

It is. Here’s how.

This will make your life sooooo much easier, speed up your auditioning process, and make you a certified greenie as well.

As Betsy would say, “What’s not to like?”

One of my students thought reading his scripts from his screen rather than from a printout was impossible. That’s because he was unaware of a simple fact: Audacity records whatever you’re voicing in the background as well as the foreground.

(“In the background.” by the way, is computer lingo that means an application is running on your computer, but isn’t running in the frontmost screen – it’s behind, and possibly even hidden from view, by other applications, off in the background, but is running nonetheless.)

He’d been printing out his scripts, launching Audacity, and then recording his auditions, working hard not to shuffle paper during the recording.

This is a better way that saves time and paper.

You receive your script via email, or on a web page, or whatever. Open it so you can see it nicely on the screen. Then, launch Audacity, start it recording, then casually switch back to the app (email, web browser etc) that you’ve got displaying your script. Then voice your audition, scrolling the script with your mouse if you have to – and Audacity will be dutifully recording in the background.

When you’ve completed your track, click back to Audacity and stop the recording. Edit your best take together, export as MP3 and send it off.

And just like that, you’re a mad auditioning genius, with no unnecessary printing or waiting or shuffling.

Any other tips you’d like to share? Use the comments below.

Hope this helps.


11 Responses to Background Recording with Audacity

  1. Tansy Alexander November 12, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Great suggestion David. I actually minimize Audacity to a wide but shallow presence at the top of screen, have my copy on the bottom half of the screen and can then read my copy while making sure Audacity is doing it’s job….that way I can keep my eye on the waveform etc. In other words, I can see both my copy and Audacity at the same time :)

    • David H. Lawrence XVII November 12, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      I do the same, except that I reverse it – my script, in Preview, takes up most of the screen behind Audacity, and the Audacity recording window takes up the lower third or fourth of the screen. I keep my mouse just over the top edge of the Audacity screen to allow me to scroll the script without switching to Preview, and I can easily roll down an inch or so onto the Audacity window to be able to quickly follow the STOP-FF-REC method of picking up errors as I read.

  2. Kevin Scott Allen November 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Terrific blog today. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to redo takes due to paper noise. Never thought of putting Audacity in the background. Thanks for saving me tons of aggravation!

  3. Mara Junot November 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Great article, David! Who knew that so many talents still didn’t realize this was possible? I’ve been recording this way with Adobe Audition + Microsoft Word for years. (And for users on an ASUS PC, there’s a fantastic app called MultiFrame that allows you to even split both screens at once–just in case someone wants to visually monitor for any clipping or otherwise.) Thanks for helping to make VO go “green”! :D

  4. Nicola Redman November 13, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    I use Cubase the same way. It’s really good to not need to worry about printing out scripts all the time. These days I also have a tablet which is really great for reading from as an alternative to paper. But we need someone to invent a tablet that you can scribble notes directly onto, like you would a directors comment on a paper script! That would be fab as it’s the only think I miss from not using a printout…

    Northern irish voice

  5. Allison Wood April 21, 2016 at 5:11 am #

    You know what I use? The Rehearsal App on my iPad. It makes it easy for me to mark my scripts.

  6. Steve Krumlauf April 21, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    Super duper idea, David! One which I would love to implement, The problem is, my laptop just makes way too much fan noise to allow that to happen. I have to keep my Lenovo outside my booth in order to lower the noise floor. My booth has no windows, so, there’s no opportunity to “watch the screen through the glass.” I’m forced to print out the hard copy, (in as big a font as possible so these middle aged eyes can see it), and use a music stand inside the booth. Thanks for the great tip!

  7. Craig Bruenell April 21, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    I also do what David does — scroll the script in the background with Audacity in the foreground. The issue for me with reading scripts on the screen is that annotating them is a lot harder.

  8. Marlon Braccia April 21, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    To Steve Kumlauf’s comment above:
    Steve, I keep a dry ice pack under the part of my computer that gets hottest, both before and during recording, to postpone when that fan will go on. If I does go on, I use an equalization effect that a techie pal set up for me, which removes all sounds under a certain frequency level. I takes the low rumble of truck noises out, too. Overalll, lt allows me to record a lot of times when without it, I could not.

    David, I have screenshot of how that effect is set up, because frankly it was beyond my knowledge of sound to set up. If you want to publish it, I’m happy to share it here so your readers can create a similar preset in their Audacity app.

    • Billy September 25, 2016 at 9:11 am #

      Is it okay if you do publish it?

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