Audio Editing: Garageband, Music Reviews, and Podcasts

Soko; photo by Robin Black, courtesy of BB Gun PR
Soko; photo by Robin Black, courtesy of BB Gun PR

Back in 2011 during a brief semester at Marymount Manhattan, I took a great course on digital media where we learned basic coding, video filming and editing, and audio recording and editing. That was over four years ago now, and as I haven’t had much use for at least the audio editing part, I realized as we began this assignment that I had forgotten quite a bit.

Luckily, after a little trial and error, I found out that much like riding a bicycle after a long time, it was somewhat effortless to fall back into the habit of knowing how to splice, adjust time, and add effects to tracks, among other things, in Garageband.

In fact, my greatest struggle during this project was finding a computer with Garageband. Since I’d used it before, I really didn’t want to download and use Audacity, which I find tends to be more complicated than it needs to be, as well as much more visually confusing than the streamlined, friendly aesthetic of Garageband’s software. Luckily, I didn’t have to trek the hour back to campus to use a Mac, as all I had to do was go to my mom’s house.

The first thing I had to do was select something to talk about. I recently had to interview a French nu-punk artist named Soko for a magazine I write for, and having been immersed in her album for a few weeks, decided it would be a natural and interesting topic to wax poetic on for a bit. As for the actual editing, the step which proved to be a slight obstacle was to import my actual vocal audio track (i.e. the one with my talking) into Garageband, as my file was a WMA (I had recorded my vocals on my Toshiba which has Windows). After a little Googling, I found a free audio conversion software that I downloaded and was easily able to convert my WMA file to MP3, making my vocal track compatible with Garageband.

Afterwards I simply dropped in my two music tracks, the intro and the bed. I chose two songs from Soko, as she and her new album were the focus of my podcast discussion. The first thing I did was work on the intro music, settling on a pleasant, audible base volume and about ten seconds in, beginning to drag the volume down in a fade out that ends at fifteen seconds. I used a Distortion effect to make the music more hazy, fuzzy, and cerebral, adjusting the drive, tone, and output levels. I spliced out the rest of the track as it would be inaudible anyway.

Also at ten seconds in, I began to bring up the volume on my foundation or bed track, creating what sounds like (to me, at least) a fairly cohesive fade in, the two tracks mixing pleasantly over one another until all you can hear is the bed music. I kept my bed music volume at a medium volume, so listeners could still clearly hear my voice over that track. I also activated the Bitcrusher audio effect to slightly alter the audio for the purpose of (hopefully) avoiding Soundcloud’s wrath, as well as to tone the music down a bit.

Soko - 'My Dreams Dictate My Reality' Record out 3/3/15
Soko – ‘My Dreams Dictate My Reality’
Record out 3/3/15

As for the vocal track with my podcast discussion, I began my track a few seconds into the intial fade-out of the intro music, creating a seamless transition in which I begin talking as the intro music lowers and continuing as the bed music fades in. I punched up my volume to make sure my voice is heard. Similarly, I utilized the Speech Enhancer effect on my vocal track and lowered the noise level, as well as raised the reverb to +3, helping to punch up my voice a bit while cleaning the track of some background noise. (I had recorded my discussion on a laptop mic, so the quality was not so great at first.)

After listening to the final product a few times and making various minor tweaks, I finally saved my project and then exported the audio into a MP3 file. Finally, I created a schoolwork-only Soundcloud account and uploaded my track with some artwork, a description of the project, and appropriate tags.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with my podcast (even if I’m not too keen on listening to my own voice over and over!) and very happy with the way it turned out, as I put a lot of thought and effort into creating it, as well as coming up with my topic. In the future, I can hopefully use these skills in other courses, as well as for my work in music journalism where I sometimes have to do audio interviews with artists.