Book Review: The Book of Audacity

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Audacity is a popular free sound recording and editing program for Linux, Macintosh and Windows.  I’ve been using it since it first came out, but I always fumbled here or there with some of its features. Fumble no more. This extensive and fun to read guidebook will take your fumbles away. Written by tech veteran Carla Schroder, this book gives you the kind of advice and information you’d get from a friend. A very, very smart friend.

Audio engineering concepts are no easy matter to explain, but this book rises to the task. What I appreciated most were the tips and tricks from someone who has used the program a lot. Carla Schroder covers Audacity on both Linux and Windows. Since the program is virtually identical on the Mac, Mac users should not feel left out.

I loved seeing a photo of the sound recording studio the author has set up for herself. A full chapter of the book explains how you can set up your own sound recording studio. This book gives recommendations on which microphones to buy and how to set up your mics for best sound recordings.

For you musicians out there, the author explains all the different ways you can now sell your music online and the most recommended audio formats in which to offer your music.  I was very happy to see the FLAC format – a lossless audio format – praised several times in this book.

I could go on and on telling you what’s covered in the book, but check out the detailed table of contents on the O’Reilly Media web site. This book is comprehensive. Even though the subject can get quite technical at times, the author sprinkles in just the right amount of wit to keep your attention.

The Book of Audacity is a recommended purchase for public libraries, school libraries, makerspaces and anywhere else the do-it-yourself spirit flourishes. Public libraries that have their own makerspaces would be wise to purchase multiple copies of this book. I’d love to see a Mozilla Open Badge for mastery of Audacity, too. That would make for an excellent summer goal for a middle school, high school or college student.

As I was writing this review, a friend sent me an email asking what microphone I’d recommend for sound recording into an iPhone.  As it happens, I knew the exact answer. The RØDE Microphones smartLav, which records to both iPhones and Android phones, was recently chosen as one of the products of the year by Videomaker magazine. So there — you’ve got the complete guide to Audacity from Carla Schroder and the most recommended portable smartphone microphone solution from Videomaker magazine. What more could you ask for?  Go out and record some great audio. And if you need a free way to upload your audio to YouTube, with any accompanying graphics, MP32Tube is a service that does the trick beautifully. I recently reviewed MP32Tube on the Cool Tools web site.

Phil Shapiro is an educator, maker and media maker in the Washington DC-area. He has had a long interest in bringing community voice to the web and in the use of public libraries to weave social fabric via the creative process.   You can reach him at and on Twitter @philshapiro

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