Once upon a time I owned a reel-to-reel tape deck, and I loved to fiddle around with making my own re-edits and mixes of songs I liked and thought should be arranged a little differently than how they were on the LP or CD. Later, I was lucky enough to volunteer at a non-commercial radio station which had a couple of lavish recording studios with soundboards, effect generators, and--of course--reel-to-reel decks. I used to bring vinyl 12" singles into the studio, and using the instrumental or dub version from the flip side of the single, I'd fashion elaborate reworks of my favorite tunes. After mixing these onto a RTR tape for storage, I'd transfer the song to a cassette and BOOM!, my personalized party mixes were mobile.
Still later in life I got into computer games and wasted a lot of time with them. A friend of mine at a local bookstore told me I should put all that computer time into mixing music using software, just like I'd done before with magnetic tape. I was skeptical enough (and sufficiently caught up in games like, say, Sim City) to accept his loaner of a mixing program and then forget it for a few years. However, once I got around to playing with the program I was hooked. Now, I rarely indulge in a computer game, and instead have become a mixing freak like never before. One day here at the library I was assisting a patron in our computer lab when I realized that every one of our public computers features music mixing software (the program is called Audacity) every bit as good as the program my friend had loaned me long ago, yet very few people seemed to know of it. We've offered a few classes in using Audacity over the past couple of years, but not many folks attended them, so it seems to me some promotion is in order here.
What the heck is Audacity?
Created by students at Carnegie Mellon University back in 1999, Audacity is, in their words, "a free, open source digital audio editor," which basically means it's free (duh) and useful in manipulating sound files. Audacity is a multi-track audio editor, so if you have a song split into a group of audio files (with, for example, one file for each instrument or voice), you can make changes to one track without altering any of the others. The software's been available on the internet for a long time and is currently up to version 2.0.4 (PCPL has 2.0.0). The program is highly intuitive and its interface can be presented in over 50 different languages.
What is Audacity good for?