Happy 20th Birthday, Audacity!

Happy Birthday! Audacity turns 20 today with the first released version, Audacity 0.8, having been released on the 28th of May, 2000.  In these 20 years many operating systems have come and gone, and we’re still here and running.

Audacity is used by a community of artists, scientists, music and sound lovers, podcasters, narrators. Audacity has even made appearances in a number of TV series and movies. But, especially, Audacity is used and supported by you.

So, feel free to share the news in social media, drop by our official facebook page and leave us a message. Sound is welcome. Visualizations as well.

PS: Yes we know the cake only has 13 candles We’ll say some of the candles count double, and that lets us use a public domain image rather than a commercial one.

Cake image by George Grimm Howell, License CC0. Thank you, George!

Audacity 2.4.1 Released

We’re pleased to announce release of Audacity 2.4.1 which replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux.

The 2.4.0 Multi-project bug:

Audacity 2.4.1 fixes a serious bug in the briefly available Audacity 2.4.0.

With 2.4.0 we blundered. In 2.4.0 you’d get loss of and corruption of audio, when you had two projects open at the same time.

Thanks to Jack L from FreeBSD for alerting us to the problem so promptly, and giving us steps to reproduce it.

Catalina?

With 2.4.1 we have now caught up with Apple’s ‘notarization system’. Audacity on Mac is notarized and runs on Catalina.

Time Toolbar:

We have split the recording/playing time off from the selection toolbar and it can now be dragged to make it larger. This is particularly for people recording themselves playing a musical instrument, where they will typically be further from the screen when playing, and benefit from a larger numerical display.

Large ‘Time Toolbar’ (on the right)

The new toolbar can be ‘undocked’ from the foot of the screen, and made larger still, for more distant viewing.

Multi-views:

We have added a new optional mode for viewing audio. In this new mode you can see both the waveform and a spectrogram at the same time. Previously you would switch back and forth between them if you wanted both.

Multi-view mode with spectrogram above and waveform below

You can get into this multi-view mode by clicking on the down-pointing triangle beside the track name in the panel on the left of the wave. This will drop-down a menu with options, including multi-view mode.

These screenshots of Audacity showing the time toolbar and multi-view mode were made on the windows version of Audacity, using the dark theme. Dark theme can be selected from the preferences.

Other Changes:

For a more detailed account of changes, including a list of some of the many bugs fixed since 2.3.3, see: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/New_features_in_Audacity_2.4.1

Audacity 2.4.0 Release (withdrawn)

We temporarily re-instated the 2.3.3 release for downloads whilst we investigated a serious bug that affects 2.4.0 on Windows Mac and Linux. The bug causes loss/corruption of audio.

The bug happens when you have two projects open at the same time and paste audio from one project into the other. Thanks to Jack L from FreeBSD for alerting us to the problem and giving us steps to reproduce it.

With that information we were able to find the root cause, make a fix and release 2.4.1.

We’re pleased to announce release of Audacity 2.4.0 which replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux.

We’ve put a lot of time and work into it.

Catalina?

We have now caught up with Apple’s ‘notarization system’. Audacity on Mac is notarized and runs on Catalina.

Time Toolbar:

We have split the recording/playing time off from the selection toolbar and it can now be dragged to make it larger. This is particularly for people recording themselves playing a musical instrument, where they will typically be further from the screen when playing, and benefit from a larger numerical display.

Large ‘Time Toolbar’ (on the right)

The new toolbar can be ‘undocked’ from the foot of the screen, and made larger still, for more distant viewing.

Multi-views

We have added a new optional mode for viewing audio. In this new mode you can see both the waveform and a spectrogram at the same time. Previously you would switch back and forth between them if you wanted both.

Multi-view mode with spectrogram above and waveform below

You can get into this multi-view mode by clicking on the down-pointing triangle beside the track name in the panel on the left of the wave. This will drop-down a menu with options, including multi-view mode.

These screenshots of Audacity showing the time toolbar and multi-view mode were made on the windows version of Audacity, using the dark theme. Dark theme can be selected from the preferences.

Other Changes:

For a more detailed account of changes, including a list of some of the many bugs fixed since 2.3.3, see: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/New_features_in_Audacity_2.4.0

Audacity and Teens Help Premiere a New Opera

Roger Dannenberg

The Mother of Fishes is a new opera in which young people play a major role: They create electronic sounds and perform with professionals. The opera is based on a popular Valencian story about love, adventure and magic. For every performance of the opera, we engage young people to create and perform electronic sounds as well as to sing in the opera chorus and dance. For our most recent performance, we used Audacity extensively and worked with students from the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) 6-12 School.

I wrote the opera with Jorge Sastre and produced our new English translation in Pittsburgh with conductor Federico Garcia-De Castro and director Seamus Ricci. This post describes our experience, including our goals, some techniques, and some example sounds.

Goals

The Mother of Fishes opera, performed Feb 15-16, Pittsburgh. (Photo: Nick Childers)

We originally wrote the opera as a showcase for Soundcool (more about that later), so we made a lot of room for electronic sounds. We put in everything from simple sound effects, like a horse approaching the house of the witch, to an extended scene where our hero fights a dragon to the death. Although we use a sizeable traditional orchestra (harp, strings, winds, percussion), the electronics add a new sonic dimension we especially love using them in scenes with magic.

Another priority for us is engagement with the community, and we always enlist young people to develop electronic sounds and sing in the chorus. This means teaching some basics of recording, electronic sound, editing, processing, and live performance. We were fortunate to find a partner in CAPA 6-12, a Pittsburgh Public School with a very supportive administration and faculty as well as a beautiful theater with stage, lights, and orchestra pit – arguably the best small venue for opera in Pittsburgh.

We have two approaches to “performing” sounds in the opera. One is to produce sounds as fixed recordings in sound files and simply play the sounds on cue. This is simple and reliable, and we were assisted by Jesse Stiles, an experienced composer/sound designer. The other possibility is to perform sounds live by cueing and mixing complex sounds interactively, following the conductor, orchestra and singers. This is more difficult and riskier, but enables us to quickly adapt to timing and sound levels in rehearsals and performances. Even this case relies mostly on prefabricated sounds that are triggered and manipulated live. For both approaches, Audacity plays a central role in editing and refining sounds.

Sound Design with Audacity

Beginning in the fall of 2019, I worked with Antithesis, which is the high school new music ensemble at CAPA. Some of these students have done some music and audio production on their own, but many are instrumentalists who don’t have digital audio experience. We talked about sound design and listened to some examples from movies such as WALL · E and experimental electronic music. I soon found that trying to record sound effects was not very effective in the classroom, so we turned to online sound effects as source material. Our primary source was freesound.org, a great source for all kinds of sounds.

Students were tasked with developing sounds for different scenes of the opera: the fisherman who encounters the magical Mother of Fishes, the 7-headed dragon, the evil witch, and so on. Students began by searching for and downloading sounds they thought would work, and between classes, I would listen to all the material, select what seemed promising, and make notes on what was missing or how the sounds could be modified.

Students at CAPA working on sound design for The Mother of Fishes opera.

This led to sessions where students would load sounds into Audacity and learn about envelopes to shape the amplitude, multiple tracks to mix sounds, time stretching to achieve the desired timing, pitch shifting for radical changes, and other effects. After each class, I would collect all the Audacity projects, listen, make notes, and come back with critiques, suggestions, and new requirements. I also provided mock-ups of the orchestra and singing parts to give a better idea of what the final product would sound like.

For example, here is the Audacity project for a scene where the ghost of the witch is overpowered by magic, along with an MP3 file of the sound:

Sound design in Audacity for opera scene – the death of the ghost of the witch.
MP3 sound effect: The death of the ghost of the witch from The Mother of Fishes.

Soundcool and Live Performance

As mentioned earlier, The Mother of Fishes was intended to be a showcase for Soundcool, a modular system for live sound performance. Soundcool uses tablet or phone touchscreens as live controllers for sound processing that runs on a “host” laptop or desktop. For this opera performance, we limited our use to 4 of Soundcool’s Sampler objects, each controlled by one student who could start and stop a selection of 10 sound files, with real-time volume control. Here is “Team Soundcool” at the back of the theater with their phones, which connect by WiFi to the main Soundcool computer:

The Soundcool Team cued and mixed sounds live for The Mother of Fishes using phones as touch controllers. (Photo: Nick Childers)

And here is what the controller for a Sampler looks like on one of the phones:

Students use Soundcool’s touch-screen interface to cue sounds and control their volume. (Photo: Nick Childers)

Here is a photo and an audio mock-up from a scene using Soundcool where the witch turns our hero into stone (the crackling stone sounds are actually a processed recording of celery from freesound.org!):

The evil witch Rosella turns our hero Jaumet into stone with a magic spell. (Photo: Nick Childers)
Mock-up of the witch’s spell sound effect, created with Audacity.

What We Learned

Audacity, combined with sound libraries like freesound.org and live performance tools like Soundcool (also free and open source), offers a great introduction to creative sound exploration. A class of high school students can produce very professional work with the right guidance, and the audience was completely thrilled that students contributed to a professional production and performed sounds live along with our orchestra and soloists.

It was interesting, as an Audacity developer, to see Audacity used “in the field” by beginners who picked up basic concepts quickly, assisted by Audacity’s simple interface. I cannot imagine students accomplishing as much with expensive digital audio workstation software where there is just so much to learn. On the other hand, even some aspects of Audacity’s interface are confusing, and working with students is a good reminder of how important it is to keep things as simple as possible. (The good news is that the Audacity team talks about usability all the time.)

I want to thank the Pittsburgh Public Schools along with the talented students at CAPA 6-12, their great teachers, and everyone who contributes to Audacity for making this project possible.

Audacity 2.3.3 Released

We’re pleased to announce release of Audacity 2.3.3 which replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Catalina?

Audacity still does not support macOS Catalina properly, but can be used with a workaround. This is because we have not caught up with Apple’s requirements for ‘notarization’ yet. We are working on this for the next release.

Details of the workaround here:
https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=107162

What we’ve done:

We’ve done a lot of bug fixing on Audacity for this release, and a lot of code restructuring. There are a few visible changes too.

Improvements:

  • Equalization effect now split into two effects, Filter Curve and Graphic EQ.
    • Presets (using manage button) now active/working.
    • Can now have two points at same frequency for steep steps.
  • ‘What you hear is what you get’ for exports. Formerly the solo button
    preferences could lead to differences in which tracks were exported.
  • Leading silence (blank space) not skipped over in exports.
  • Quality setting on AAC/M4A exports.
  • Some confusing functionality removed (better achieved in other ways)
    • Removed Nyquist Workbench (use built-in nyquist features)
    • Removed Vocal Remover (use Vocal Reduction)
    • Removed On-Demand aliased files (copy files instead)
    • Removed ‘Normalize on Load’ (Normalize as needed on export, instead)

See also: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/New_features_in_Audacity_2.3.3

Bug Fixes:

Over 150 bugs in 2.3.2 fixed, including:

  • 2112 – Crash when opening Equalization settings in a Macro
  • 2127 – Crash deleting a track while in Record/Pause state
  • 2176 – Crash when attempting to time shift multiple tracks
  • 2141 – Tabbing between labels stopped working
  • 2200 – Refusal to export some large (4GB) files on size grounds

See also: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Release_Notes_2.3.3

AU19 Audacity Unconference

On the 5th and 6th of November we had an active and productive meeting in Cambridge, working hard and also having fun. We had not met as a team since 2014, and some of us had not previously met each other in real life before.

Lots got talked through. The post-its on the picture behind are pink for problems (we didn’t have red post-its) and green post-its for solutions. Beer was drunk. Food was eaten. Demos of work in progress were shared and explained. The problems of and ways forward with Catalina discussed. People took on tasks to take on when they got back home:

“It’s a lot easier to say ‘No’ in email!”

I think we were all surprised how quickly and easily we talked through and agreed on what we will do for Audacity 2.4.0. With everyone in the room together at the same time, making decisions happened really fast.

The roadmap for Audacity 2.4.0 includes resolving the macOS Catalina problem, updating libraries, and a number of frequently requested new features.

Yes, we talked about iPhone and Android versions of Audacity. They are still pipe dreams at this stage, but we did at least talk about how we could go about them. With more frequent Audacity Unconference meetings, ambitious plans like that are more likely to actually happen.

MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) does not support Audacity 2.3.2

MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) introduces additional restrictions on running non-Apple software. These restrictions prevent Audacity from functioning correctly, and may conflict with Audacity’s open source license (yet to be confirmed).

If you are currently using Audacity on an older version of macOS and wish to continue using Audacity, we recommend that you don’t update to Catalina yet.

Although Catalina is not officially supported, there’s a workaround that has been reported to work for some (but not all) user with Catalina and Audacity 2.3.2:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities
  2. Launch Terminal.app
  3. in the Terminal dialog type the following command following command:
    open /Applications/Audacity.app/Contents/MacOS/Audacity
    (this assume that Audacity is stored in your Applications folder. If it is somewhere else, you will need to change the path in the above command.)
  4. Confirm the request for microphone permissions when requested.

For additional information about this workaround, see this post on the Audacity forum: https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=107162&p=378694


This advice will be updated when more information becomes available.

Audacity HQ – 7:54 December 8th 2007

A call comes in via the Audacity forum. An Audacity user is in trouble and needs our help…
“Audacity crashed when splitting a stereo track to mono. Please help me Audacity Forum, you’re my only hope.”

Audacity command center?

That was 12 years ago. I was a young Audacity user on Windows XP, and I’d fallen foul of a bug in Audacity 1.3.4. Fortunately there was a workaround, and within 2 days I had the answer and was up and running again.

A lot has changed over those 12 years. The Audacity forum has grown from a few dozen users and a few hundred posts, to a thriving community with over 130,000 members and close to 300,000 posts. Response times have fallen from a couple of days, to typically a couple of hours, thanks to the hard working volunteers that spend many hours each day helping their fellow Audacity users.

From the professionalism and fast response to support requests, many users assume that Audacity HQ is a bustling command center with dozens of software developers and support staff like the picture above. The truth is somewhat different. Kozikowski, one of the longest serving forum helpers and self proclaimed curmudgeon, imagines Audacity HQ to be more like…

Audacity HQ?

The Audacity Team is indeed much smaller than many imagine – a small group of enthusiastic volunteers around the world, working together to provide the most widely used multi-track audio editor in the world. There is actually no headquarters, no physical building, no command center, but a group of individuals, spread across three continents, working in small studies, bedrooms or at kitchen tables, providing a level of support that is rightly the envy of commercial competitors.

The main part of the help forum is divided, by operating system, in three sections: Windows, with over 17,000 topics, Mac OS, with over 4,000, and Gnu/Linux with over 1000 topics. These three forum boards are the first port of call if you need help using Audacity.

In addition, there are more specialist boards that cater for common special interest groups, such as audiobook producers, music makers, educationalists and teachers, and programmers. The full list of boards is found on the forum index page.

The range of questions and discussions about Audacity is vast. Of course there are many common questions about “how do I do …”. Many of the common questions already have answers in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Audacity manual. The documentation does indeed carry answers to most of the common questions, though the forum crew are well aware that for a novice user it may not always be easy to find the information that you need. No need to worry, the forum crew are there to help and point you in the right direction.

The Audacity forum also sees a wide range of unusual, sometimes highly specialized questions. We have seen zoologists and marine biologists asking about analyzing audio recordings of animals, physicists interested in analyzing signals, statisticians wanting to visualize big data, electronic hobbyists using Audacity to record infra-red remote control, and many others. Although the forum crew may not be specialist in the particular field, the crew’s knowledge and experience using Audacity usually solves even the trickiest of problems.

A small selection of some of the more unusual forum topics:

Whether you are a casual user of Audacity, or a highly experienced audio expert, all users are very welcome to join us on the forum. Whether you are looking for advice on a simple problem, or wish to learn about some of Audacity’s more advanced features, report a bug, or perhaps you want to share your experience of audio editing, or offer help to other Audacity users, all are welcome.

Audacity’s headquarters could be described as a virtual place in cyberspace, and the Audacity forum is very much the community hub for the many millions of Audacity users around the world. On behalf of the crew of the Audacity forum, we look forward to meeting you there.

Bug Hunting

Two years ago we set ourselves targets for bug reduction for a year ahead, and we did the same again a year ago. The TL/DR is that we met the target last month. Over the last two years we’ve reduced our bug count from 605 bugs (August 2017) to 404 (July 2019). This isn’t because we’ve slacked off on testing for, identifying and recording new bugs! We’ve actually stepped that up a notch. In the last two years we’ve closed 636 bugs, but we also opened 435 new ones. So the net result is we have made good inroads on bugs, rather than wiping out all the recorded bugs entirely.

The graph below tells the story. Live bugs are bugs we still have. Slain bugs are bugs that we have identified and fixed.

As you can see, the bug slaying activity has been sustained continuously over the two years, rather than being in fits and starts. The most important aspect for us is that the proportion of live bugs (blue) relative to slain bugs (green) has decreased substantially, from 55% to 23%.

Our scope for improving the proportions further is limited. Many of the live bugs are ‘hard’ because we have already dealt with most of the easy ones. Some potential future improvements we have in mind could be seen as ‘massaging the statistics’. For example, we want to take the 64 enhancement requests out of the 404 live bug counts. We have those requests for improvements in our bug tracker, but arguably they belong somewhere else.

Most of the bug tracking and recording and checking bugs really are fixed is done by Peter Sampson. He doesn’t get nearly enough outside recognition for the work he does. David Bailes reports and fixes the lions share of bugs related to accessibility, which often affect users with normal vision too. Steve Daulton is the main person finding and fixing Linux-only bugs. Other developers pitch in too, especially with clearing the more serious higher priority bugs.

The number one place we find out about new bugs from is you. A big thank you to all of you who report bugs back to us, and who help us reproduce them on our own computers, so that we can then get on the path to fixing them.

Audacity 2.3.2 Released

Audacity 2.3.2 replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux. 

Improvements:

  • Audacity now includes the LAME mp3 encoder. Previously, due to now expired patents, you had to download it separately.
  • There is a new ‘Select’ button in the track panel to select the whole track.
  • Audacity mod-script-pipe for driving Audacity from Python now comes with Audacity and can be enabled via preferences.
  • Options and preferences:
    • Type to Create a Label is now off by default.
    • A plug-in installer for Nyquist now provides a file browser for
      selecting ‘.NY’ files to install.

See also: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/New_features_in_Audacity_2.3.2

Bug Fixes:

Over 20 bugs in 2.3.1 fixed, including:

  • Audacity 2.3.1 would crash if append-recording to a collapsed track.
  • Many accessibility bugs on macOS fixed.

See also: https://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Release_Notes_2.3.2