Google Summer of Code 2021

Audacity is proud to be taking part in Google Summer of Code 2021, having last participated in 2008 and 2009.

Google’s Summer of Code Logo

We created a web page with four seed project ideas for students to base their project ideas on. We then applied to Google to be a mentoring organisation this year, and they said “Yes”. We hope to get two students working on projects for us this summer. The response so far has been phenomenal. Hopefully you will see cool and useful outcomes from their work in September.

Audacity 3.0.0 Released

We’re pleased to announce release of Audacity 3.0.0 which replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Audacity 3.0.0

.aup3 Project Format

Audacity 3.0.0 is a major update on our previous Audacity 2.4.2. We’ve changed the format in which we save Audacity projects! Previously we saved projects as a sometimes large number of small files, with an ‘.aup’ file to coordinate the lot. This way of doing things is sometimes called ‘pile of files’ storage.

The problem, which happened all too often, was that data files and .aup file parted ways. Users quite reasonably expected the .aup file to contain the entire project. Well, the new .aup3 file does contain the data as well. The technical detail is that we are using an open source database, SQLite3, to store everything in one .aup3 file. That all happens ‘behind the scenes’. SQLite3 is open source, and it is a delight to work with. Nevertheless, this was a huge change, and we decided it was too risky to include many other changes we wanted to make at the same time – so 3.0.0 is almost entirely about this big format change.

Working with .aup3 projects editing audio should on most machines be a little faster than before, because there are fewer files being worked on. Finishing and closing a project at the end of working can be quite a lot slower, since there is more to do when a project is closed. We think the trade offs are worth it.

Importantly note that you can open your older .aup projects in Audacity 3.0.0 where they will be converted to the new .aup3 format.

Label Sounds & Noise Gate

We did have time to improve our ‘Noise Gate’ effect and add a new analyzer, ‘Label Sounds’, that can label sounds and silences. We also made a few small tweaks elsewhere. You can now import and export macros, and there are a couple of new commands for using the last used tool or last used analyzer that you can give shortcuts to.

Bugs fixed

We also fixed over 160 bugs that had been accumulating over the years. This is quite a staggering amount of work. The majority of these bugs were minor problems, easily worked around. Some though were really juicy high priority bugs that would have mattered a lot to the people affected by them. We’re really glad to have these bugs fixed now.

We hope you enjoy using Audacity 3.0.0 as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

5-minute survey: help us make Audacity better

Dear users,

We have many ideas on how to improve Audacity in the near future, but we need you to help us steer our efforts.

To that end, we have created a short survey that would take no more than five minutes of your time.

Would you help us make Audacity better for you?

Click here to access the survey.

Thanks!

Audacity reaches 100 MILLION Downloads

Hello everyone! It is with great pleasure that we share this news with you:

Our download partner, FossHub, has published a wonderful blog post announcing that feat to the world.

It makes us very proud to be their #1 downloaded open source app, and we know that Audacity has been downloaded more than 100 million times since it’s birthday 20 years ago!

Without further ado, let me link to the announcement on the FossHub Blog!

Cheers!

The Audacity Team

More Sad News

I am writing this in tears, heartbroken. Vaughan Johnson, who was an Audacity Team member since 2002, passed away in December 26th, 2018.

We just found out. He made significant contributions to Audacity, coded one of our first web pages, and was a central Team member. He was an extremely intelligent person, fun and complex like all geniuses seem to be.

I am not able to write something better now, so please let me share his obituary page. Maybe some of you would like to plant a tree in his name.

But I suggest a donation to the Jazz Foundation.

Thank you for reading.

We will always remember you.

Sincerely,
Arturo.

Audacity 2.4.2 Released

We’re pleased to announce release of Audacity 2.4.2 which replaces all previous versions for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Audacity 2.4.2

wxWidgets Library

The main change since 2.4.1 is that we have upgraded the wxWidgets library that Audacity uses from 3.1.1 (with patches by us) to 3.1.3 (with patches by us). We wanted to do this as a release in its own right, before we start on a longer and more complex release.

If you’re using Audacity 2.4.2 on Linux, do use the right wxWidgets library. We’ve in the past had a lot of reports of problems on Linux that turned out in the end to be because some distributions were using system wxWidgets (3.0.0) with Audacity.

Bugs fixed

We’ve fixed 41 bugs since 2.4.1. The exact number of bugs fixed depends on how you count, but anyway, it’s a worthwhile number of fixes.

Configuration Reset

There is one new small feature. In the Tools menu there is now a ‘Reset Configuration’ menu item. When you click on it, it resets most of the configuration back to defaults.

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.