How to Record Nature Sounds

Recording environmental sounds like singing birds, wild animal calls, water running through a streambed, or the chirp of baby birds is one of the more fascinating (and challenging) aspects of audio recording. Some of the same audio recording techniques apply when recording things like car noises, lawn mower engines and other man made sounds, but you don’t always get a chance to do a second take with nature like you do with machines. For a list of required gear and some great sources of tips, read on…


Wavosaur is a lightweight audio editing application with VST support. All the basics are covered here, including support for multitrack audio files, trimming, adding effects, making loops, and normalization. Most processing settings are also available for batch conversions, making Wavosaur a handy tool for applying the same settings to a bunch of files. I like are the option to remove silence in a batch, which is a convenient way to speed up spoken word audio without altering pitch. A vocal removal preset also scrubs music files of vocals, so you can make your own karaoke tracks in a batch. The vocal removal doesn’t always get chorus sections perfectly scrubbed, but it shouldn’t hurt your ability to sing over the top of the file. The application runs as a completely standalone executable, meaning you could put it on a thumb drive and use Wavosaur anywhere. The user interface is generally more intuitive than the popular freeware app Audacity, but the two make nice companions rather than being replacements for each other. While Wavosaur doesn’t bundle all the features of things like Sound Forge and Audition, it does most of the common audio tasks well at a price neither of those two apps can touch. [Windows 2k/XP/Vista $0.00]

Royalty Free Podcast Promo Soundpack

I’m always looking for more audio sound effects – especially free ones. has a collection of Royalty Free and free as in no cost audio samples designed specifically for podcasters. Terms of use are simply that you need to credit for providing them. As far as I can tell, the collection is available only on Apple’s download site and the files are listed as requiring Mac OS X, but fear not, the WAV files in the download will work just as easily for Linux and Windows users too.

Recording Voice Audio with a M-Audio Microtrack

Beverly writes, I need to record voice to CD, efficiently, and have the cd play in any normal CD player. I have an M-Audio Microtrack recorder with 1gb compact flash, but it seems that I have a high quality recording but it takes up a lot of space. In a work day I need to make 6 recordings. Does it make sense to consider a 30gb iPod to record voice to, and then burn to CD?
You don’t mention how long your six recordings per day are, but if you want good quality sound for recording, don’t use the iPod or any other portable media player. The Microtrack recorder is a good tool for what you are doing. If you want to use less space per file change your record settings. Under the Record Settings on the Menu make the following changes: Set Encoder to WAV. Set Sample Rate to 44.1. Set Bits to 16 (not 24). Using these settings, you will get about 90 minutes on a 1GB Compact Flash card and won’t notice any quality difference. A much cheaper solution than buying an iPod would be to get several 1GB or 2GB compact flash cards and then swapping the card when it gets full. This also gives you the flexibility of using the Microtrack all day long. Keep in mind that an audio CD only holds as much as 74 minutes of audio, so a single 1GB card recording 90 minutes of voice audio is more audio than you can fit on a single audio CD.

The Levelator – Easy Audio Optimizer

One of the biggest frustrations of people who record and edit audio is the amount of time it takes to fix volume level issues. If you record two people, one of them is invariably softer than the other in the mix. You might turn your head away from the microphone to look at a distraction or have the microphone pointed away from the source. This even happens to the pros on occasion. To solve this common frustration, Gigavox created The Levelator. Essentially, the software examines a WAV or AIFF file, looks for volume inconsistencies and fixes them. It’s a bit geekier than that under the hood. The Levelator handles both the gain optimization on a file and RMS normalization to make sure the volume level is consistent. The output is a new file, so you can always go back to the original if you need to. The software runs on both Windows and OS X and is free for personal non-commercial use. While The Levelator can’t do anything to make your podcast more interesting, this is the first tool I’ve ever seen that makes almost anyone sound like they hired a top-notch engineer. If editing audio has been holding you back from podcasting or making music, give The Levelator a shot, you’ll be surprised by how simple it is to sound great. [Windows 2k/XP Mac OS X $0.00]

Embed an Audio Player in a Web Page

Mike writes, I’ve been trying to embed a Windows Media Player on my website and have it play from a library. I’ve figured out the part of embedding the player itself but cannot figure out how to get the player to play from a list of mp3s elsewhere on my site.
You could create an ASX file that calls each of the files and then link to that ASX file from the embedded Windows Media Player, but I’ve never had that work consistently without setting up Windows Media Services on a Windows server. Using a simple ASX setup doesn’t allow for easy skipping between tracks or any of the normal play controls you might expect from most of the common media players. The only easy way to build an embedded playlist with Windows Media Player is to have a server running Windows Media Services hosting all the files. A better alternative is to setup an embedded Flash based player designed for playing back files. Read on to find out how to setup an embedded Flash playlist.