WDL Guide to Audacity

Editing Audio

Once you’re done recording, you can start editing your work. To do this, let’s focus on a new part of the Audacity interface, the track controls, highlighted in red below.


trackdeetsHere are a few important pieces of the track control, numbered in the picture:

  1. The delete button – As you might expect, it deletes a track entirely from your project. Can be undone by using the “Undo” command from the Edit menu.
  2. Options – Clicking this arrow gives you additional options, such as changing the track’s order, something that is important for auto-ducking.
  3. Mute – Mutes a track entirely.
  4. Volume slider – Adjusts how loud a track is relative to the other tracks in your project. Useful when adding a music track or other sound effect that might be too loud.

The other important editing tools are highlighted in the interface below.


ibarcircledWe’re going to focus on two of these tools which are the most important and commonly used by students doing audio projects. The first is the selection tool, circled in red here. The selection tool makes your mouse look like an “I” and will be the most commonly used tool when working with audio in Audacity.

The Selection Tool

When using the selection tool, click and drag on a track to select a portion of it. The selection will change color. You can now manipulate this portion of the track in a number of ways. Check out the buttons highlighted on the interface in red.


The first set of buttons are cut, copy and paste which allow you to remove or copy audio from one portion of a track and place it in another, just like copying and pasting text in a document. You can also access these functions using the standard keyboard shortcuts: Control + x for cut, Control + c for copy and Control + v for paste. On a Mac, you’ll use the command key (“⌘”) instead of Control.

The next two buttons are the trim and silence audio buttons. Trim erases the entire track except for the highlighted portion. Silence audio silences the selected portion and is particularly useful when a background noise made it into an otherwise silent portion of your recording. Just find the offending portion and click “silence audio” to erase it. See the before and after screenshot below for an example of how this might look.


The Time Shift Tool

dragcircledThe other most often used tool is the time shift tool. This tool allows you to position different tracks in relationship to one another, which is especially useful for adding music. To shift audio on the timeline, simply drag using the time shift tool. Look at the screen shots below. You’ll see that you can move the two audio tracks in relationship with one another.


Using these two basic tools, you can accomplish most of the editing you’ll need to do for a simple project.

Other Tools

Artboard 1thereTop Middle: The envelope tool. Named because it allows you to open and close different sections of audio. If the audio is open, it will play the recording; if it is closed, it will be mute.

Top Right: The Draw Tool. This tool is useful if you want to play around with the volume of individual pieces of audio.

If you try using it, you will likely get an error that says, “To use Draw, zoom in further until you can see individual samples”. To Zoom in, you can either click on the View tab on the upper left or click on the magnifying glass near the Draw Tool. You will have to press these buttons multiple times until you zoom in enough to use the tool. When you’ve zoomed in far enough, you’ll see individual blue dots on your track. Use the Draw Tool to move these around and fine tune your volume at various points on the track.

Bottom Right: Multi-Tool. Multi-tool automatically becomes one of the other tools depending on your actions. It also shows you what tools you can use at any point.