Key Changes & Saving in Audacity

Debbie contacted me to say she’s struggling a little with Audacity:

I’m struggling using Audacity – I can’t seem to change the
key or save any projects?

Hi Debbie

Although you can do this, I wouldn’t advise using Audacity (or any other pitch shifting program) to change the key of a song because pitch shifting will seriously affect the quality of the recording (if you’ve ever been to a karaoke night where someone sings a song 2 or 3 keys down you’ll know what I mean)!

For good professional sounding recordings, it’s better that you use a backing track that’s already in the correct key before you start.

Regarding saving your work in Audacity, when you’ve finished a project, save it by using the “export” command. If you use “save as”, Audacity will just save it as a project file and assume you will be coming back to work on it at a later date.

All the basic file commands are explained in the instruction manual so it’s worth spending some time reading through all the documentation.




Recovering “lost” backing tracks

A young lady called Louise from England asked a question about recovering backing tracks she’d lost. Louise had transferred the backing track in to her iPod but then couldn’t find it on her computer afterwards. Here’s my answer:

Im sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you could help
me out with the tracks I purchased. Instead of saving them
onto my computer I put then straight into itunes, and now
they dont exist anywhere except on my ipod!. I was
wondering if i could get the links to download again? I’d
really appreciate it so I can put them to minidisc?
Thanks so much
Louise 🙂
Hi Louise

Backing tracks are download to your computer in zip format which means they have to be unzipped before they can be played or loaded in to iTunes or any other mp3 player.
So what that means is that you will have TWO files on your computer – the original zip file you downloaded and saved, and the mp3 file that was unzipped from it.
If you’ve lost the mp3 file for any reason it’s not a problem – just go to where you saved the original zip file you downloaded and extract (unzip) another mp3 file from it.
The backing track you loaded in to your iPod is the mp3 file, so the original zip file will still be on your computer intact.
Just unzip it again to get another mp3 file from it.

Here’s a video help page about unzipping:

Let me know if you need any more help…



Removing brass parts from a backing track

Mark from New Zealand asked me a question about removing brass from a backing track. Here’s his question and my answer:

Hi Kenny
We are putting on the Soul & Blues show in December and need
backing tracks for our show minus backing vocals and brass as
these will be done live on the night.You have quite a few of
the tracks we require already although there are a few
missing. I have current backing tracks for these already but
they have still got the brass and some of the backing vocals.
Can you do anything with these to take them out? I understand
to take the brass out will be about 10 GBPounds per track.
Is that correct? Look forward to hearing from you.
Mark Leuthard
New Plymouth Operatic Society, New Zealand

Hi Mark

You can’t actually take instruments out of a stereo recording, so even if you have stereo backing tracks, it’s not possible to isolate the brass or any other parts and remove them.

Instrument removal can only be successfully done if you have the multi-track arrangement of the song.

Obviously we DO have multi-track master arrangements of all our backing tracks so we can open them up in the studio, and “mute” the brass parts or any other parts, and then remaster the song – that’s no problem and you’re correct, removal of one instrument would be £10 GBPounds per track (£20 GBPounds if you want more than one instrument removed).

Regarding songs that we DON’T have in our backing track catalogue, to create backing tracks from scratch of songs is obviously more expensive, because we can’t just open up the arrangement and mute the brass – we have to play and record all the drums, bass, keyboards etc all from scratch (usually hours of work).

At our studio rate of £20 per hour it could cost around £100 or so to produce each track that we don’t have in our catalogue. Certainly we wouldn’t have to play and record all the brass parts because you don’t want them in the backing track so that would save us an hour or two with each track and therefore reduce the cost a bit.

If you let me know exactly what songs you’re looking for, and how you want them recorded, I’ll give you a quote for the work…



Balancing backing tracks and vocals in Audacity

I was asked a question by a customer called Jan recently about getting good signal levels and balancing the volumes between the backing track music and the vocals in Audacity, our free recording software program. Here’s Jan’s question and my answer:

Hi Kenny
I can’t get any sense out of the recording when it comes
to listening to the backing while recording my vocals.
I cant find anything about it in the manual. What do
I have to do?
Many thanks

Hi Jan

You need to change the volume of the backing track music and the vocal track until they sound the right balance while playing together. Here’s a link to a really good guide which gives a graphic pic of the controls you need to be working with for this:

When you’ve got both tracks playing, keep an eye on the meter to make sure the signal isn’t clipping (distorting). If the signal is too high the meter will turn red and stay like that. If the meter is showing red, turn down one or both of the tracks by, say, 3dB and the clipping should then stop.