Audacity alternatives

Thanks to Janet for this question. Janet contacted me to ask if I knew any alternatives to Audacity…

Hi
I have the free audacity studio which I use regularly but is there anything better? I find some of the onboard fx are not what I want ie the EQ is not really what I want.
Janet

Hi Janet

Audacity is a free software but that doesn’t mean it cuts corners on performance or usability.

But like all software, there are some things it does brilliantly, and other things that perhaps aren’t so good.

Fortunately it’s not the only software out there which can do the job. There are other softwares that will handle certain functions better than Audacity (and vice-versa).

But if the EQ is the only problem you’re having with Audacity, then first I suggest you do a Google search for maybe a third-party plugin EQ for Audacity. Audacity is open-source software so you’ll probably find that there will be a few EQ effects available on the net that you can download for free.

If you still can’t find a suitable EQ, then you could try some other software packages.

Personally I recommend Wavelab or Soundforge. You may just find that one of these will handle the functions that you find lacking in Audacity a little bit better:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001G4R0K2/mp3backingtra-21

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000RO5O78/mp3backingtra-21

Regards

Kenny

Delonzo Gee (Male Vocalist)

A warm welcome to Delonzo Gee – a male vocalist from Bristol, the latest singer to create a free webpage at our YourSpace section.

Delonzo Gee has been involved in the music industry since being a teenager-writing and recording. After taking a break from the music scene to raise a family, Delonzo has been working with several reggae and soul bands and performing widely.

To find out more about Delonzo Gee, check out his web page HERE

If you have an entertainment act and would like your own webpage for free, see our online Page Builder:

http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/yourspace

You’ll never hear another backing track company say this!

One of the secrets behind the success of MP3 Backing Trax (apart from the quality of our products of course!) is the honesty with which we conduct our business.

I’ve owned and operated a variety of companies during my many years in the music industry, not just a backing track business, and I can assure you that it’s a complete myth that companies make more money by ripping people off.

Rip-off merchants may gain a few extra pennies in the short term, but they ALWAYS lose in the long term.

I have based ALL my businesses over the years on the premise that honesty breeds customer loyalty and customer loyalty, in turn, gives a business longevity which guarantees success – something that many competitors in the backing track industry just don’t seem to grasp and many have discovered to their cost and their demise.

So, now that I’ve explained my business philosophy, here’s something I said recently to a backing track customer that you’ll NEVER hear another backing track company say. The reason you’ll never hear them say it is because they’re only interested in grabbing the customers money…

This is a reply I gave to a customer who wanted a custom backing track created from scratch. We had done work for this customer before (and he’s a great guy), but we lost money on one of the previous songs we created for him because he, by his own admission, didn’t really know what he wanted – he just had this vision in his head of the way the song should kinda sound and hoped that we could create it for him.

And we did.

But it took a few re-mixes before it finally sounded like “the song in his head”!

When the customer approached us again to create another custom track for him, I foresaw the same thing probably happening again, especially as he wanted to throw some “ideas” at us which were not in the reference material he gave us but rather in his head…

Hence I gave him this answer before agreeing to take on the work. My answer (and my honesty) could easily have cost us his business. Thankfully it didn’t and everything worked out well for us and the customer.

But would any other company have the honesty to say this to their prospective customer I wonder?

Hi Kenny,
Yes, that price is fine for the backing track, no problem. Send me the order link and I will pay. The arrangement needs to be the same as the song I sent you through. I’m looking for a really big thumping sound from the intro, plenty of bass and brass, and make it really blast back up after the second verse. Give it loads of dramatic accents and kicks throughout too.
<name withheld>

Hi <name withheld> 

Just before you go ahead and order the custom backing track to be done, I just read your email and see you’ve made a couple of extra requests that you didn’t mention on the original quote request so thought it best to mention what could possibly be a forseeable problem which may affect your decision on whether you want us to go ahead with the work or not…

You mentioned some non-specific, general stuff you need incorporated in to the arrangement (you ask for things like a “big thumping sound” and “plenty bass and brass”  and “loads of dramatic accents” etc) which is obviously not contained in the reference material you submitted. This could end up costing you extra money (although I hope it won’t). 

Because these things you’ve asked us to include are a bit vague and not specific, my worry is that there may be a chance we may not create exactly what you were expecting…

I do understand how difficult it is to describe ideas and sounds you have in your head to another person, but it’s also equally difficult for us to imagine those ideas and sounds in your head and put them exactly as you intended in to the backing track we create for you.

The price I quoted you in the previous email covers all the work required to create the backing track as per the reference material you sent us – we will arrange it to sound as close as possible to that song you sent through – no problem there.

In addition to this, we’ll attempt to make it as punchy as possible for you and indeed make sure the bass and brass stand out as much as possible.

But if we go ahead an do this track for you and the “thumping sound” or “punchy bass & brass” or “dramatic accents” are not quite how you imagined them to be or in the places you expected, there will unfortunately need to be a further charge for re-mixing or changing things afterwards.

If it takes, say, two or three re-mixes to get it sounding the way you want, this could cost you more than the original price quoted.

The reason I mention this is because I prefer to be completely upfront with you before we start doing any work because I wouldn’t want you to think we were quoting you one price then finding ways to “squeeze” some extra out of you afterwards!

Similarly I hope you can see it from our side too – our studio is constantly busy with custom backing track work and there’s always a queue of customers wating for space in our busy recording studio schedule so we can’t use valuable studio time doing unpaid work.

I do know that other studios build the price of possibly having to do re-mixes etc in to the price they quote their customers and they consider it to be a bit like swings and roundabouts – the extra money they make by over-charging every customer pays for the extra little bits of work they may have to do for the odd customer who comes back for a re-mix.

Yes, it all ends up even for them, but it’s far from fair to 90% of their customers who have just paid over the odds for their custom backing track work without knowing it!

I just don’t think that’s right.

We don’t do this at MP3 Backing Trax because I believe it’s unfair to charge my fellow entertainers a single penny more than it costs us to do the work for them. Fair is fair. 

I hope this makes our custom tracks policy a little bit clearer (and doesn’t put you off using us)!

In some cases when you need really specific work done that needs to be physically heard, or tweaked here and there, or played around with before it’s right for you, it’s often better (and less expensive) to use a local recording studio near where you live. That way you can sit in the control room with the engineer during the mixdown process and tell him exactly what parts you want changed or how you want the instruments balanced while he’s actually mixing the song for you.

In the future, video conferencing on the internet may get so good that we may even be able to do that for our customers some day. How cool would it be to be able to “sit in” with us from halfway across the world via a live video link and watch us create your songs during our recording sessions! 

Unfortunately grainy video, jittery sound quality and slow or inconsistent internet connections are still a stumbling block to this being a reality right now…but hey, one day it’ll happen…

For now, if you want something produced which is out of the ordinary and you can’t explain how you want it without hearing it first, it may be a better idea to get a quote from local studio near where you live first before committing yourself to getting us to do this work for you, especially if you don’t really know how you want your final song mix to sound.

Again, I don’t want to put you off ordering from us, I’m just trying to hopefully save you some extra expense or at least let you know upfront that your project may end up costing more than I quoted you last week due to the extra changes you may want done to the track after it’s completed… 

Regards

Kenny

EDITOR FOOTNOTE:
The customer DID go ahead with the above work and was delighted with the results we produced for him

Troubleshooting audio peaking problems

Here’s a question I received about troubleshooting audio peaking problems in Audacity and Soundforge…

Hi Kenny, 
Here’s one for you! I use Soundforge 8 for audio editing. I downloaded Audacity Beta, imported a track, normalized to 0.20db….Perfect. I exported in Wav to file, opened the Wav file in Soundforge and pressed  play and made the sound maximum 0.20Db Max. Perfect. I then “saved as”  MP3 at 128KB, opened the mp3 in Soundforge…and guess what? The track meters were back in the “red” again! Your thoughts please?! 

Hi, thanks for your question.

If your wav file, when normalized, is showing you a good healthy signal and isn’t peaking (i.e. your meters are not flashing in to the red) then you know that your wav file is good.

If you then encode that wav file to mp3 and find that the mp3 file is peaking, then there are two possibilities:

1) The mp3 encoder engine in your audio processing software is introducing an increase in the files output volume when it encodes from wav to mp3.

2) Your mp3 player or audio processing software is reading the mp3 file differently to the wav file and so is “seeing” peaks that aren’t actually there.

Different mp3 players and mp3 audio processing software will “read” mp3 files in different ways, much in the same way as a DVD movie will play perfect in one DVD player but jump, skip or freeze in another (yip, we’ve all been there)! 

If you listen to your mp3 closely and can’t hear any clipping (distortion) then you know that the peaking isn’t really there and it’s just your software that’s not displaying the true output of the mp3 correctly. 

Fortunately digital distortion is easy to detect and hear as it is a very harsh, uncomfortable distortion compared to the more subtle distortion you get from older analogue sound. 

If it is peaking, your ears will tell you, so get a pair of good quality headphones and listen carefully.

Generally, you can expect a good mp3 encoding engine to preserve the sound of the original file pretty well, although some mp3 encoders give better results than others.

Arguably the two most common mp3 encoders which software manufacturers build in to their software are the lame or the fraunhoffer – most good audio software use one or the other. I hear many people speak highly of the lame mp3 encoding engine – I’m not one of them. I much prefer the fraunhoffer encoder. 

To find out which encoder your audio processing software uses, look through the techinical spec for your software and it’ll most probably tell you which type of mp3 encoder they use in it.

Also need to bear in mind that mp3 is a compression process, so to make a file 1/10th of its original size, the mp3 encoder needs to make some complex changes to that file. While the changes it makes may not be too noticable in the sound of the new compressed mp3 file it creates (which is the whole point of mp3 of course!), it is still making some pretty dramatic changes nevertheless. You may find it is simply struggling a bit to keep the normalization of the original wav file intact when it encodes…

Regards

Kenny

MP3 bit-rates revisited

It seems there’s still a bit of confusion out there over which is the best bit-rate to choose for backing tracks.

I know I’ve covered this topic quite a few times in this blog and in articles on the MP3 Backing Trax website but the subject reared it’s ugly head again recently when a popular software manufacturer gave some conflicting advice to their customers on this subject.

Understandably it’s caused a great deal of confusion for some customers who now don’t really know who or what to believe!

So, at the risk of repeating myself and going over old ground, I’ve taken the bold step and reckoned it’s time to publish another article on this subject which deals just as much with why different people give you different advice about bit-rates just as much as it deals with bit-rates themselves.

Hopefully this can put this subject to bed for good and help backing track users move on from this confusing dilemma and concentrate on what they do best – singing songs and making music!

Check out the article HERE