Backing track audio editing

A lady from Canada, Colleen, asked me a question about audio editing:

Hi Kenny!
I have a question for you.  Can you recommend a
fairly easy program that will take my tracks and make
them all nice and even? You know how it is with
some backing tracks are more “pitchy and louder
sounding” than others etc…. I tried something called
the GAIN program, but I wasn’t too happy with it.
If you can advise me, I’d surely appreciate it. Maybe
you’ve got something advertised on your site, and
I missed seeing it, not sure…
Cheers!
Colleen 🙂

Hi Colleen

Ooooh, you’ve touched on a subject that really is a can of worms. Books the size of encyclopedias have been written about the subject of audio editing!

Firstly, let me say that there are lot of inexpensive (even free) software programs around the internet that will let you edit audio “easily”. But sadly you tend to get what you pay for so the easy and cheap programs usually just can’t cut it.

You say that you’re looking for an “easy to use” program, and while that’s perfectly understandable, the problem is that “easy” programs usually give poor results.

This is because audio editing is such a very complex process.

So when a software manufacturer designs a program to be “easy to use”, they have to make it do a whole bunch of things all at the same time. Audio editing generally doesn’t play too well with the “one button does everything” types of software. This is because every audio file is completely different (in fact every second of every audio file is completely different) so a software that’s easily set up and configured means it has to treat many parts of your audio with the same set of parameters.

Audio just isn’t like that. For example, you may find that the audio file you’re trying to fix has an intro which is a bit noisy or hissy, verse 1 is too quiet, the chorus is too trebly and the middle of the song is too woolly etc etc. All these problems need to be addressed individually so there is no “magic” button that can cure all (despite what some software manufacturers claim).

Audio editing is complex so, by default, the software that does this job tends to be complex also. So, any “easy to use” program you find will have had to make a trade-off in the quality of the results it achieves. This is what you probably discovered when using GAIN.

Fortunately if you buy a professional backing track from us or any of the other reputable backing track companies out there, the backing tracks will already be well balanced so there should be no need for any editing to be done to them. But I do appreciate and realise that most singers have a large collection of backing tracks that they’ve “built up” over many years which were aquired from many different sources. Add to this the fact that very often these tracks have been copied a few times between different formats (CD / minidisc / mp3 / dat / cassette etc), this creates it’s own set of sound quality issues too e.g. different eq on each track, volume fluctuations, left & right stereo balance issues etc).

The bad news is that to “fix” poor sounding audio files properly really needs good quality audio editing software…which is expensive.

I personally recommend Wavelab by Stenberg which you’ll find at:

http://www.steinberg.net/

But before you go and throw a ton of money at Wavelab, there is a free option available to you called Audacity. Obviously it isn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as Wavelab, but it IS an excellent audio editor even though it’s free.

Also see the article I wrote some time ago about editing backing tracks which you may also find useful.

Regards

Kenny