How to edit a music file using Audacity

If you would like to use sections of music files that you own for use in your own personal videos, website, or multimedia presentations, but never really knew how, then this is for you! I have worked with very sophisticated and expensive audio file manipulation software in advertising projects, but there is a free, easy to use project called Audacity that can help you change song files as you like! Select the song you want to use and lets get started!

Audacity Home Page

To begin following along with the steps outlined here, the very first thing you must do is download the free audio editing tool called Audacity. There are many sound editors to choose from on the web, and I used a ton of them - trust me when I tell that Audacity is simple to use and is very powerful! This software is available for Windows, MAC, Linux, and Unix. So go to the link in my resource section and download the Audacity sound editing tool. If you can not find the link, go here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Audacity Program

Once you have downloaded the program, familiarize yourself with its layout and tools. The help file is very well done and can easily help you learn the basic commands for opening, editing and saving files.

MP3 Song importing

So you have downloaded the program, you have checked out the layout and some of the functions of the tool, and you are ready to edit your music file. It is important to note here that you can only edit a MP3 or WAV file. You can not edit a copy-protected iTunes file. So if you have a clean MP3 file, go ahead and import it into the program by going to "FILE", then "OPEN" and simply selecting the MP3 file from its location on your computer. Audacity will load the song into the program and show you its audio wave pattern. SKIP AHEAD TO STEP 5 if you have a clean MP3 file to work with. If you want to use a protected iTunes file, go to step 4.

iTunes Song Converted!

Alright - So you have a protected iTunes file that you want to use. Do not worry, there is a legal way to convert these to MP3 files that you can use! For the heck of it, go ahead and go to "FILE", "OPEN" in Audacity and then select an iTunes song from your directory. Audacity will import the song and show you the wave structure like in the image below, if you press the green "PLAY" arrow in Audacity - you are going to get a scratchy loud screaming sound. That is because these files are protected. So to turn an iTunes song into an MP3 file that you can use, simply download NoteBurner M4P to M3P converter at this link, and follow the directions: http://www.noteburner.com/ Proceed to STEP 5.

Song file ready to be edited

GREAT! You either have a MP3 file that you can now use and edit. You have imported it into the Audacity program by clicking "FILE", then "OPEN", and selecting your MP3 file. Audacity has imported the song, and you can see the wav structure of the song. Test the song to make sure it works by clicking the green "PLAY" arrow. The song should play, and you should see a solid black line moving from left-to-right across the music wav file. This is called a timeline, and the black line is a cursor. Excellent! We are ready to edit the file!

So now that you have your song file imported into Audacity, you can see the songs wave structure as a bunch of blue lines across a timeline. The numbers on the timeline are the seconds that the song is playing, the black cursor shows where you are at along the song, and your mouse cursor will either turn into a finger or a black line whenever you move it along the song timeline over the wav file. For the purposes of this ehow, I want to edit the intro of the song, so I will show you how to cut out the intro and select sections of the entire song to cut out and play with.

So the first thing I want to do in order to grab the intro of this song for use, is to listen to the song and figure out where I think the intro ends. In this case, the intro ends at 35 seconds, so I want to cut out the first 35 seconds of this song.

Intro Highlight

To do this, I will need to create a highlight from the "zero" mark of the song to the 35 second mark of the song. To do this I place my mouse cursor over the "zero" mark of the timeline, right on the wave file and then I left-click and hold down on the mouse button. Keeping the mouse button held down, I drag the mouse over the timeline to the 35 second mark, and release. This now gives me a nice gray highlight over the part of the song that I want to use. See the image, and give it a try for yourself.

In another example, lets say I only want to select the section of the song in between the 30 second point and the 45 second point. I would put my mouse cursor on the wav file right over the 35 second point and then left-click and hold, then drag the mouse over to the 45 second mark and release. This will give me a grey highlight in between the 30 and 45 second mark. You try.

Alright, so now I want to go back to my intro and cut this out and paste it into its own project. So I go back to the "Zero" point on the timeline and left-click my mouse button and drag it over to the 30 second mark and release. I now have a nice grey highlight over my intro. I will now go up to the toolbar and select "EDIT", and then "CUT" to remove the intro from the song. As you can see in the image - my song intro is now gone.

Alright so now I want this intro to be all by itself as a new project, so I will go to the toolbar and select "FILE", "NEW". This will give me a new blank project page. I will then go to "EDIT" and select "PASTE". As you can now see, only intro section, the section I cut out, is now on my timeline! COOL! You try this and see what you get.

Now I will press the green "PLAY" button to make sure that the section I captured is exactly what I want. If it is good, then I can move on to the next step and publish my song, or I can repeat the steps above to play with the clip until I get exactly what I want.

Alright - now I will teach you a quick trick to help you fade out the end of the track so that you do not get a sharp ending. We will use the envelope tool in the program to actually reduce the volume at the end of the clip and make a smooth transition into whatever will follow.

Envelope Tool

To do this, click on the envelope tool as shown in the image below.

To use the envelope tool, we need to click on a start-point on the wave where we want the sound to start to decrease, and an end-point where we want the sound to completely turn off. So you basically click once to get the envelope started, then click again to define the envelope. Then you simply move the endpoints together at the end of the wave and you are done. See the next step pictures.

First left-click on a start-point for your envelope on the sound wave.

Then select an end-point for your envelope on the sound wave.

Then bring the end point together to get rid of the sound.

Now play the file and test it! If you do not like the way it sounds, just play with the endpoints and adjust the start and end points of the envelope.

If everything is good, we will then go to "FILE", "EXPORT AS MP3", and save to location. ALL DONE!


It's important to find the beat with music and always edit on the beat. Often, in music cuts, drums will easily let you find a beat to edit with. The more complicated the music, the closer you must examine your area to edit to insure that whatever you are cutting out (or copying and pasting) will leave the rest of the piece "in beat".

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