People often ask me what my favorite program to record and edit my voiceovers is. After toying around with many other programs (from ProTools, to Logic, to Amadeus), my go-to for recording and editing voice overs is Adobe Audition. Back in my early days, the program was called Cool Edit pro, and it was a staple in radio stations. It was incompatible with mac computers, so when I switched from PC to mac, I had to give it up, but I loved it so much, that for a while I kept my PC and would transfer my files just so I could use it! I did eventually give it up, but I jumped right back on it as soon as Adobe bought it. The best part about it? It hasn’t changed one bit. (Thank you Adobe!!)
When it comes down to it, there are only six basic functions to learn (record, delete, copy/paste, de-amplify and amplify, heal, save or save selection as), so I promise you, you can use it. It’s slightly more advanced than Audacity, but it’s SO easy to use and has SO many capabilities! Watch the voiceover editing tutorial above to learn more.
If you’re more into reading, here’s the transcription of the video:
First Things First: The Layout
This is what Adobe audition looks like when you open it. This here is the waveform side, and this is the multi-track side. We use the waveform side to record all of our voice overs. You can spend your life on this side of the program and be a fully functional voice over talent. If you ever want to produce your own demos, you want to use the multi-track editor. You can also use the multi-track editor to match a voice over to an existing guide track, or scratch track. I have a tutorial on that if you’d like to check it out.
Function # 1: Record
So, to start recording a file, you can either press the red button, you can go File and New Audio File, or you can just hit Waveform. If you do one of those three things, you’re going to get a little window that opens where you can name your file. I often do this at the end of my recording, where you can choose the sample rate.
In voice overs we often work with 48,000 kHz, 44,100 kHz and 8,000 kHz in telephony. You can also choose whether it’s a mono or stereo file, -we usually work in mono in voice overs, and you can choose your bit-depth, 24, 16 or 8. In TV we use 24 and radio 16 and then telephony 8.
Today we’re going to work with a file that I’ve previously recorded, but if you wanted to see what it looks like, you just press, okay. Now you’ve created your file and then you press the red record button. Hello, here I am talking to you. We’re going to close this file.
This here is where all your files show up, no matter which side of the program you’re on, whether it’s the multi-track or the waveform, and this is where you can close files. When you touch this, it usually starts the file. So you can just go close selected file or close all, it doesn’t matter. Okay, we’re going to go look for a file. So we’re going to go over the functions that you’re going to use the most often.
The Vertical Zoom
The first thing I want to show you is the vertical zoom. So you go here, in the middle of this, is a DB meter, so you have to be in this exact spot here. Then you scroll your mouse up and down, and that gives you a vertical zoom. This is very helpful to see imperfections like mouth noises and little things like that, that you have to get rid of.
The Horizontal Zoom
Now to get in here, I need my horizontal zoom. So wherever my mouse is, it doesn’t really matter: If I scroll up and down on my mouse, no matter where I am, I get a horizontal zoom. You’re going to use this all day long when you’re editing. So it doesn’t matter where you are, but for the vertical zoom, you really want to be in this area here there’s a little infinity loop. So that’s an important feature. So as far as vertical zoom is concerned, I like to see my mouth noises pretty well, but you don’t want to make it so big that you’re just getting lost in the details. So you want to see, I like to work around somewhere like here, and then I kinda leave it that way until the end.
So a super easy function, delete. So you just highlight the section and hit Delete, and you’re done. You’re thinking, oh, wow, why did you show me that? Well, in advanced programs like Pro Tools and Logic you’ll need about four or five mouse clicks just to do the same thing. So even though Adobe audition is an advanced program, it still gives you the simplicity of being able to delete things very, very quickly and easily, so I love that.
Obviously, something else you know about is copy/paste. So you can just copy and put your cursor where you want the copy, press paste and you’re done. This is helpful because sometimes you’ll make a mistake in a recording, so you’ll either open a new file and re-record it correctly, or, record at the end of the file, just hit record again and fix your mistake and then you’ll copy paste it into wherever you want. So obviously that’s a super helpful and easy function.
The Heal Function
The next thing I want to show you is healing mouth noises. This is particularly useful if you make a lot of mouth noises, and if you work in commercials where audio has to be just pristine. So for that, you’re going to use a function called the heal tool, and it’s very, very easy. This here is a mouth noise, I’m going to make it just a little bit bigger so you can see. This here is a mouth noise, so what I do, I just highlight it and hit Command + U and you see, it just disappears. On a PC, it’s Control + U. So this is something that I do a lot of because I make mouth noises. So I’ll go, here at Command + U and be done.
The thing about mouth noises, sometimes you can delete them as well. Like here, for instance, it’s not in the middle of a word, it’s clearly at the end of a word, so I can just hit delete, but let’s say I was doing a 30 second commercial and everything had to last exactly the right amount of time. Let’s say so here we get the duration here of this highlighted section, the duration is nine seconds. Let’s say I recorded something and it has to last nine seconds. Well, I don’t want to go in here and start deleting things because that’s going to change the timing of this section, especially if I take a bigger portion. So mouth noises, sometimes cleaning mouth noises by healing them is sometimes easier than deleting them. Now, when you’re dealing with such a small little space, you can just delete it anyway. I’m just saying, when things have to be perfect, you don’t wanna mess with the timing of things so in that case, I’ll use all clean up mouth noises with the heal tool, instead of just deleting them. It’s really up to you sometimes it’s whatever’s quicker.
So another tool I want to show you is markers. So let’s say that this section here is take one or it’s one file that needs to be saved separately. I can highlight it and hit M, and that’s going to create a marker up here and I can even name this marker if I want. I have to go to the edge of it here, and then I can rename my marker. I rarely take the time to do this, but this is something studio engineers do a lot when you’re recording with them. They’ll mark the takes that the client likes and it’s very useful. So why this is useful is because if I reduce my vertical zoom here, I’m going to see these lines pretty clearly. I don’t know if you can see them as clearly, but I can see that this is one section. So instead of having to re-listen to the file, visually, I can just know, “oh, this here is supposed to be one file” or this here, it needs attention in some way, I might need to fix something in here. So visually I can just see it.
Another way to use a marker is to just place the cursor where you want something marked, and just press M. So this creates a marker in one section, as you can see here, as opposed to highlighting a section. So, they look slightly different. This one is just one line and this one kind of frames the audio. So again, this is helpful sometimes when I do recordings where there are multiple files, I’ll just show you. My new files always get listed here on the side. So if I record, so this will be one file that the client wants, I hit my marker, now this is a new file that the client wants, I hit my marker, now this is another file that the client wants, I hit my marker. (One way to stop a recording is to just hit the space bar.) So now I’m done, I can see visually my takes. So that’s how that’s often used. And again, engineers use this a lot as well. Let’s go back to other file, as I said, this is where all the files always stay. So I’m going to click on another other file. Here we are, so if I want to delete it, just go to the corner, delete, go to the corner, delete.
Amplify & De-Amplify
So, here’s another function I’m going to show you, which is the De-Amplify and the Amplify tool. This is making your waveform louder or quieter. For instance, for breaths, so this here is a breath. It’s at the beginning of my speaking, I usually delete those. Highlight it and delete. But when there’s a breath in the middle of a sentence, I often leave it to make it sound more natural. But sometimes, especially in commercials, I will make them quieter. So I’ll use this tool here, it’s a little toggle, it’s a DB meter, and I can go down an amplitude and if I keep going down, if you look where that breath was, and now I’m going to go the other direction, it’s getting louder and now I’m making the breath super loud. So this is something I do visually. So I’ll usually leave it somewhere around here, especially in commercials. Now you just have to be mindful that you’re not confusing, this DB meter, which is making your sound file louder or quieter with the vertical zoom. The zoom kinda looks the same as the DB meter, but this is actually modifying the file. So once I let go of this, it’s going to be affected by something I did whereas the zoom is just a zoom, nothing changes, the file doesn’t get affected. So just be mindful of that.
Undo & Redo
That said, if you make a mistake, in that you put an effect that you didn’t want or whatever, you can always Undo, and you can also Redo. The program is really good about that, you can Undo many, many, many, many, many times, and those are pretty much all the functions I use when I edit voice overs.
Putting It All Together
I’m just going to edit a little part here, I’m going to delete all of this, just to show you the kind of thing I do. At the beginning of files, I usually make them super quiet and I don’t even look at the number, like I said, I just look at it visually, there’s a number there on the DB meter, it said like minus 13 or something. I didn’t look at that. What I can see here is that there’s still something that will be audible and I can go in my vertical zoom and I see it there, so I just didn’t do it enough. So I just go to the max. I often do this at the end, at the beginning, at the end of files ’cause I don’t have time to get in there and just fix all the little noises and make it sound perfect. So here I’ll just delete this and now I’m just going to see what else is going on here. I’m not even wearing headphones by the way, I’m just seeing visually, this is a noise here, So Command + U. You don’t want to do this when you start, you want to listen to get familiar with how your voiceover looks. I know my voice overs, so I know that this is like a breath with a mouth noise mixed in it. So I’m just going to delete it, ’cause I know what that looks like.
Editing: A First Pass
I should say that what I’m doing now, is what I call a first pass. I’m basically just editing the stuff that I know I need to get rid of (that is obvious to me that I need to edit). When you begin, you do your first pass with headphones on so that you can get a sense of what things look like versus what they sound like. You don’t want to do a first pass at the beginning without headphones, because you could be deleting the letter T for example, at the end of a word, like biscuit, that can look like a mouth noise or biscuits (T and S’s together, they can look like mouth noises). So you obviously don’t want to delete stuff that you need to keep. So you can do what I’m doing now with headphones on when you’re doing it. But I’m just showing you that over time, you can do this without headphones, save your ears a little bit and then do a second pass with headphones on, just to make sure you caught every little imperfection. Obviously there’s never an instance where I deliver audio without listening to it. I’m just doing as much as I can without headphones, just to save my ears.
Now back with the visual aspect, this is one of my breaths. So I’m just going to go and make it quieter, and here I can see there’s a little mouth noise. I highlight it, I could delete it, it’s not inside of the word. The heal tool is very often used inside of words, when there’s a noise, -I’ll show you. So for instance, this is probably a noise. So here I’m probably going to delete some of this. I might leave some of it, I’m just going to make that quieter. Just get to delete this. So you see I’m using my zoom quite a bit, as I go along. This breath, I’m going to leave it in because otherwise it’s not going to be enough space here. It’s just going to sound too quick, when I start speaking again. You want to make sure that you’re editing in a way that you sound natural. This is a noise here.
Okay, so now here we have an example of a mouth noise inside of a word. Again, I know my mouth noises, I don’t have to listen to them. I can do a first pass without listening and recognize them. So, here is a perfect example of a reason to use the heel tool, because you don’t want to delete this because it could sound weird. So I’m just going to use a heal tool and there you go, it’s gone. I do want to warn you about the heal tool: it can make words sound a little bit mechanical. So you really want to listen with your headphones before you’re fixing anything within words. I can do it visually on certain parts of words without wearing headphones, because I have so much experience, but you really want to wear yours, so you start to see when you can fix things and when you should leave them for when you’re listening. I actually created a tutorial to address mouth noises specifically because they’re a little bit tricky to edit. Like I said, I always do my second pass with headphones on. So I’m listening to everything. There’s never an instance where I deliver audio without listening. I’m just showing you a very advanced way of editing, where you can do a lot just visually, but just so you can see what I’m doing and that’s it. And this is a bit too much space here at the beginning, too much space at the end, and that’s it.
Saving It All
And then I would go and I would Save my file, or if let’s say this here was one file and this was another file, what I could do is “Save Selection As“, that’s a great little tool, and that’s pretty much it.
This was a little voice over editing tour of Adobe audition. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write me in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
To learn more about making a living with your voice, get my e-books about Voice Acting & Announcing.