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I have a song recorded off a laptop microphone. Obviously not the best equipment, but its just a few family members singing, not a commercial production. I'd like to contribute, and since my singing usually results in cringes, I figured I try to clean up the recording a bit.

I've done some photography in the past, and know enough Photoshop to understand that for amateur photographs, there are a few simple tactics that usually significantly improve a photo (work the contrast curves, crop to rule of thirds, etc).

I'm a beginner at audio editing - are there any similar tactics for an amateur audio recording?

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2 Answers

There's no magic bullet, but here's a few things you can try.

First you'll need a program to edit the audio. I'm on a mac and use Apple's Logic. Its a couple hundred bucks and very powerful for the cost.

  • To clean up the hiss noise that was undoubtedly recorded with the laptop mic, use a de-noiser plug-in. Plug ins for audio work similarly to layer effects in Photoshop.

  • Use gentle EQ to smooth out the tonal balance. Better to cut then boost.

    Hope this helps some. Honestly, having done a lot of recording/mixing, as well as photo editing, I can say that photo editing is a lot easier and user friendly. Audio engineering takes years of study and practice, and since every recording is different, there are no one-size-fits-all easy answers.

Best of luck all the same.

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I loved your analogy to photography and yes, there are some ways to make your recording sound "nicer", at least for an amateur ear. The first and the most "exciting" trick is to add reverb to your record. This is always fun to see the WOW effect it makes on people unfamiliar with the technique. Of course it will sound much better if you apply it on your voice/guitar separately, rather than the whole track but I believe that if you are being careful, it might still be ok.

Then you can always use a bit of equalization and I think that compression is a must as well. Comprseeion might not have this direct audible effect as the reverb (at least not to the amateur ear) but it does make an important difference. Bear in mind that you should apply EQ, compression or other "serial" procession before reverberation.

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Commenting here since I deleted my post. Thanks for pointing that out. I misread the original question entirely and thought they were trying to clean up a track of their voice to mix with the family, but re-reading, I believe you are correct that it was a single channel with everyone else that they are trying to clean up. –  AJ Henderson Apr 16 '13 at 13:21
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