Friday, February 08, 2008

So let me show you around, Maybe play you a sound, You look like you're both pretty groovy

(For the record, "Sweet Transvestite," which is the source of the title of this post, is one of those "guilty favorites/wouldn't want to be caught blasting this during" a red light songs.)

Did you know that you can record any audio off the web and make it an MP3? (Or Wav.)

I didn't until about a month ago. When I happed across a page that spelled it out, I said to myself, "Well duh."

All you do is download "Audacity", which is available for pretty much any OS you have. Make sure you get the "LAME" MP3 encoder so you can export to MP3. (More about LAME here.)

Once you've got it installed and LAMEd, open up preferences and make sure that in "Audio I/O" tab you pick "2 (Stereo)" in the "Channels" selection, and in the "Quality" tab you select a sample rate of "44100 Hz" and a format of "32-bit float".

Before you record, make sure any programs that make noises - such as email going "ping!" when an email arrives - are closed. Sometimes these sounds get captured in what you're recording, and even if they don't, they might cause a gap or static in your recording.

I use MS Windows, so I had to open up the volume control (double-click the speaker in the tray), select "Properties" in the "Options" menu, switch to "Recording" and select "Stereo Mixer" to choose the sound source of audio that's piped to my computer over the web. Remember how to get to this, because you use the slider to set the recording level, which you may have to do every time you record something.

Then, go to or anywhere you can find some audio you want to grab (like those artist's pages on myspace where they offer up complete streaming songs) and let it play through once (as this stores a local copy while you have a browser open). Use this first time through to set your recording input level.

You want to make sure the blue Rorschach wave form display that shows you the intensity of the volume doesn't touch the edges of the gray bars (meaning it's clipping - literally chopping off the ends of the sounds because they're out of range/too loud), but come as close as possible. If you can't turn it up enough while recording, don't worry, you can turn it up after you record. It's just better to get the best volume during the original sample, because that way you insure you don't get any distortion or hidden artifacts if you do have to turn it up.

Once you've set your recording level and let it play through once, close that sample in Audacity, open a new one, and start recording before you restart whatever it is you're recording. Restart it and DON'T TOUCH YOUR COMPUTER until it's done. Sometimes when you swap windows to look at it recording, it will cause a pause or a pop in the track. Wait until you get to complete silence - or if it's a playlist, wait for the next song to begin, then stop recording.

Now trim the silence at the beginning and any extraneous stuff at the end, and you have your source file to output to MP3. If you're going to burn it to a CD, export it in the best quality uncompressed format (which you pick in the "File Formats" tab in "Preferences").
If you have to increase the volume, select the whole track, and in the "Effect" menu select "Amplify...". Audacity automagically calculates the loudest "safe" level for you to record. I usually back it off 0.2 clicks because on rare occasion I've gotten distortion from using the suggested volume level. Once it's done, listen to one of the loudest points and one of the softest points of the recording, if it sounds good, save it.

And there you have it.

This comes in handy when a favorite live version of a song is available only on Youtube. Or if a song hasn't been released yet, but a web video has. Also I put funny quotes from movies on my mix CDs, and you can find most of the best one-liners from movies and TV on Youtube and comedy sites. Frinstance, I recently nabbed the great Dr. Cox line from Scrubs: "Listen Super Girl, I'm gonna break you down into so many little pieces that my grandmother, who can do a thousand piece puzzle of clear blue sky in less than an hour, will never be able to finish putting you back together again, even if she does go back in time to when her vision was perfect." I have yet to find a home on a mix CD for that one, but I'm sure I'll find one.


Oh, in other news, here's a great page on other great ways to get audio from the web - the google search string alone is worth clicking the link; it works like magic. And here's a post I did on ripping internet radio for more free tunage.


This works for DVDs, too. Say you like the themesong of a TV show, or you like the song version as used in the movie (the end of the first "X-files" movie comes to mind), you can snag anything off a DVD.


Whisky Prajer said...

DVDs!! Of course! (geez, I knew this, but never thought of pulling my favorite film bits into the mix. Now I can open a CD with the bit, "Saigon. S**t.")

Yahmdallah said...

I think I'm going to steal that idea...that'd be great way to start a disc!

Yahmdallah's neighbor out the backdoor said...

The band, Fun Lovin' Crimnals, did a tune called "Scooby Snacks". They imported lines from Pulp Fiction and a couple other films. Lines form a movie can spice up a song or just put them in between songs.

Whisky Prajer said...

I can remember hearing Colourbox for the first time in the early 90s, and their shtick was exactly that: snippets of dialog from Westworld and other B-movies, set in time with a dance beat and a little electronica noodling. Pretty catchy, really.