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Unless it is a silent video, having perfect audio is critical to creating excellent video content. Whether you are a YouTuber, video marketer, filmmaker, or interviewer, you need a professional audio editing program to sync your visual and sound content.
Splitting and merging are two major editing actions instrumental for this, both executable in Audacity, a free editing platform.
In this blog post, we will take you through a step-by-step guide on splitting, merging, and labeling audio in Audacity.
How to Split in Audacity: What does it Mean and Why?
Splitting an audio track is when you divide the audio information into parts without losing or deleting any part of the recorded content. It allows you to edit the content easily, concisely, and synchronize it with the video.
Additionally, splitting the audio file allows you to remove irrelevant sounds like periods of silence, Ums, Ahs, stutters, and background noise. When you split and remove these, the clean audio is merged to create a smoother sound.
Audacity is a great tool for doing all of these. It is a free and open-source audio editor, available to Windows, macOS, and Linux users with professional-grade features. These features include -
- audio recording
- digital effects
- multitrack mixing
- audio spectrum analysis and more
Besides its capabilities, it is also easy to use, so there is no need to worry about figuring it out if you are new to audio editing.
How to Split Audio in Audacity
We have mentioned some of the reasons you might want to split audio, but it doesn’t end there. You can also use splitting to insert interludes like music or ad breaks. It also enables the extraction of song parts or a dialogue.
All of these, you can accomplish with Audacity in a few minutes, starting with downloading and installing it from here, if you haven’t.
However, before we get into it, it is important to understand a couple of terminologies that we will use in the guide.
- Audio Track - this is an instrument or voice in your recording. There can be one or several that one can mix to create the final audio output. You can also edit them separately.
- Clip - this is a section of a track that has been split from the whole to exist independently. You can split a track into multiple clips, change their order, or add it to a separate track.
- Channel - this is the mode or passageway through which audio information moves from the source to the speaker. An audio file can have one (mono) or two or more (stereo) channels.
Now that you are familiar with the necessary terminologies, here is how to split audio in Audacity.
STEP 1 - Select the Selection Tool
After launching Audacity, import your file into the editor by clicking File in the menu bar. Then select Open and double-click on the audio file you wish to split.
Once it is in, click the Selection Tool. It is the option that looks like a capital I in the top action bar.
STEP 2 - Locate the Split Point and Split the Audio
Once the selection tool is active, it is time to determine where you want to split the audio.
If you don’t know, use the playback buttons to play the track and pause on the correct timestamp.
TIP - use Ctrl + 1 to zoom in on the audio waveform for a more detailed and accurate view.
Once you have the location, left-click on your mouse. A thin line will appear on the point to mark the designated split point.
Next, select Edit in the menu bar and navigate to Clip Boundaries. When the sub-menu opens, click Split.
Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl + I, to split the audio.
When the editor executes the split, you will notice the aforementioned thin line has gotten bolder, confirming the separation.
STEP 3 - Separate the Clip
A good step after completing the split is separating the clip from the rest of the track. To do this, use the Time Shift Tool. It is the two-sided arrow below the selection tool.
With the Time Shift Tool selected, hold the left mouse button and drag the separated track.
After completing this step, you have successfully split your audio.
If you want to save the separated clip as an independent file, select the clip and click File in the menu bar. Then navigate to Export Audio.
Name the file and choose the file location to complete the export.
Split Track in Audacity with Labels
For beginners, it might take a minute to split audio in Audacity. But as you get more familiar with the process, you will quickly find that it can be tedious and time-consuming to export multiple clips in separate files.
Instead of identifying the beginning and end of each section to split and export manually, you can simply label the start of each section. Then automatically export the clips as separate files.
This is also a useful skill if you have a long piece of audio, say a podcast or older media like vinyl or cassette tapes. You can split them into tracks in one fell swoop.
Pretty cool, right? Here is how to do it.
STEP 1 - Click the Selection Tool
Presumably, you have imported the audio you want to split into multiple labeled parts into the editor. Next, click the selection tool.
Click the Skip to Start button (above) if the playhead is in the middle of the track.
STEP 2 - Add Labels
With the playhead at the beginning of the track, go to Edit and scroll to Labels. In the Labels sub-menu, select Add Label at Selection.
Alternatively, you can use Ctrl + B to activate this function.
Next, name the first clip by clicking on the label and typing. You can call it anything you want, but the interface should look like something like this.
Using the selection tool (make sure it is still activated), select the start of the next clip and apply the labeling process.
Repeat this for as many clips as you need from the track.
When you finish, you should have something like this.
STEP 3 - Export the Clips
When you have labeled all the desired clips, go to File in the menu bar and navigate to Export Multiple. You can also press Ctrl + Shift + L on your keyboard for the same action.
It will open a pop-up window to set the format and location of the exported files.
In this window, make sure you select Labels and Using Label under the 'Split Files Based on' and 'Name Files' settings, respectively.
Then select Export.
The editor will automatically split the track according to your selections and save them as separate files. During this process, you will receive a prompt to add metadata for each clip. Just select OK.
That’s it. You now know how to split a track into multiple clips in Audacity with labels.
How to Merge Tracks in Audacity
Having split the clips and exported them as individual tracks, you can merge them using a similar process.
By merging clips, you can insert audio clips that were not originally part of the split track, like a song or ad.
Asides from adding extra clips, joining tracks also allow you to get a single clean audio file after removing periods of silence, stuttering, reduce noise, or Ums and Ahs.
This way, you have one perfect track to sync with your video to maintain high production value.
Here is how to go about it.
STEP 1 - Import the Tracks
Unlike when you were working with one track, importing multiple files into Audacity is slightly different.
If you try to open multiple tracks with New or Open, the editor will open them as different projects.
Instead, navigate to Import under File in the menu bar and select Audio in the sub-menu.
Then select as many tracks as you want to edit by navigating to their location in the dialog box.
TIP >>> Make sure all the relevant audio files are in one folder.
STEP 2 - Select the Time Shift Tool
With all tracks in the editor, click the Time Shift Tool. Remember, it is the two-sided arrow under the menu bar.
When you select it, place it at the beginning of the second audio file or the next file in the intended order of the final track.
Then select the clip, hold down your mouse and drag the file’s waveform to the end of the first audio.
The arrangement should look like this when you finish.
Repeat this process for the rest of the tracks.
STEP 3 - Export the Audio
With all tracks lined up after the other, the next thing is exporting.
Go to File and navigate to Export Audio. You can also press Ctrl + Shift + E on your keyboard.
Depending on your settings, you might get this prompt after hitting Save in the dialog box -
Press OK to clear the prompt. Do the same on the metadata prompt that pops up to complete the process.
How to Merge Tracks in Audacity (Method 2)
There is another more professional and efficient way in which you don’t have to export and re-import the clips first. This method allows you to combine part of a track, split or unsplit, with another track.
To use this method, activate the Selection Tool and highlight the part of the second audio file you want to join with the first file.
You can use Ctrl + 1 to zoom in to get a precise selection.
Once selected, click the scissors icon to cut the clip out of the track. You can also use Ctrl + X as a keyboard shortcut.
After cutting it out, go to the track where you want to place the extracted clip. This could either be at the end of a track or in the middle of a split track.
Then press the clipboard icon or Ctrl + V to paste the cut clip into the open space.
Next, use the Time Shift Tool to drag the clips together and close the gap.
That’s it. Simply delete the tracks you don’t need and export the audio to complete the merging.
As you can see, while it is pretty simple, it requires a bit of technical skill. However, if you can master this method, you can merge audio easily without creating multiple unnecessary clips.
Converting tracks from Stereo to Mono with Audacity
You can also convert tracks from Stereo to Mono with Audacity. However, before we get into it, it is important to know the difference between both.
- A Stereo track is recorded with two or more microphones and played back via separate channels. It means the sound from each speaker comes out via different speakers.
- On the other hand, a Mono track is recorded with one microphone regardless of the number of speakers. Here, every sound comes via one channel.
Why does this matter? In Audacity, even if you record using separate microphones, the audio is combined as a single stereo track.
It means you cannot edit the sound content of Speaker A without affecting Speaker B.
To edit them separately, you will have to convert the single stereo track to a mono track. Here is how to do that.
First, select the dropdown arrow at the top of the Track Control Panel to open the Track Dropdown Menu for the track you want to convert.
Select Split Stereo to Mono in the list of options, as shown below.
After selecting the option, you will see (above) that each channel is now in its own mono track. As a result, you can now edit each one individually.
Splitting and merging are two of the common actions when it comes to sound editing.
Using this guide, you are on your way to improving the quality of your video and audio productions. As a result, your podcasts will sound better, cleaner, and your videos’ audio quality will sound more like that of a seasoned professional.
However, your learning does not have to stop here. You can learn more about video editing from our pool of resources here.