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Cleaning A Voice Track With Audacity

Cleaning A Voice Track With Audacity

Audacity LogoOne of the best ways to improve your home videos whether they are of family events, outings, or even videos you are making for online consumption is in the area of audio.

There is an old saying that the most important part of video is audio and in this case you can make your videos more watchable by making them more… listenable! (OK! I know that’s not really a word!)

Quite often when you are looking at other peoples videos you may have noticed that although the video itself seemed quite OK, there was something that seemed to be annoying about it or some way that it was failing to hold your attention.

More often than not it is actually the audio quality that is having that effect.

On this page I have laid out a simple procedure anyone can follow to quickly and efficiently clean up a narration or voice over track.

The techniques apply to any voice recording you have done regardless of the source but before that always remember when you are recording a voice to set your device at the highest possible quality of recording.

Some devices don’t offer this but many do, so take the time to go into the settings of whatever you are using to make sure you are getting the best audio quality you can.

Once you have your recording we are going to use a free audio editing software program to polish the sound file you have, so we need to get that file isolated and into a format suitable for editing.

If you have recorded a voice track on your computer this is simple because you will already have a single audio file and most likely it will be in the .wav format that we need.

If you have used some other kind of system and do not have a .wav file then you can get a free audio converter here that will do the job, or just Google for one.

The point is that we need to get the file into the .wav format to get the best results.

Because we are going to edit the file and are also going to be adding that file back to a video project it is very important to stick to the .wav format.

If you are dealing with a voice track from one of your existing videos simply load the video into your video editing software then go to the output – sharing – distribute part of the program and choose to output the file as a .wav audio file.

One you have the sound file you will need another free software program called Audacity which you can download for free here: Download Audacity.

Just choose the version suitable for your system and install.

Now that we have Audacity installed, open the program and load your audio file by selecting “File” then “Open” and navigating to where you put the audio file.

Audacity Step 1
Audacity Step 2

Audacity will give you the option of either directly editing the original file (faster) or making a copy of the file and editing the copy (safer). My choice in this is to manually make a copy before I even start and place it in a separate folder.

Audacity Step 3

That way I always have the original to go back to if I mess up and I am not getting Audacity to do anything extra that could lead to problems.

One more point to note before we get into the procedure is that Audacity is an incredible sound editing platform. Although this simple guide will get your voice tracks up to speed it in no way taps into the vast capabilities of the program.

It would be worth anyones time to delve further into learning how to effectively use Audacity for all parts of your video sound tracks.

Cleaning Up Your Voice Track

Once you have chosen the method of editing, the file will load into the program and be displayed as a waveform representing the sounds within the file.

Audacity Step 4

Noise Removal

Before we start we need to find a small section of the voice track that has no vocals recorded on it. We will use this section of the track to give Audacity a sample of the noise we want to remove.

In the example track I have used the mouse to select a portion of the file.

Audacity Step 5

Now select Effect then Noise Removal and a dialogue box will open.

Audacity Step 6

Click on Get Noise Profile and Audacity will capture and analyze the small sample you selected in the previous step.

Audacity Step 7

The dialogue box will disappear and you will be back at the waveform view of your file.

Click anywhere on the waveform then either hit ctrl + A or use Edit / Select All to make sure the entire file is selected.

Now go back and select Effect, Noise Removal again and the same dialogue box will open only this time check the bottom of the box to see that (1.) Remove Noise is checked then hit OK.

Audacity Step 8

Although there are lots of ways to adjust and fine tune this module remember, we are going for a quick and dirty fix here!

It will immediately run and you will notice that the areas where there were no vocals before have now become much thinner indicating the reduction in noise.

Audacity Step 9


First of all make sure the entire audio clip is selected by using ctrl + A or by using the Select All function under the Edit tab.

Go to Effect then select Equalization.

Audacity Step 10

A new dialogue box will open shown below. Make sure that Draw Curves is selected and then from the drop down box select EMI 78 as the profile you want.

You can use the preview button to listen to the change it will make if you like. Finally select OK and Audacity will apply the changes.

Audacity Step 11

What you may notice is that the small areas where you removed noise have now kind of fattened up a little because of the Eq changes.

Audacity Step 12

Take a listen to the final product and if it is ok then… OK!

If the Eq has raised the noise level to a noticable degree then re-do the noise removal step once more for final clean and you should be done.

Cleaning A Voice Track With Audacity was last modified: March 12th, 2013 by Lance Carr

66 comments to Cleaning A Voice Track With Audacity

  • Arka Saha

    Hi Lance, I have a recorded song of my girlfriend who is not a pro singer, so there’s a lot of pitch drops and at times the tune is not perfect. Can I modify this imperfect piece into a perfect one, by anyhow digitally fine tuning or anything else? If yes, then how, Please help.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Arka,
      Unfortunately there is not much you can do unless you want to invest in a top end audio program like Pro-Tool which has an autotune feature.

      The concept is simple but hard to do!

      To raise or lower the pitch of a sound you can just speed up or slow down that particular note by isolating it.

      The problem is that now that note is sounding for a longer or shorter amount of time so the whole audio file starts to go out of sync.

      Auto Tune automatically compensates for this incredibly complex procedure… hence the incredibly expensive price tag!

      Sorry, maybe you should get you girlfriend to practice… but be very careful about how you approach that subject!

  • Renato

    Hi, I have a recorded file and i would appreciate your help in how will enhance the voices in the recorded file. I can only hear the hissing sound and short high pitch when there there laughter or loud voice.


    • Lance Carr

      Hi Renato,
      Unfortunately the problem you have was caused at the recording point by HOW it was recorded.

      Because those hissing and high pitch noises only occur when the voice occurs it means that when the track was recorded the device or system being used was either set up wrong or was faulty.

      Sort of like if you are recording your voice and suddenly scream into the microphone, you get all sorts of strange noises happening.

      This can’t be fixed in Audacity.

  • Dave

    Hi I have an audio recording and the voices in are very faint and lots of hissing noise can be heard. Can the voices be cleanly extracted?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Dave,
      The short answer is no.

      You will probably find that if you take a sample of the hissing noise and remove it you lose more of the voices anyway.

      Depending on how bad the problem is even a professional studio will still have trouble doing it and at great expense as well!

      When you listen to sound what you are not really aware of is the fact that your brain is analyzing and sorting that sound in real time so you can identify hissing noises and voices.

      The reality is that outside of that ear-brain arrangement the file itself is just one sound so removing one part will always remove another part.

  • I have an episode of the big bang theory but it has translating voice on top that prevents me from hearing the real voices of everyone else but I can still hear the real voices in the background. how do I remove the translating voice and only be left with the normal voice.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Delan,
      Unless the voices are recorded on separate track they are now “one” audio file and cannot be separated nor can you “adjust” one and leave the other untouched.

  • does this work if you have a video with the normal voice in the background and then the translating voice on top

  • Rosie

    Hi there, I don’t have EMI 78 as an option. I’m working on a MacBook.

    Many thanks

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Rosie,
      Yes I have had this question before.
      All the filters within Audacity are written and provided to the Audacity team for free by interested geeks.

      It seems that the EMI 78 filter only comes with the Windows version so that’s probably why you are not seeing it.

      The only reason I included that filter is because in keeping with a quick, “down and dirty” enhancement it works well in most cases.

      All I can suggest is that you go through some of the filters that are available and try them.

  • Benjamin

    Is it possible to change the voice in movies where one voice can look a little bit older.In which the movie is already recorded without changing other voice.Please help… If able so will there be any late or early in the lips and the voice… I’ll be very grateful

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Benjamin,
      What you are describing is all but impossible at the consumer end of the market.

      In movies or high end productions very often the sound track you hear is a combination of individually recorded sound tracks mixed together. These can be manipulated by going back to the original (and individually recroded) tracks.

      In the case of editing or adjusting a finished track it is almost impossible to make any change to one aspect of that traack without dramatically changing other parts as well… and usually for the worse.

  • james

    Hi Lance how do you reinsert the audio track back into the video?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi James,
      After you have exported the file you open it in Audacity, make the changes and save. (Remember where!)

      Then re-open your video editor and import the changed file to your timeline as an audio track.

      Don’t foregt to mute the video file where you got the audio from in the first place otherwise they will both play!

      You haven’t made any kind of change that would alter the length of the audio track so it should sync perfectly with the video.

  • brandon scott

    hey can anybody tell me how i can get noise in background you can hear it but just trying to figure out how i can hear it better also the fans going off so it there anyway to lower that as well if you can do it for me i can send the audio if you could please email me and let me know that would be greatly appreciated.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Brandon,
      First up I have editied your comment and removed your email address.

      Never write your email address in a comment like that because automated software called bots are constantly trawling the internet for email addresses exposed like that. Once they capture the address you then get spammed endlessly.

      As far as your request goes it is a little hard to work out exactly what it is you want. Can you re-state the problem a little more clearly? Possibly use a few commas and full stops as well!

  • Clarence

    Hello, I have file with two people speaking with music playing in the background. I was wondering if it were possible to eliminate the background music from the track.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Clarence,
      The problem here is that by removing certain frequencies (the music) you will invariably be removing frequencies shared by both the background AND the voices.

      You can’t tell the software to remove frequency “A” if it is in music but not if it is coming from a voice.

      This is definitely a “pro” level kind of activity.

      You could try going on to the Audacity forum for some more specialized help.

      You could also check this video out but bear in mind it only applies to a particular scenario.

      Separate Vocals

  • russell

    Thanks for sharing this information! It’s very helpful..

  • jawwad

    i have an audio file….about 50 years back around 1972…….. there is noise + voice of speaker is also not clear …… how to fix ?
    i am naive user of audacity.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Jawwad,
      Unfortunately cleaning up something like that is very complicated and difficult to do.

      It is a specialized action and to be honest I am not that experienced in the field of specialized audio.

      Try the Audacity forum and maybe someone there can help.

  • Patricia

    Hello Lance,
    Thanks for the great tutorial. I edit my own radio show that I download from the stations archives. It’s hours of work because I only know a few things. This should really help.

    My question is, can I separate the host from the guest. Say, I’m too loud. Can I separate myself all at once and lower my volume. Right now I do it piecemeal and it take forever.


    • Lance Carr

      Hi Patricia,
      The only hope you have of achieving that is if the host and the guest have been recorded on separate tracks originally.

      I am guessing they weren’t!

      So sadly I think you are doomed to sitting there endlessly twiddling the volume settings!



  • MK

    Thanks, it worked like magic! Although I don’t know what the EMI 78 does exactly.

    In my copy of Audacity(os x) there is no “remove” and “isolate” options. There is “Reduce” and “Residue” and the Effect is called “Noise Reduction” not “Noise Removal”

    • Lance Carr

      Hi MK,
      I guess the names of entries may be a little different on the Mac version.

      The EMI 78 filter is basically a filter I use to enhance the sound of the voice a little. It kind of gives it that “radio announcer” feel.

      It’s not essential and there are a bunch of other settings you can play around with to give your voice a richer tone.

  • Jewl

    I have a voicemail that I need to use to proove my case in a lawsuit. Its very muffled though. Its saved on my smartphone.How can I make it suitable for the judge to better understand it?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Jewl,
      The first hting you should do is make a backup copy of the file and keep it somewhere safe if it is that important.

      Only try to play around with copies… just in case!

      As far as cleaning up this kind of thing goes the advice here is not really suitable becuase it is a different scenario.

      I would strongly recommend you go to the Audacity forum and ask someone there with mosre experience in retoring audio fles like the one you have.

  • Sunil

    Thanks for the tips to clean up audio. But I seem to have a basic problem.
    After highlighting the section of noise and I click on Effect, the drop down is greyed out so I cannot click and select noise reduction.
    How do I solve this problem?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Sunil,
      I just tried to repeat the problem you are having and yes, I did manage to get the same thing happening but I could not work out what caused it!

      So the good news is that you are not crazy!

      To get around it I just closed the program, re-opened it, loaded the file I wanted to work on and then zoomed in enough to find a spot where the noise sample could be taken.

      I then selected that little section, went to Effects, Noise Removal and selected Get Noise Sample.

      I then clicked somewhere else on the timeline and then hit ctrl+A to select the whole file.

      Then went to Effects, Noise Removal and applied the change successfully.

      Not really sure what causes that glitch.

    • Caleb

      Is the problem that you are not stopping the audio, just pausing it? if you just pause it, it doesn’t let you make changes. I don’t know if this is your problem or not, but i hope you get it figured out.

      • Lance Carr

        Yes Caleb thank-you!

        You are absolutely correct, if you only pause the audio clip the Effect Menu is not available.

  • Warren

    Thank you for your honesty.
    I will continue my search.
    I know it can be done, because the Audio engineer was able to do it in a flash.
    The static is easily heard but not repeated at a regular timing.
    Thank you again

  • Warren

    Digitizing my fathers European slide travelogues from the 50’s. He had created 3 distinct travelogues: Italy, middle Europe (Austria, Germany & Paris) and an extended presentation of Holland, where we lived from 1956-1959.
    Real old school with 35 mm slides that ran separate from the audio component. He wrote and narrated script and recorded relevant music from 33 1/3 records onto cassettes, during the narration process.
    He did an amazing job without any of today’s technology. No Internet or Google for historical research. None of us would have had the patience today. I am very proud of what he accomplished.
    I have gotten the slides and audio converted separately to digital and now merging in iMovie (I am an armature).
    He last recorded audio in 1979, before his death.
    The crackling is intermittent and I don’t know if the origin of the noise was from the voice narration or the music, or if it matters.
    Will this process work for this type of intermittent noise?
    I am asking because of your only using a section without voice. The total length of the audio is approximately 4 hours made up from 5 digital audio clips.
    I had the other travelogues cleaned up by an Audio Engineer.
    I would like to learn to do this, as I have many more similar projects and paying someone each time wood be prohibitively expensive.
    Appreciate your input, before I go down this path.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Warren,

      OK, first of all…WOW!

      That is truly an amazing story and your father’s effort in achieving that is unbelievable.

      The system I describe on this page is NOT suitable for that project in any way. It is just a quick down and dirty way of remove CONSTANT noise from a track.

      I am not going to pretend to you that I have any great expertise on this subject and I think your best course of action is to make and keep safe master copies of the sound tracks then begin the process of learning how to do it.

      I would suggest starting out at the Audacity forum and them any other sound/audio forums you can find.

  • Ben

    I recently did these changes and my audio sounds a lot worse, I have done this before and it works good but in this case it didn’t; but I spent 2 hours recording the audio and now I cant undo the changes because I saved it. Is there anyway that I can restore what it sounded like before the changes?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Ben,
      Sorry I took so long to reply.

      The chances are that if you made it worse when at other times it worked fine then you probably accidently did something you didn’t realize and there you are.

      Sorry, once you have saved the changes there is no going back. Undo only applies to unsaved changes.

      All I can say is that in the future apply the changes to a copy and keep another a a master.

  • silas

    Dear sir, I see it as a privilage to undertake this course to exploit my mind in editing.

  • CayCay

    I was concerned on how to make my voice more crisp and clear with a beat as a second audio file. thanks!

  • Rebecca Underwood

    Will this remove , white noise , sounds like heavy rain in back ground ..

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Rebecca,
      The noise removal tool in Audacity will remove that kind of noise but you may have to play around with it a little to get good results that don’t distort or change that parts you want to keep.

      The key to it is being able to isolate one section of the audio file that has ONLY the white noise or sound of rain in it so you can get an accurate sample.

  • Mark

    I have a very large audio file (voice) and need to ‘expand it’ somehow to select first 45 seconds to get the noise profile as states in instructions, my file is 3.5 hours long. How do I choose/select the first 45 seconds for the ‘test’ before selecting entire file to clean background noise?

    • Mark

      Think I figured it out, keep zooming in until I can select portion I need to ‘get profile’ that has no voice in it. Very nice app, but not being a guru with this stuff, what options do I have for some 1-on-1 help? Have a very important audio file I need to hear voice(s) clearly and fighting this for days to clean it up enough to hear voice only. Have business with couple employees misbehaving, my attorney cleared the legal stuff first, then told me to record audio to find which one (of two) is stealing from the company.

      • Lance Carr

        Hi Mark,

        Glad you figured out the zooming trick by yourself there!

        In the case of large files that’s the way to do it.

        As far as help goes I am afraid I am not an expert on audio stuff especially for what you are trying to do.

        Possibly try the Audacity forum?

  • nastasi

    Hey! I have a voice recording – a phone conversation and 1 of the speaker’s voice is very unclear. I have to transcribe it but I can hardly get a half of what he says. I tried removing noise but it didn’t work. I suppose it works only for the background noise

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Nastasi,

      Unfortunately when it comes to audio as bad as you are describing the noise removal tool in Audacity is very limited.

      When you take a sample of the noise at a point where there is nothing but noise you have remember that the noise is also present in the good parts as well.

      So if you remove that noise you are also removing part of the good parts at the same time.

      As long as the noise isn’t too bad that is usually not too much of a problem but in your case I doubt audacity can repair it that much without losing parts you need.

  • Jordan

    I am doing some remastering of my aunts 1030s recordings and this has worked awesome, there is still a little hiss. but 150% increase

  • Rusty

    I already have Cyberlink Audio Director 4. I will be setting up to do some videos & podcasting & have been told I should use Adobe Audition or Audacity. What are your thoughts? Will Cyberlink work OK or should I change my audio software?

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Rusty,

      In my experience the reason people say stuff like that is not because it is based on any actual knowledge.

      It’s based on the fact that the particular software they are recommending is what THEY are using.

      To be truthful they usually aren’t even recommending it, they are usually stating with absolute certainty (based on no data) that the one they are using in the ONLY one you can use!

      Audio Director 4 is perfectly suited and perfectly equipped to deal with anything you may want to do for a podcast.

  • Stefan Fuchs

    Good guide, just that what i’m looking for. I just downloaded Audacity but the draw curve EMI 78 does not exist in Equalization. I used RIAA instead and called the effect normalize after that.

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Stephan,

      There are a few filters that come with Audacity you can use and anyone can play around with them to find one they like.

      I wanted to keep the guide simple.

      Thanks for leaving comment!

  • Chavon Gaskins

    Are you able to remove people voices with this? I have school basketball games but dont want the conversations to stay. Other parents don’t need to hear everything.

    • Lance Carr

      HI Chavon,

      Unfortunately you probably can’t do this.

      When you select some constant background noise it is usually at a low level and is restricted to a reasonably small group of wavelengths.

      When you remove it the sound of the overall track changes because every other sound that shares sounds of the same wavelength also get removed.

      However the change this causes is not usually so bad that it is noticeable.

      The sounds of voices are not consistent even sounds that are continuous.

      By the time you sample each one and remove them you would probably removed all other sounds on the track as well!

  • Lisa

    Lance, I have a few questions regarding Audacity that you might be able to help me with. Would you mind contacting me via FB? My address is I would really appreciate any answers you might be able to give me!!

    • Lance Carr

      Hi Lisa, I sent you a PM on FaceBook but no reply!

      I am not really surprised because FB messages from people you are not actually connected to tend to get buried.

      You can contact me directly on this comments thread or go to the Contact page and send me an email.

  • ray

    I cant find EMI78 in my audacity!

  • Works great!
    Thank you… I wasn’t expecting to be able to be able to produce something like this myself…

  • tom

    You are very helpful. Do you have a company I can send recordings to be improved. I am close but need to make sure I am hearing what I think I am.



  • tom

    You are very helpful. Do you help people out for a fee to really enhance recordings?



  • Sibylle

    How do I put the audit file to the video file once it is cleaned up?

    • Lance Carr

      That would depend on what video editing software you are using, generally it is simply a matter of adding the final video file into the software’s audio library then dragging it on to the timeline of the editor.

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