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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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Working with Waveforms

The great thing about editing audio on a computer is that you can actually see the audio signal on the screen. This image, called a waveform, shows two important pieces of information: where sound changes in shape and the volume of a sound at a particular time. Audio waveforms consist of thousands of samples per second that visually map how the sound changes over time.

Although editing audio isn’t the most obvious process, you’ll be surprised at how familiar it seems. At its most basic, it’s similar to word processing, but instead of letters and words, you see a waveform—a Richter-like graphic with peaks and valleys representing the various characteristics of the audio. Cutting and pasting individual sounds and sections within an audio document works the same way as cutting and pasting words and paragraphs within a word-processing document.

Often, you want to precisely locate the exact starting and ending points of a section. The section might encompass a single sound—maybe a cough you want to remove or a single note you need to replace because it is off pitch. In other cases, you may want to precisely select an entire measure (from the beginning of the first beat to the end of the last beat) to make a loop for your sample library. Audio editors make this a snap, thanks to their ability to display (and, notably, zoom in on) a sound’s actual waveform.

The types of editing you will need to do will depend on whether your source material was professionally prerecorded ...

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