DIY audiobooks
May 31, 2009 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I do lengthy reading to my daughter (6) every evening, and it's a valuable part of our day. Later this summer, she's going to be visiting her mother for a few weeks, which means no reading. I'd like to send her on this trip with some CDs or a memory stick full of pre-recorded stories, so I have a couple quick questions as to how to best accomplish this.

I'm looking for the best SIMPLE software that can record long passages from the mic, with some sort of on-screen feedback so I know it's working. I realize there are a zillion audio tools, so from my point of view, the easier and more single-purpose the better.

In addition, since I will surely make numerous "vocal typos", I'd like to have a solution that either let's me "tag" the clip by pressing a key so I can go back and fix it later without having to search (or remember) for the problem... Alternately perhaps I'm complicating things -- I suppose software that lets me easily stop and start a new clip and then I can patch them together later, knowing that there's a problem at the very end of all clips.

Oh, and I'm using Windows.
posted by glider to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There's free software called Audacity, that does a lot of things but you could record audio like this very simply with visual feedback. Combining clips is also pretty straightforward.

- software is here
- set up your laptop with a mic & start software
- under preferences make sure the microphone is set as your input
- under "tracks" select "add new"
- there is a big red record button and you should be able to click it and talk into the mic and see the wavy lines go up and down as you talk and it records.
- you can cut/copy pretty straightforwardly
- when you're done select "file export" and export it as an MP3.
- more documentation here

I've been using Audacity to record old cassette tapes. You can get really complicaged with it but for what you're trying to do I think it will work and be simple enough to get the job done.
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 PM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

Depending on the situation between you and her mother (and internet connections and bandwidth and time zones, etc.), you might want to think about Skype. Free Skype-to-skype calls, including video, but it chews up more bandwidth than you might think. You could still read her stories that way.

Just a thought.
posted by Decimask at 6:53 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

jessamyn has it: Audacity is great.

I don't know of any software that will do the "tag" thing exactly as you describe it. If you do goof up, you can go "OOOOOO" really loud for a second into the mic and it will show up as an big obvious blown-out spike in the waveform display that you can go back and fix with cut & paste. Sounds silly but give it a test run and see if it's intuitive.

This is maybe offtopic, but... will your mother read to her? Is that subpar? I know my 10-month-old daughter doesn't click with recorded media nearly as well as with a warm human and a flappy book. Just a thought.
posted by mindsound at 7:32 PM on May 31, 2009

I third Audacity.

To help recording. Try doing just paragraphs or pages at a time. Then you can go back later and combine them into chapters.
posted by royalsong at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2009

Audacity is fantastic. Be sure to save in a lower quality format, so that you don't take up tons of space. I recorded my online course with Audacity and thought it was great.
posted by acoutu at 8:04 PM on May 31, 2009

In Audacity you can hit ctrl-m while recording to add a "label" (flag) at the current time.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:19 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was going to jump right in and recommend Audacity when you posted this, but then I decided to wait until after I put my kids to bed tonight. Through that filter, here's what I'd recommend:

Get yourself a nice, simple tape recorder, something discreet, and prop it next to you when you read to her at your house, starting as soon as you can. Leave in her questions; leave in your mistakes; leave in the warmth and comfort that the sound of your voice can only have if you're relaxing with your daughter (versus trying to "record something.") The first week or so, you'll be aware of the tape recorder, so you'll have to get over that, as you'll be nervous and a bit stiff. Over time, you'll settle into it and won't think about it any more.

Then, discard the awkward early ones and keep the rest. Digitize 'em (but resist the urge to edit them except for cutting up to the beginning and end of the story and giving them a helpful name) or just give her the recorder.

A couple of nice additional things about this approach: it will take a lot less time, because you're reading to her anyway...she'll have the recordings of you AND her to listen to someday when she's older...and, when she asks why you're recording it, you can tell her and find out whether she thinks it's a good idea or not.

Have fun! And, also, thanks; I've been singing songs to my kids for years now at bedtime, and keep trying (and failing) to find the time to record them separately, but now I have an answer to my own dilemma as well.
posted by davejay at 9:25 PM on May 31, 2009 [8 favorites]

Davejay's plan is good. The one tweak I'd make is to use a digital recorder that will let you connect directly to a USB port and transfer your files over instead of having to digitize analog tape recordings.

(Olympus makes several models that will do this. They don't need to be too expensive because you don't need all the bells and whistles, and the software should make it fairly easy to export to an mp3.)
posted by Naberius at 7:32 AM on June 1, 2009

I really like davejay's plan. I would recommend getting a digital recorder rather than using tapes - way easier, and you can pick em up at an office supply place for less than $50.
posted by radioamy at 10:45 AM on June 1, 2009

Thanks Naberius/radioamy, for the improvement; I'm an old man and tend to forget that technology marches on. Heh.
posted by davejay at 5:51 PM on June 1, 2009

I came in to sort of suggest DaveJay's plan, but with a twist.

I've been using my Flip recently to videotape me reading with my son. Sometimes I set it on the dresser and sometimes I sit it sort of on my chest/shoulder so you can hear our voices but see the book (and fingers pointing at the book). I started doing it because I was traveling for work, but since then I've done it a few times just to .... remember.

I believe you can export the audio from the flip movies as an .mp3.
posted by anastasiav at 8:38 PM on June 1, 2009

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