This set of tutorial pages is developed for students of Fine Art, or some other discipline where digital audio and sound in general is not a core topic. It is originally developed for students on the MA Fine Art Digital at Camberwell College of Arts, London. It assumes no prior knowledge of working with digital audio, and (mostly) examines techniques that may be realized using free, open-source software. It is a course for "beginners" but, every adventure is a beginning and every journey begins. Discovery is at the core of artistic practice. It is practical, sometimes theoretical, and presently...
There is more to come...
Dr Edward Kelly, January 2016
I also maintain a number of Wikispaces sites, that are really just a way of collating information and links about topics concerning technologies used in digital art. These are:
It is easy to get started in working with digital audio, and there are many tools available to get started. We do not learn how to paint by reading books on painting, but by picking up a brush, some paints and applying them to a surface. Similarly we can learn to work with audio by getting hold of some software and some audio files and getting stuck in. It is only once we have had some experience with the materials and techniques concerning digital audio that we can enhance our understanding and technical prowess with theoretical knowledge.
This website examines techniques for working with digital audio from a practical viewpoint, salted with doses of theory where it becomes relevant to practice.
We will be using primarily free, open-source software for these tutorials. There will be examples of non-free software shown where relevant, but this should not restrict you if you do not have access to these.
There are many apps for recording, editing and working with digital audio on mobile devices. The quality of the microphone on a mobile device varies widely, but it is a good way to begin to collect your own material if you are just starting out. Apps are available for anything from simple recording and editing all the way to complete music studio applications. Here are some suggestions. Most of these are not free, although some are free for the basic functions with IAPs (in-app purchases) for the more advanced audio processing features.
Unlike iOS devices, Android hardware is hugely variable in terms of its power and expansion options. Hardware accessories (stereo microphone devices) for Android vary from device to device, and so a microphone for a Sony Experian will not work with a Samsung device and so on. However, in terms of apps for audio editing and recording the Google Play store has many options.
Reviewing the list above may lead you to the conclusion that iOS apps are better than Android. Certainly Apple has a much stricter policy concerning the robustness and quality of its apps than Google does, and the fact that Android devices are made by many manufacturers with different hardware specifications adds another complication. There are high quality apps for both systems however, but you are advised to read the reviews before you pay money for an app.
Another consideration is that many apps specifically designed for music production have advanced audio recording and editing features built-in. Don't overlook these (e.g. Audio Evolution listed above).
If you're committed to working with audio, get a dedicated audio recorder. This is not just because they are high-quality recorders with good microphones and expandable storage (usually on SD or MicroSD cards) but also because they will not become obsolete, unlike your phone.
Popular hand-held audio recorders include (in ascending order of cost) the Zoom H1, the Tascam DR-22wl and the Roland R-26. Note that for most purposes, the Zoom H1 is a very good device for portable, high-quality audio recording.
Finding good quality audio material that you don't have to pay for is difficult, but there is a wesite called Freesound.org where once registered you can download and upload high quality audio files for free. Note that Creative Commons licences apply, which is usually only a problem if you want to commercially exploit one of the recordings. Or it might not be, depending on the CC licence.
The audio files used in this set of tutorials can be downloaded here: CamberwellAudioWorkshops.zip
One final word: ownership of a recording is not just about commercial rights to use it - it's about authenticity, originality, rigour, honesty and integrity. Learn how to make your own recordings and you will have a much greater sense of ownership in your work, as well as the sense of excitement that comes from knowing that you are working with pristine material that you have discovered.