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Sound Recording with Sound Recorder


February 4th 2006
February 23rd 2009

Recording Sound with Sound Recorder

Recording a sound is not a big deal nowadays with the easy availability of computer microphones and recording software. Did you know that all versions of Windows (even the ancient ones) include an application that lets you record sound using your computer. The application is called Sound Recorder, and Figure 1 shows you the interface of the application. Although the technique explained here should work with most Windows versions, we are using Windows XP for this tutorial.

As you can see in the screenshot, the application is very intuitive. If you know how to play and record using a tape recorder or VCR, you'll have no problems at all doing small recordings using your computer.

Figure 1: The Sound Recorder interface

These recordings can be used for various purposes - maybe you need to record a small sentence for your kid's school project, or practice recording into your computer for a professional purpose.

Related Link:

Take a look at Microphone Techniques excerpted from You Can Bank On Your Voice by Rodney Saulsberry here...

The Sound Card

We'll assume a few things - for one, your computer should have a sound card installed. Almost no computer sold in the last few years has probably shipped without a sound card, and nowadays sound abilities are built inside motherboards themselves. However, if you want to make sure that you have a sound card installed, check it out:

  1. Go to your Windows Start Menu and click the Control Panel option. This brings up the Control Panel dialog box. If your Control Panel is displaying icons in Category view, click the option in the left pane that says "Switch to Classic View".

  2. Now double-click the Sound and Audio Devices icon to summon a dialog box of the same name as shown in Figure 2. Click the Audio tab of this dialog box.

    Figure 2: Sound and Audio Devices Properties

  3. The Sound recording dropdown box will have a recording device selected. If this dropdown box provides no options in your computer, that means you don't have a sound card installed (or maybe the drivers for the sound card are not installed) - that also means you cannot follow the rest of this tutorial.

What Is A SoundFont?

The first obvious question is what is a SoundFont? The easiest answer is that it's like a typestyle - but it defines sounds rather than shapes. I know that's not the answer you want to hear. So let's start our exploration into the magical world of SoundFonts.

You all have heard MIDI files - and they can sound anything from bearable to ethereal depending on your sound card or speaker setup. WAV files are more predictable - they run more or less the same in a given sound setup. There's a reason behind all this - WAV files contain actual digital recordings whereas MIDI files are basically music notations, which your sound card interprets and plays. Not all sound cards are created equal - and that's why MIDI files sound so spectacular on some machines, rather than other less privileged ones.

All the notes are interpreted using a table of recorded sounds sampled in a special area of your sound card. There was a time when you could not change these sampled sounds. SoundFont is a technology which enables you to change these samples, giving more control to software, rather than hardware.

You could create your own SoundFont, you could download or buy from the Internet or purchase SoundFont CD collections. Creative Labs has been a forerunner in the entire SoundFont revolution - in fact they are the reason behind the revolution!


The Microphone

You'll also need a microphone attached to your sound card - most microphones plug into the sound card's microphone jack at the back of your computer. Your sound card will have a microphone symbol engraved next to the microphone jack - also most sound cards these days come with color coded jacks - the pink jack is used to connect to microphones. Alternatively, if you are using a USB microphone, all you need to do is plug the microphone's USB connector into an available USB plug in your computer.

Doing the Recording

Getting back to Sound Recorder, here's how you can record your (or someone else's) voice:

  1. Go to your Windows Start Menu and choose All Programs | Accessories | Entertainment | Sound Recorder. This will launch Sound Recorder.

  2. Once the application is opened you can see:

    • the menu bar at the top,
    • navigation buttons i.e. (stop, play, rewind, forward and record) in the bottom
    • on the left, there is the position bar which shows the time at the position of the slider
    • on the right, you'll see the total length of the sound file

  3. As your microphone is connected to the system, click on the Record button which is on the bottom right of the application (see Figure 1 in the top section of this page).

    Speak whatever you want to record in the microphone and you will see the recording happening in the waveform.

  4. As soon as recording is done, press the Stop button.

Save your sound. Choose File | Save As to bring up the Save As dialog box. In this dialog box, give a name to the file and save it in the desired location in your computer.

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