Episode 13 : Audio Editing of a Life Story

by Ian · 2 comments

in Audio, Design, Podcast, Technology, Topics

The Recording is completed, now to make it a listening pleasure!

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You have the audio recorded so now tt’s time to look how you will edit your Life Story and what style we use.

To date you’ve been concerned with everything you need to generate the audio recording. The emotional, physical and technical aspects of sitting down and recording someone, in a clear well produced and expressive way, while maintaining all of their personality. Now you have the audio recorded, it’s time to start the process of post production on your way to sharing a Life Story.

Audio editing software is available in free versions, if you have an Apple computer, the iLife suite has GarageBand or get the open-source editor, Audacity which is available for Mac and PC.

Life Story Edit


No recording will be perfect from start to finish and even if it is, there are still things that can be done with the audio to enhance the quality of the sound and to improve the listening experience. Sure a recording in the format in which it was recorded can just be put onto a medium for replaying like a compact disc but that will limit the uses of it and doesn’t make it all that it could possible be.

The reason you’re creating a Life Story is not only to capture the information that is contained within the stories and life experiences but also to share that information. In order to help people to listen and engage so they learn the information that is in those stories. You need to endeavour to make the audio as interesting and entertaining as possible. These are the reasons behind the previous recording and storytelling technique episodes but also the motivation for spending some time in tiding up the audio to make it a pleasure to listen to.

The aspects of audio that will often require attention are:

  • Removal of introduction and closing chatter
  • Enhancement of audio quality
  • Removal of background ambient noise
  • Editing long pauses and repeated sections
  • Rearrange audio to help with conversational flow
  • Remove sections that are on reflection, inappropriate to mention
  • Removal of interruptions
  • Normalise (even out) volume of recording to a constant level
  • Introduce additional voices
  • Enhance with music and sound effects
  • Chapterise long sections
  • Format various versions for different consumption methods
  • Duplication

If a recording was to be commenced without considering any future editing we would always be “on task” from the moment the record button is pressed. By allowing editing we can start the recorder, then set and forget while we worry about the more important task of having an engaging conversation.

Editing software enables the removal of pauses, umms and args and inappropriate stumbles which although a normal part of everyday speech we find irritating when listening to without the non-verbal queues of a physical conversation.

All conversations wander around the timeline and themes, requiring some reorganising in order to help with the flow of the greater conversation but also, as new things are discovered and remembered there will be a need to rearrange the audio to suit the flow of the conversation. This also assists with later searching of thematic information, as we know where in the general area of the audio to search for a subject.

Editing software has many tools not only for removal and rearranging of audio but also for the enhancement of it. Audio manipulation, during post production is no excuse for recording poor quality audio in the first place but when some issues arise or are unavoidable, alteration of the audio can improve it considerably and enhance the whole overall experience. The most important aspects are the removal of a particular background constant such as the noisy ambient hum of most environments and the normalisation of the entire audio.

Normalisation is the levelling of the overall audio volume so that when the playback volume is set at a particular level, the apparent volume remains constant for the duration of the piece of audio. This can be achieved by using the built-in normalisation features, manually adjusting levels or using compression/limiting. What we are after is a constant volume for the listener irrelevant of the volume that was initially recorded. A great tool to help with this but not to be overused is a programme called Levelator.

Depending on the standard of production that you wish to include you may choose to include additional audio to enhance the recording. The most obvious and well used addition is music but you may choose to include additional conversational recording from other people, voice over or effects to help enhance the overall experience. These are all used to various degrees within the radio documentary field that I’m sure your aware of. The most advanced and best use of high quality audio editing I know of is Radio Lab. I encourage you to listen to a show to understand how far this skill can be taken but what you require for your project is entirely up to you.

Unlike a radio documentary we are producing for a group of interested listeners. We don’t need to fit the audio into a half hour slot or condense it into a format to suit some other requirements (although with some re-editing, Life Stories could be modified to suit). We are wanting to capture the whole of life and allow it to be available to the listener in the best possible way. To this end we need to segment the Life Story into bite size chunks of information. All lives can be thought of as going through stages and these are the ideal chapter sections. These chapters enable easy access of a part of a life and the easy search of a particular subject of interest within a chapter. The length of each chapter of a persons life is arbitrary and should suit the content, timing and themes. If a theme is developing into an extremely long chapter consider splitting it somewhere convenient into multiple part chapters. i.e. Part One, Two, Three etc…

Editing enables the linking of audio between chapters by repeating the last statements of the previous chapter onto the beginning of the next chapter. This is particularly important if the listener returns sometime later and may have forgotten where they were in the storyline. It helps by creating a reminder of what had been mentioned previously and then linking into the topics of the next chapter.

Although not strictly editing, all editing software has the ability to manipulate the audio for distribution needs. The software can compress the audio data to enable the audio to be sent conveniently via the different systems we now have available. It can be converted into WAV and AIFF formats for the highest quality or compressed into MP3 format for playing online or being sent via email or physical media such as thumb/flash drives or Cd’s. The editing software enables the reproduction, duplication and formatting to suit all the requirements of listeners so no story is left behind and everyone gets a chance to hear.

Simply put, editing is about enhancing the listening experience, while maintaining all of the personality of the speaker.


  • Transfer the audio to the editing programme
  • Start editing the audio to remove unwanted annoyances
  • Set equalisation and noise filters to remove irritating background sounds
  • Normalise levels
  • Rearrange audio to maintain the flow of the stories
  • Enhance with music, voice over and effects where appropriate
  • Break the conversations into chapters
  • Compress and export audio
  • Start sharing

For some additional hints and to have an overview get the e-Book Recording Life Stories by signing up in the side bar form and remember to fill out the surveys before and after you read the e-Book to help me understand what you need.

What have you discovered as you started editing? Post a comment below!

Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

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You’ll help a great deal by commenting on this episode of Create Your Life Story with one of the social network sites below or writing a review on iTunes.

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith

Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

Dr. Bill 😉
Author of “Back to the Homeplace”
and “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories”

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