This is part 1 of an assignment to get you experience in creating audio content; in this part you will acquire/record audio, and next week we will do some editing.

In place of using fancy microphones and recording studios (unless you have them), we will use technology you likely have available– a mobile phone for recording and open source editing software.

About sound- you know what it is, but how much do you pay attention to the full spectrum of audio information around you?


flickr photo shared by Xavier68 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Tune into the Sounds of Your Space

Sit still for 30 seconds. List as many different sounds you can hear in the space around you. List them in the order from the most soft or quiet to the loudest, from the least to the most obvious sounds.

Compare your list with others.

Discuss or reflect on how these sounds create a sense of the space you are in? If you were to record a conversation, a dialogue in this space, would it feel real without these environmental sounds? How could you change the emotion, tone, even suggested location of that recording by editing different environmental sounds into this scene?

Recording Audio on a Mobile Device

The quality of your audio recorded will depend on the loudness of the source, the distance from the source to the microphone built into your device (do you know where it is?). The built-in microphone is not high quality but is more than suitable for recording voice and ambient audio. External microphones can be used to increase the quality of audio recorded into the device but are ot necessary for the work we are doing

You should consider as well the conditions of the place you are recording, e.g. if there is distracting background noise such as other people talking, fans or devices that hum, as well as if it is a room with echoes versus a space where sound is “damped” but soft materials.

A good experiment is to do a test recording with your device in one place, recording a few seconds of just ambient sound to see what the microphone picks up as well as testing voice volumes from different distances (e.g. “testing from 2 feet away, from 5 feet away, from 10 feet away”).

When you do audio, press record a a few seconds before you are ready to speak, and leave the audio recording a few seconds after you are done- this bit of extra “tape” means you won’t have an abrupt start or ending when you are editing your audio.

See also 5 Great Tips For Recording Audio With Any Smartphone Or Tablet

What Apps to Use?

Most mobile devices come with some kind of app for recording voice memos, and you can find plenty of other free ones for Android or for iOS.

The most important feature is that you can transfer an audio file from the app, even if you have to email it to yourself (preferably in a standard audio format like WAV, AIF, or best MP3).

Where to Save Your Audio?

Unfortunately, the free blogs from do not allow you to upload audio to your blog. But there is a place you can post your audio for free, and easily embed it into your blog. Create an account for yourself on Soundcloud which you might think of as a “YouTube for audio”. We will use it after we record some audio.

Screen from "Vox populi su sentenza Teramo Calcio" found on YouTube
Screen from “Vox populi su sentenza Teramo Calcio” found on YouTube

The Vox Populi Audio Style

We are going to do a kind of audio project called Vox Populi which is Latin for “Voice of the People.”

It can be an effective way to introduce multiple perspectives into an issue or topic by recording responses to the same question to a variety of people.

The key is to form a question that allows for a wide variety of answers, one that also is not a simple “yes/no” response. Include an aspect of why in the question or as a follow-up by you as an interview. Frame or ask it as well so it can be answered quickly; the idea is to create a montage of responses. It works well if you can do this in a public space where there is a mix of people. Be sure to explain what you are doing before recording a stranger, so they have an opportunity to decline to participate.

Ultimately you want to edit a string of these short interviews together as a single audio file. While these examples are in video form, that should give you an idea of the kind of pacing that works well in these segments.

For more on this technique, see

The Vox Populi Audio Assignment

Since we have been discussing the use/value of Wikipedia, your assignment is to collect a variety of opinions from people about their perspective on Wikipedia. The question might be:

What do you think about the use of Wikipedia as a reference tool or academic resource?

A followup question might be:

What was the topic of the most recent Wikipedia article you have seen? Was it useful?

Here is what you should do:

  1. Work in pairs. Practice asking and recording the response from your partner. This way you should each have one recording. See if the audio levels sounds appropriate (can you hear them well?)
  2. Go outside! Still working in pairs, approach other students or teachers and ask them the questions. Let them know before you start recording what you are doing, and that it is for a class project. Try to collect at least two more responses each.
  3. Transfer the Files to your computer (This can be done later at home). For extra credit, maybe ask a family member the same question. Upload each audio file to your account.
  4. Blog your results! Write about how the recording experience worked out, and if people were cooperative. Did any answers surprise you? Embed your Soundcloud files in your blog post- this is easy in WordPress, just like adding YouTube videos to your post, you just need to put the URL for a SoundCloud recording on a blank line- it will embed a player for you.

    How does it work? If our SoundCloud audio is found at (and that is a real one), we simply out the URL as plain text (no hyperlink) on its own line in our editor:

    Listen to these people talk about where they want to wake up...

    Isn't that amazing?

    When published it looks like this:

    Listen to these people talk about where they want to wake up…

    Isn’t that amazing?

Go out now and do some recording!

flickr photo by audiomixhouse shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Alan Levine