Making an Audioessay Using Audacity

The place to begin to learn about the audio essay is by listening to great examples of the genre at This American Life or not-as-great example I just created: Forgiveness.

To create an audio essay, you will need to acquire some technical and logistical skills, for instance, you will need to know how to:

The actual process of composing an audio essay begins, as with all writing projects, with understanding your audience and purpose and then using some "invention techniques" (brainstorming, idea-maps, etc.) to generate possible ideas to be developed in the piece.

For this assignment, you will be "re-mediating" (that is, creating a new version of) one of your print essays**

When you get ready to start to capture audio, before you lay hands on any equipment, it's a good idea to draw a visual plan of how you want the essay to be structured--what anecdotes go where, where you are going to include silence, music, voice-over, etc.

**If you want to do an audio essay on a different topic, you will have to demonstrate that you have done a good amount of research and writing before I OK it.

NOTE: you must acquire some headphones (earbuds are fine) and bring to the lab every time. If you don't have them, you will not be able to work on your project. You will be bored. You will not get credit for class participation on that day.

Music & Effects Archives

Music Archives
Creative Commons Mixter
Sample, Loop and Sound Effects Archives
Creative Commons Mixter
Freesound Project

Recorded Audio & Famous Speeches

Michigan State Libraries - G. Robert Vincent Voice Library


Speech Synthesis
AT&T Natural Voices


Online Music Generators & Mixers
Wolfram Tones


Other Resources


As you begin to collect your assets, it's VITAL that you name these files well AND ALL IN THE SAME PLACE.

Create a folder on your P-drive for this project.

 When saving a project, you GO TO FILE AND SAVE PROJECT AS.

 Save it into your P-drive into the appropriate folder.

 Also, if be mindful of the size of the files. If you're going to use a small sound loop from a song, then Import it into Audacity, select the section and go to Edit and TRIM. Then Export as a WAV file with a name that will tell you what it is. Then get rid of the whole song. You don't need it cluttering up your P-drive.

 About once a week, you should not only save your project but also EXPORT AS WAV file and tuck that away inside another folder on your p-drive. I suggest you saving everything occasionally onto a flash drive. That way, you won't run the risk of losing everything.


To record music streaming on internet radio:

 To search for snippets of dialogue from recent movies:   

 Some famous speeches:   

To get instrumentals:  


Consult these websites for more suggestions on interviewing:

MIXING (editing it all together)

We'll have a workshop on this. but you can check out online guides:  


You don't have to convert your file into a podcast when you're done. But if you want to share it with family and friends, then you have to convert it to a MP3 file (I’ll DEMO this in the lab after Thanksgiving)

To turn in your project for credit, all you have to do is choose EXPORT AS WAV and save onto the destktop with your LAST NAME. then, upload (using "SEND FILE") into the Digital Drop Box just like you did for your football sound poem. If you wish to have your project submitted to the Online Critograph, let me know that in your Reflection.

Once you're done with that, if you want to share your project with others, you will have to save your project as a MP3 file (which can be heard on iPods). MP3 files are smaller than WAV files.


Edited Print Essay 20%

Audio Essay PROCESS 60%

1. Storyboard

2. Several Progress (b)Logs: these are very short (1-2 paragraphs) that explain what you’ve actually accomplished

Example for Nov 19 Log: I've revised my storyboard a couple times because from the feedback I got from other people on how to prepare my audience for my GEM. I hunted around the resource sites you gave us and captured some sound files (1 music, 1 snippet from a film, and 1 sound effect for background). I borrowed a DAR and captured some interview and background noise.

Example for Nov 28: After listening to my interview, I've revised the script of my voiceover. I've edited down the interview to just the pieces I need. I've edited down the music to just the section I need. I'm basically ready to start mixing. We've only got one day left, so I'm going to have to make time to come back into the lab Thursday night.

3. Reflection on Audio Project (see prompts below)

Some prompts to help you reflect on what you learned “re-mediating” your print essay as an audio essay:

o        What are important differences between the composing processes of audio and print essays?

o        What's the same?

o        Compare/contrast the "affordances" of audio vs. print essays for the particular audience(s) you were writing for.

o        Do you think audio essays really "count" as compositions?

o        What kinds of problems did you encounter in composing your audio essay and how did you confront them?

o        What kinds of “layering” of sounds, voice, music did you find rhetorically useful for your particular PURPOSE and AUDIENCE?


o        2-5 minutes long

o        At least two layerings of sound that have a powerful rhetorical effect on audience.

o        Voices are intelligible

o        Piece begins with a good hook

o        At least two effects (fade in, repeat) used for specific rhetorical purposes

o        Its clear how the piece sets up the GEM(s)