This is a tip that I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while. I consider myself pretty computer-savvy, but I didn’t even know about it until my guitar teacher showed me a few years ago.
Every so often I decide to hunt down a new song to learn to play on my guitar. Yesterday it was “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan–I heard it on the radio and thought to myself that it might be a good one to learn to play. Since I’m a sheet-music kinda guy, I found an arrangement on SheetMusicDirect. I always like to have a recording, too, but it wasn’t in my collection.
It turns out that you can find a recording of almost any song on YouTube, and it wasn’t long before I found this Dylan song (and a version by Adele, too). Although there are plenty of ways to save YouTube videos to your computer, all I really wanted was the audio. Turns out that it’s easy to record and save pretty-much any audio that you can play through your computer speakers. All you need are recording software and a tip from my old guitar teacher Charlie Hall.
First, recording software: Audacity is a free, open source package for Windows, Mac, and Linux that is very powerful but easy to use. It’s capable of recording from any source input and allows you to mix, add effects and, most importantly, save to a variety of formats, including MP3 if you install the optional free LAME MP3 encoder.
Once Audacity is installed (along with the MP3 encoder), start the application. Here’s the opening screen:
The row of round buttons at the top are your recording/playback buttons. Click the round red button the right to begin recording. The square yellow button stops, and the green arrow button is playback.
The first thing you need to do before you record is specify the source for the recording. To do that, go to the “Edit” menu and select “Preferences.” You’ll be shown the Preferences screen:
If it isn’t already selected, click “Devices” in the list on the left, and then drop down the Recording Device list and look for something that says “Stereo Mix” (this is the tip from Charlie–I never knew about Stereo Mix until he told me). The Stereo Mix is whatever’s being played over your sound card’s speakers, and that’s what you want to record, so select it in the list and click the OK button.
Now you’re ready to record. Get your recording source (YouTube or whatever) ready to go, click Audacity’s Record button, and then click the Play button for whatever you want to record. Audacity will show you a visual depiction of what it’s recording:
You might need to adjust the volume on your computer (using the little speaker icon in the system tray) and also the playback volume in YouTube (or whatever your source is). I generally have the best results if all the volume controls are turned up to their highest settings.
When the playback’s done, click the Stop button in Audacity. Now you can click Audacity’s Play button to hear what it recorded if you’d like. When you’re ready to save, go to the “File” menu and click “Export…”. You’ll see a screen like this for you to specify a file name and format:
Enter a file name and make sure the “Save as type” is set to what you want. If you choose “MP3 Files” and click Save, you’ll see this screen next:
You can enter the song title, performer, etc. if you like. Click the OK button to finish the export process. Audacity will then show you a progress window while it’s exporting to MP3 format. When that window goes away, you’re done!
Audacity can do so much more than just record and save, so don’t be afraid to explore a bit if you’re so incline.