Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Oral History: Best Practices and Procedures

Resources and tips for conducting and recording interviews for oral history and course community projects.

Tips for Managing Digital Audio

Digital Files

  • Digital voice recorders record in different file types including, among others, .wma files (Window’s Media Audio), and .wav files. Be aware of the file type used by your recording device, as it may be necessary to convert your file from one type to another for use in programs such as PowerPoint, Audacity or Stories Matter.

Using Audacity to edit sound

  • Audacity is an open-source program available on the Web which allows users to open an audio file in Audacity to edit sound, isolate sound clips for use in programs like PowerPoint, and export sound files. Some file types cannot be played in Audacity. For example, our Olympus digital recorders save audio as .wma files, which do not play in Audacity. Use a free Website like Zamzar to convert your file to a .mp3 file, for example (see Using Zamzar to convert audio files).

  • For one audio project, isolated sound clips from the audio file using Audacity, exported the files and saved them to our share space, and inserted the . wav files into a PowerPoint presentation.


  • Open Audacity

  • Go to File – Open and chose the file you want to edit

  • A pop up might appear asking “How do you want to import the current files(s)?”

  • Select “Make copy of the files before editing” (the safest option) and press Okay


  • To copy a selection from a larger sound clip

  • Open another Audacity window by clicking File – New

  • Click back to the first window, select the section you want from the original file by clicking and dragging the mouse, a gray area will appear over the selected area. Extend or shorten that area by hovering over the end of selected section with your cursor until it turns into a hand and drag to desired length

  • Press the STOP button (a yellow square)

  • File - Copy

  • Click to the other Audacity window to paste the clip by selecting File – Paste

  • The sound clip will appear in the window

  • To delete, select the section you don’t want

  • Press the STOP button

  • Press DELETE on the keyboard

  • To undo, be sure the audio is stopped (by pressing the STOP button) and press the undo button at the top right (an arrow pointing to the left), or CTRL-Z


  • To generate silence in between clips, click where you want the silence

  • Be sure the audio is stopped by pressing the STOP button

  • Go to the top and select GENERATE – SILENCE

  • Choose the amount of silence (one second is usually enough to separate clips)


  • To amplify a section (due to low recording volume), select the section by clicking and dragging so the area becomes gray

  • Press the STOP button

  • Go to the top and select EFFECT – AMPLIFY

  • Drag the arrow on the sliding bar to desired volume

  • Click PREVIEW to test

  • Select OKAY

  • To match amplification in another part, select the section and go to the top and select EFFECT – REPEAT AMPLIFY


  • To export, go to the top and select FILE – EXPORT

  • Choose where you’d like to save the file, name it, and end the file name in .wav

  • Note: always export to save, do not save as audacity file

  • When closing your Audacity window, it will ask if you want to save

  • Click NO


  • To insert into PowerPoint

  • In PowerPoint, go to the top and select INSERT – SOUND – SOUND FROM FILE

  • Select the clip you created

  • Choose when you want the clip to start playing (either automatically or when clicked)

  • Drag the speaker to desired spot

  • To test, play the presentation and listen


Using Zamzar to convert audio files

  1. Zamzar is a free program for converting digital files from one file type to another. There is a file-size limit, over which one must set up an account and pay to have the file converted. You should not have trouble converting an audio file under 80 minutes for free. The process involves submitting the audio file at the Zamzar Website and receiving the converted file in your email about 30 minutes later.


Links to Audacity and Zamzar