Audio Flashcard software

I was wondering if they have software that allows you to record a bunch of questions and answer and combine these into an audio file you can listen to--something like an excel for audio.

I know I could take something like audacity and just pause and record over and over but there are a few problems with this:

1) What if I want to edit (rerecord) one of the questions in the middle of the file (or select a portion of my questions)

So you might say, "Just record separate files" Well that the other thing:

2) I don't want to do as little saving and editing as possible and saving 100 files is not really what I'm looking for.

I'm sure I have other requirements I can't think of at the moment.  But like I said--excel for audio--that will allow me to have complete and easy control of many very small audio clips.
jacksmindAsked:
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BillDLCommented:
Hi jacksmind

I full realise that you have specifically asked for something that takes all the work out of what you are trying to achieve, and that you want to avoid actually editing audio files, and  have to say that I do not know off the top of my head of any software that does what you need ...

... however, may I clarify something about Audacity that may make the concept seem a more realistic and comfortable solution.

You said:
"I know I could take something like audacity and just pause and record over and over but there are a few problems with this:
What if I want to edit (rerecord) one of the questions in the middle of the file (or select a portion of my questions)"

The Audacity interface is a pretty well featured recording and editing workshop in that you can click on a position within the wave form showing for an existing audio file and begin recording from whatever source you choose, eg. microphone.  That will create a new track below the existing one that lines up with your insertion point in the existing wave form.  You could also have inserted whatever length of silence you wanted in the existing track at that point.

You can scroll across a section of an audio track's wave form, delete it, copy and paste it back into another position in the same track or as a new track, or modify it.  You can very quickly and easily click on one of the toolbar buttons that allows you to slide a track or portion of a track horizontally to whatever point you choose so as to line it up with other snippets.  You can zoom in to the wave form to make your selections and positioning more accurate, can slow down or speed up playback, and can mute or individually play back any tracks you have in your project.

When you export the project to your choice of audio file type you choose the quality and it renders it down to a mono or stereo audio file dependent on your choices, which are easy enough to set.

Repeatedly opening an audio file, adding to or editing it, and exporting back to the same or a new audio file doesn't incrementally degrade the audio file in the same way as you would get with a JPG image that you kept editing and resaving, so there would be no real reason to have hundreds of separate audio clips at any time.

That all sounds pretty complicated, but in reality the process is no more difficult than inserting data in a spreadsheet or typing out and formatting a new word processor document and positioning some images in it.  Like anything else, after a few uses you are able to perform the task quickly and effortlessly.

I hope you do find some software that makes it as simple as what you are hoping for, but if not I would urge to to take another look at Audacity and experiment with a few microphone voice recordings or audio clips.  It's easy, I promise :-)

Bill
jacksmindAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your quick reply Bill.

Yes this is more than I want to do (though I may have to).  I may have hundreds of questions, so it is a bit of a pain to find out where I want to edit or if I want to only select a subset of questions.  I was thinking of using something like dragon naturally speaking to extract the text from my voice and paste it into excel but I need a way to paste audio into excel and even better not have to constantly save and name files when I do so.

Thanks though
Kenneth BrownResearch AssociateCommented:
You can actualy put sounds in an excel spreadsheet (eg insert a hyperlink to a wav file for instance), but it doesn't help you because they would all have to come from small files, which you dont want. Also you cant easily 'play' more than one in sequence in excell, though you can 'sort' based on a key in another column say or cut and paste etc. It would astually be easier in audacity as has been precviously mentioned.

Ditto if you used one of the many samplers (some free) out there. You could play the sounds live with a real or on-screen keyboard, or I suppose could use a sequencer to generate a midi file to play them.

Again getting them in in the first place tends to require each sound to be a file....

- So-  the only way you will be able to do it without lots of small files that you need to manage yourself - is to record everything into an audio sequencer, and keep all the clips seperate. You need to use a sequencer which can NAME each clip, not each track, so you know which is which. This means not audacity (but adobe audition saycan do this, and probably cubase sonar etc. [Reaper might be worth a look but mine just crashed so cant see if it allows clip-naming[.) Your clips dont *have* to be on different tracks, but can be so you can sort of emulate the way a spreadsheet works....

You can move them around up down left and right & mute the tracks with ones you dont want on. You shouldnt have to deal with the seperate files per-se though they will probably exist on your computer somewhere, the single project file holds the location and tracks and timing of each clip....

let me know if this is anything like what you want...



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jacksmindAuthor Commented:
how about this:  Is there a program like audacity that will let me easily create tracks.  So I could record over and over but when I want to review I can just click through the ones I know really fast?
Kenneth BrownResearch AssociateCommented:
Well actually audacity does that. If you click record it creates a new track for you (by default)
If you record lots of tracks all you need to do is 'solo' the track you are interesed in. But I know what you mean - you want to record multiple 'takes'than be able to just easily get at each individual one?
Lots of DAWs let you record the multiple takes but arent easy to access each one. Or other DAWs like audacity let you record multipe takes on new tracks or on existing tracks. But the trouble is - none that I know of make is totally easy and trivial to create what you want - I think you want a sort of library of 'takes', easily selectable individually, that can then be chosen to be part of thew main mix. but without them cluttering up the main mix inthe first place.
Its not that the software doesnt do it, its just it doesnt do it in the way you would like it,
Hopefully Im wrong and someone else can point out an app that  does just that.

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BillDLCommented:
Hi jacksmind

There are probably hundreds or thousands of programs available for cataloguing and organising music. They come as free applications, retail ones, and in many cases you already have them at your fingertips integrated into your Operating System or other applications like CD-Burning software. The problem is that they ae for MUSICAL collections, ie. "ripped" audio tracks, downloaded music, purchased albums, etc, and not really intended or suitable for adding notes to voice recordings.

This doesn't mean that suitable software does not exists, it simply means that it is not mainstream and different software will have been developed for specific needs, such as teaching, sharing over "social networking" sites, and so on.  I believe that finding one that suits your needs is going to require quite a bit of searching online.  The only people likely to be in the position to suggest a specific software are those who have had similar needs and had to find the software, and I don't think there will be too many here who have had those specific needs.

Going by your leaning towards an "Excel" type of interface, software along the following lines is likely to be close to what you are looking for:

http://audionotetaker.com/what%20is%20audio%20notetaker.htm

.... but, you pay for that software and it is 46 UK Pounds per year for a licence.

Can I take this opportunity to establish a little more about your exact needs.  It's clear that you are looking for a quick way of recording your voice asking questions and narrating answers, but what isn't altogether clear is HOW you intend to use the voice clips or WHY you need the voice clips.

I don't mean to pry too much into your activities by asking this though. I am just trying to understand why you have such a strong leaning towards Microsoft Excel as a concept. It sounds like you are building up some kind of composite "interview" type of thing that is recorded in separate sessions as you go, and perhaps you see Excel as the means to provide either a transcription of each Q and A alongside the respective "play" button, or maybe just a way of searching using the data filtering functions in Excel.

If that is the case, then I believe that a web page provides much better control over layout.  I recently created a website where I added MP3 Voice Clips to a web page for people to click on and listen.  Tell me if this is the type of thing that might present the type of presentation you are looking for:
http://www.c2cr2c.com/audio/voiceClipsStd.html
If so, then creating the page and then adding MP3 links and narrative to such a Web Page on your computer is really pretty easy to do.  The ear icon can be replaced with a text link like "Clip01", "Clip02", etc, and the table doesn't have to mave the mouseover colours. A basic table could easily be updated using a fairly simple batch file to append new rows to the table, but it would be just as easy to do in a text editor or even the simplest of web editing applications.

If you are looking for something more complex to store data for a lot more audio clips, or where you want to be able to search, then my feeling is that a proper Database would be a better container for this type of data.  Take for example professional level digital image cataloguing software.  Those kinds of applications allow you to categorise and sort images, add descriptive and searcheable "tags", preview images as thumbnails, edit tags from that view, and display images either with an integrated image viewer and editor or use an external installed application.  This type of software is usually database-driven, and usually also has the means to pull new images directly into the database from a digital camera or a flatbed scanner.  In general such software probably doesn't actually embed images in the database itself, it will links to the files and may or may not automatically re-index new files added to folders.

By their very nature, image files exist as separate entities and will never really need to be combined, unless of course you are integrating them into a presentation of some kind to output as a video file type (example the Windows "Movie Maker" software that allows you to add content as "Collections").

If you are keeping the audio clips as separate files, then there are a lot of audio cataloguing programs around that allow you to search for content based on the files' "MP3 Tags". As you may already know, MP3 files allow the insertion of ID3 Tags. This is what scrolls across the screen showing Artist, Album, Song Title, Year, Genre, etc in most audio players. Audacity allows you to choose the option of adding or editing MP3 Tags as you export to MP3, and there are numerous free "Tag Editors" around that allow you to create or modify tags.

It's beginning to sound very fragmented and in need of several entirely separate steps to record, save, and present your voice clips, isn't it.  Well, there is no escaping the fact that you are have to create and handle separate audio files at the outset.

There are a number of ways to acquire the audio:

1. Windows own "Sound Recorder" available as "SndRec32.exe" on Windows 98 through to XP - don't know about after that. Allows you to Save As *.WAV files only as far as I know, and is limited to the length of recording, although there are ways to extend this.

2. CD-Burning software usually comes with some form of audio editing function that allows microphone recording, eg. Roxio has a Sound Editor and Tag Editor.

3. Even the simplest single AAA battery-powered 256MB MP3 player has a microphone allowing you to record your voice to *.WAV (and sometimes *.MP3). Connect via USB and copy out audio files.

4. Your Mobile Phone is likely to have a record function. You can BlueTooth to PC or connect via USB and use the proprietory software to copy out recorded clips, or set your phone to save them to an add-in flash memory card and you can normally access the files without the software from the "removeable drive" as you connect the phone.

5. The following Web-based Audio Recorder that can be downloaded and run from your own computer or used from the (University of Nottingham, UK) web source:
http://disseminator.nottingham.ac.uk/ar/
You just choose your storage folder, record, and rename the MP3 clip. It uses its own Adobe Flash-enabled "recorder" that loads into the web page, and couldn't be simpler to use.

6. Maybe you can change some settings to allow use of the following web applications to store your voice clips locally and just keep them that way:
http://www.makeuseof.com/dir/chirbit-record-audio-clips/
http://www.makeuseof.com/dir/vocaroo-online-voice-recorder/

So, you aren't short on ways to record clips to your PC.  Playing back audio can be done in many ways also.

1. Present a link in a web page to click and it will open in either the default media player installed on your computer, or use a browser plugin like Windows Media Player, Apple QuickTime, RealPlayer, or whatever is enabled.

2. Yahoo Media Player in a web page:
http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/
Add one line in the <head> section of your web page to load the Yahoo Media Player (down near the bottom of the page as a slide-out thing):
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/js"></script>
Create standard hyperlinks to your audio files, and Yahoo Media Player picks up the links and generates its own playlist. Click on a link and it loads in the player.

3. Use audio cataloguing software like Windows Media Player's "Playlists", your CD-Burning software's audio organising program, or any number of free, shareware, and retail applications designed to organise audio files.

Organising isn't the issue here though.  A good naming convention for your audio clips and logical placement in suitably named folders and sub-folders should make it easy to locate files.

Playlist files come in different formats.  For example, the following command run in a folder of *.MP3 files will create an *.M3U playlist file that will open in whatever media player is associated with *.m3u files on your computer:

dir /on /a-d /b /s *.mp3>playlist1.m3u

Other playlists use XML layout, which really just creates a kind of tabular structure of <TAGS> defining each file separately, with captions, titles, or whatever other data fields the media player using the playlist might support.

Your stumbling block is neither the recording or organising the voice clips, it is the fact that you want to add notes against each clip.  You could reverse the principle a bit by making your notes then adding "Audio Comments" as Objects in Word or Excel:
http://www.elearning.soton.ac.uk/theme/podcasting/Inserting%20Audio%20Comments%20in%20Word%20Documents.doc

That embeds the *.WAV content and incrementally blaots your document to what could be enormous files, so it's quite clunky.  PowerPoint tends to link to larger audio files rather than embed them:
http://randomtechnotes.com/rtn/adding-narration-or-other-sound-to-powerpoint/

So, there are various separate workarounds to get somewhere towards what you need, but for software that does exactly what you need I think you are going to have to do a bit of searching on the web and end up paying for software.

I'm still rather curious about WHY you are doing this, but I'm not pressurising you ;-)
BillDLCommented:
By the way, the 15th voice clip down on the page of the website I created for a friend (http://www.c2cr2c.com/audio/voiceClipsStd.html), entitled "Live Phone Interview with Bill from the road by "Radio C2CR2C". A compelling listen!!" was created in Audacity for a laugh to amuse my friend. I copied out selected sections of the previously received MP3 voice clips and added them as separate mono "tracks" in Audacity to make a bogus interview.  I pasted some together in one track, and aligned others horizontally on separate tracks below so that they only played when that point was reached during playback. When you export the lot to a single MP3 file it renders it all down and merges the separate tracks into one.  I knocked it up quickly, it's not professional, and it doesn't really have voices layered on top of each other, but will give you an idea how separate audio files can be inserted and blended into one.

Just a note about Audacity. When you save your "Project" it saves as an "Audacity Project File" with an *.AUP file extension.  It creates a bunch of temporary *.au files until you finally render the project down and export it to a single audio file. If Audacity crashes half way through, the next time you open it you will have the option to restore the project and resave it.
jacksmindAuthor Commented:
I've decided to use a digital audio recorder with usb hookup, the computer solutions seemed too involved.
BillDLCommented:
Thank you jacksmind
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