Book Review: The Book of Audacity by Carla Schroder

Audacity is one of my favorite free software applications, and it has really improved over the years. This book covers the latest features in the 1.3.x series, which is expected to lead directly to the version 2.x Audacity. The book covers more than just Audacity, though. In the process of covering several different uses, it also discusses everything from hardware equipment selection to copyright and business problems that may come up in a project. Overall, it's a good read and a good introduction to Audacity, audio recording, and audio processing.

The Book of Audacity

The contents

This is certainly a comprehensive book. After a simple introduction to the basics of using Audacity in the first chapter and the basics of setting up a home studio in the second, Schroder then moves on to cover several specialized applications. Chapters eleven and twelve provide the real "meat" of the book, as they address the use of specific tools and techniques in Audacity. Finally, the last two chapters cover installation and performance hurdles specific to the GNU/Linux (Chapter 13) and Windows (Chapter 14) platforms.

The book is well-optimized for reference. The chapters are very self-contained, with respect to the basic tasks. So it would be easy to pick this book up and jump straight to the parts you need. The price for this is that it gets a little bit repetitive when you read it straight through -- some minor pieces of advice are repeated in each chapter -- and then finally repeated again in an appendix. If they were exactly the same, these asides would be easier to skip, but in fact, each one is a little different. So if you were trying to remember what exactly Schroder said about, say, "the myth of warm-up for tube amplifiers", you might have a hard time figuring out which passage you were thinking of.

The real win is that Schroder gets to fill in a lot of the other information you'll need on audio projects

She's also quite free with political and economic commentary on the music industry and copyright law. As a fellow free-software advocate, of course, I found most of her views on this subject agreeable, but I can certainly see how they might get on your nerves if you disagreed. On the other hand, most other books I've read on home recording and mixing shared the music industry party-line views which I find appalling, so it's kind of refreshing to see a book coming from a more familiar perspective.

This additional material means the book is somewhat longer than it needs to be to cover Audacity itself, but in fact, it's a fairly easy program to use, so the size is still very manageable, and the real win is that Schroder gets to fill in a lot of the other information you'll need on audio projects: hardware advice, working with sound crews, proper microphone placement, field recording, studio recording, converting to match esoteric formats (including DVD Audio and cel-phone ringtones), and even promoting your band online if you want to become a net-label musician.

I found all of this information useful, and overall I found the book very readable.

Who’s this book for?

This book is for a lot of people -- or at least, there's a chapter here for each of them. Anyone wanting to do home recording, podcasting, music mixing, or just creating a CD to play at a party will find very useful material here.

Relevance to free software

Audacity, of course, is free software. This book gives a fair amount of time to the Windows operating system, but this actually makes little difference in the use of the program.


Very comprehensive. Task-targeted chapters make using the book as a reference guide while working on a project easy. Lots of extra useful advice.


It's a little longer than it really needs to be, and somewhat repetitive if you are trying to read it cover-to-cover. That didn't stop me, though.

Title The Book of Audacity
Author Carla Schroder
Publisher No Starch Press
ISBN 9781593272708
Year 2011
Pages 384
CD included No
Cover Price US$34.95
FS Oriented 9/10
Over all score 8/10

In short


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