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We show you the process of making your own nature sound MP3's, white noise CD or any other long playing audio MP3/CD, starting out from a short, looping sound file.


Introduction

There are hundreds of thousands of beautifully recorded sound effect files available on the internet, most of which are either completely free, or can be purhased for prices around $2-6. The completely free ones tend to be of poor quality, but for only a handful of dollars you can buy yourself a pristine, crystal clear, perfectly captured sound recording, whether it be a serene water stream sound, pure white noise, or a pneumatic drill sound, for that matter.

The only problem is; these sounds tend to be only a few seconds long. Audio data takes up a lot of storage space (about 10 MB for each minute, in CD-quality resolution). So you browse sound effects in a sound-fx library such as this one, you'll find that most sounds last only 5-20 seconds. Now, that's no good for putting in your iPod and listening to on the way to work, or to play in the background at an exhibition. Even if you put your MP3-player or CD-player on "repeat", the sound will play for 5 seconds, then stop, then after about a second pause, play for another 5 seconds. Not what you wanted.

What you need is to turn your short sound into a much longer sound, say, an hour. And I'm about to show you now.

Step 1: Get an Audio Editing program

There are many good audio editing programs available; most are commercial. WaveEdit, CoolEdit, SoundForge and more. I will however use the program Audacity in my example, because this program is completely free to download and use. So download and install Audacity from http://audacity.sourceforge.net. This is the program we'll use for turning the short, looping sound into a long, continuously playing sound.

Step 2: Obtain your sound file

Now, find a good source for sound effect files. I will of course recommend our own sound-fx library here at Shockwave-Sound.com, containing thousands of top quality sounds at prices generally ranging from $1.45 to $4.95 depending on length.

When you look for files that you yourself can turn into longer-playing sounds, be sure to look for files that are described as "loop" or "looping". This is important because if the sound file is not looping, you won't be able to create a smooth, seamlessly playing longer sound from it.


Example of sound effect listing at Shockwave-Sound. Be sure to go for the ones marked "loop" or "looping".

Find your sound, pay for it and check out. Assuming you did buy the sound at Shockwave-Sound.com, you can immediately download your sound file from your order pickup page. Once downloaded, unzip the .zip file in which the file is delivered, and you should now have one or two WAV files, something like:

  • Ambience Jungle 01 Loop (16bit 44khz).wav
  • Ambience Jungle 01 Loop (24bit 48khz).wav

For our purpose, you want to use the one marked 16bit 44khz. This is the sound resolution that matches CD-quality audio and this is what's used for consumer purposes such as this. The one marked (24-bit 48-khz) has a higher resolution and is more commonly used for professional media production facilities. It's not compatible with CD-audio MP3-players.

If you only found one sound inside the .zip file and no sound resolution is specified, that probably means it's in 16bit 44khz, which is exactly what you want, so you're good to go.

Step 3: Edit the short looping sound to make it longer

Now, start Audacity. From the File menu, choose Open. Browse to your sound file and open it. You should now see a graphic representation of the sound file on screen. Pressing the SPACE BAR will start the sound playing and pressing the space bar again will stop it.

Over the graphic representation of the audio, you'll see a timeline.

In this example, the timeline shows the sound file as having a length of 7.5 seconds, but if we expand Audacity's window size, we'll see that this particular sound is actually about 14 seconds long.

1) We are now going to Select All the sound data and then copy it back onto the end of itself. So either press Ctrl-A, or choose Select, All, from the Edit menu. Either action will mark all the sound data in a slightly darker color, indicating that all the sound data is now selected.

2) Now put all the sound data in the Windows clipboard, either by pressing Ctrl-C, or by selecting Copy from the Edit menu. We now have all the sound data in the Windows clipboard.

3) Now, either press the END button on your keyboard, or from the Edit menu, choose "Move Cursor", "to Track end" to put your cursor at the very end of the sound data.

4) With your cursor placed at the very end of the sound, either press Ctrl-V or choose "Paste" from the Edit menu. You should see a new area of sound data come up to the right of your previously existing sound data, and your sound file has just become twice as long!

Now repeat items 1-4 above, and you'll re-double the sound length once again! So 14+14 seconds became 28 seconds, and 28+28 seconds became 56 seconds. And so on.

Continue like this until you have the sound file as long as you want it -- in our example, a full one hour, 60 minutes.

Step 4: Make your sound fade-in and fade-out

Strictly speaking, this step is optional, but to give your newly made hour-long sound a nice professional touch and a nice listening experience, we should make the beginning of the sound fade in and make it fade out at the end, so as not to sound "abrupt" at the beginning and end.

Move your cursor to the beginning of the sound file, and with your mouse pointer, click and drag over an area of about 5 seconds worth of audio data at the beginning. Now, from the Effect menu, choose Fade In.


We've added a nice fade-in effect to the beginning of our now hour-long sound file.

Now do the opposite at the end of the file. Move your cursor to the end of your sound data (by pressing END on your keyboard), use your mouse pointer to drag-select about 5 seconds worth of audio data at the end, then choose "Fade Out" from the Effects menu.

 

 

Step 5: Export your sound as a new sound file

You're now ready to export your new, long sound file as a new file on your hard disk. You don't want to overwrite the original sound that you started from, so choose "Save Project As", Export as WAV, or Export as MP3.

Should you export as WAV or as MP3? We could talk about that for hours :-) but the bottom line is that if you're going to use your sound to burn an audio-CD, you should export as WAV. If you're going to create an MP3 sound file that you can put in your MP3-player or iPod player, then you should export as MP3.

Additional step needed for exporting as MP3:

If you're going to export as MP3, you'll need a file on your system called lame_enc.dll. This is a sort of extra plug-in that Audacity requires, in order to create an MP3 file. For your convenience, we have provided a download link for lame_enc.dll here: download lame_enc.dll

Once downloaded, unzip the .zip file and inside you'll find the lame_enc.dll file. Put this file somewhere safe on your hard disk; for example in the root of C:\ or in your C:\Windows directory.

Now, back in Audacity, choose File, Export as WAV or Export as MP3. If you choose MP3, you'll be prompted by Audacity to locate the lame_enc.dll file, so Audacity can use it as a plug-in.

Also, if you choose MP3, you'll be prompted to input some extra information which will be stored inside the MP3 file, such as Title, Artist, Album, etc. This is optional, but if the purpose is to create a file for your MP3/iPod player, then it's a good idea to input at least a Title and an Artist (yourself as the artist, perhaps?) because this is the information you'll see in your MP3/iPod player display window when you play the sound file there.

Step 6: Putting the finished MP3 file in your MP3- or iPod-player

If you're going to use your sound file in an MP3/iPod player, you've hopefully created an MP3 file, and this file can simply be copied onto your MP3 player, or imported into iTunes/iPod. This MP3 file will likely be much larger than any other MP3 file you have, but remember that it's a full 60 minutes worth of audio, so it's only natural that it takes 10 times as much space as 6 minutes of audio, or 20 times more than a typical 3-minute song.

Because everybody has a different process for importing their MP3 files into their audio players, whether it be iTunes, syncing up with your mobile phone memory card or your iPod, we're not going to describe this process in detail. Suffice to say that you've got your MP3 file ready to go and just use your regular process for importing this file into your MP3/iPod player.

Step 7: Creating an Audio-CD

So, with all having gone to plan and you chose to export as WAV from Audacity, you should now have a big WAV file (if it's one hour long, the WAV file should be about 650 MB).

Insert a blank CD-Recordable into your PC's CD-burner or DVD-burner. The drive can be a DVD-burner or a CD-burner, but the actual DISC you insert MUST be a CD-Recordable, NOT a DVD-Recordable. You can't create an Audio-CD on DVD media. Only on CD media.

With the blank CD-R inserted into your computer's CD/DVD-burner, open "My Computer" and open the drive letter that represents your CD/DVD-burner on Windows (for example, D). You'll see D: with no contents in that directory (because the disc is blank).

In a separate window, open the directory where you have the big WAV files that you exported from Audacity. Drag-and-drop the big WAV file onto the window that represents your CD/DVD-burner.


We have our WAV file waiting to be written to CD

Now click "Write these files to CD" to the left of the main content display. You will be asked to input a disc name and then you'll be asked to choose whether you want to make a CDROM (for use in computers, to re-open or re-edit your WAV file later), or to make it an Audio-CD for use in music CD players, car stereo, etc. We set out to make ourselves an Audio-CD, so that's what we choose:

Now, depending a bit on your system version and configuration, Windows will either just begin to write the audio onto the CD-Recordable right away, or it will open Windows Media Player as shown here:


Depending on your windows version and
configuration, CD-burning (CD-writing) may
be handled by Windows Media Player

If it does, just click where it says "Start Burn", and Windows will start to write audio-data onto your CD. This process will take a few minutes depending on your burning speed.

Alternative CD-burning procedures

Besides the built-in Windows, Windows Media Player method, there are also many other ways to get an Audio-CD burned using the CD/DVD burner in your PC and your created sound file. If you have a Mac, the process almost certainly involves iTunes, and of course, iTunes is also available (free) for PC users. iTunes is a slick and nice program, so you may prefer to use iTunes to burn the long sound file to CD. If you do, refer to the iTunes help/documentation for information on how to burn an Audio-CD with iTunes.

Another great program for managing your audio files, albums, and for burning audio-CD is the free to download Media Monkey. We use this program here, and we actually prefer it over iTunes, Windows Media Player and all other media manager, music library, CD-burning programs that we've ever used. Media Monkey is also much less "invasive" than iTunes which, some say, attempt to take over your entire PC and wants to be in your face ALL the time, whether you want it or not. Media Monkey is not like that. We like it. It's also great for making Audio-CD's from WAV or MP3 files.


MediaMonkey is a great program for managing your audio files and burning Audio-CD's

About the author: Bjorn Lynne constantly finds himself inspired by new sounds and new directions in music and sound design. He started composing music on his Amiga computer around 1990 and from then on has gone on to produce more than 20 music albums, worked for 10 years as an Audio Manager in a video games development company, started his own business Lynne Publishing, (which owns and runs Shockwave-Sound.com), scored music for film and TV, and produced a large amount of Stock Music and Sound Effects for the Shockwave-Sound.com library. He lives with his wife and his daughter in an idyllic seaside town in Norway.
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