Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Audio editing tools that are free, powerful, and easy.

No music today. Today I want to recommend a couple tools that might make some of the music you already own better.

Why is it that some artists love to hide “bonus” tracks on their discs? The last listed song ends, then you get 3 minutes of silence before their cleverly hidden track begins. Woo hoo, those crafty producers. Or, “Here’s a great song followed by 90 seconds of squealing, fuzzy noise. Enjoy!” Thanks, guys. These kinds of shenanigans basically make songs unlistenable on an iPod. If you really like any song with this kind of crap attached, you can either suck it up and tolerate this stuff or fiddle with your iPod every time it comes on. When I did this, I found I eventually got annoyed and it kind of ruined some of these tunes for me.

What I really wanted was an easy, free way to edit the tracks. Remove the crap and leave just the music I like.  Well, I looked around for a while and finally found some tools that are small, powerful, free, and easy to use, and I’m going to share them with you today. Apple users, sorry. I have a PC and it appears these programs are Windows only. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have more music for you.

It’s kind of a 2-step process. Well, a 3-step process really. Songs on CDs are in a file format called CDA (for Compact Disc Audio). Downloaded songs often come as MP3s. iTunes converts songs to a format called M4A (Apple’s proprietary, supposedly lossless format). I haven’t found any good programs to edit these kinds of files. If someone else has found them, I would welcome suggestions. What I have found is a great program that edits WAV files. So the process is 1) convert the song to WAV, 2) edit it, and 3) convert it back to MP3 or M4A.

Did I mention they're free?

Did I mention they're free?

To do this, you need two tools. Both are freeware, not shareware. No trial period, no nag screens, and as far as I can tell, no attached malware. The first one you want is called Format Factory. Here is a link to go get it from download.cnet.com. This is a great program. All it does is convert files from one format to another. Audio, video, image, whatever. It is very stable and easy to use and has good documentation. Once you install it and launch it, you just select the Audio tab and scroll down to “All to WAV.” This will pop up a window where you can add files. Browse to your target song (iTunes users will find their music in Music/iTunes/iTunes Music in folders alphabetized by artist) and add the file(s). Hit Start and it creates a new WAV file without destroying your original file in a folder you can designate. I have it create the new file in the same folder.

Now you’re ready to edit. The program you want is Wavosaur (go get it at download.cnet.com). This program is unbelievable. Honestly, I don’t know how it does what it does. It is only 520K. Half a MB and it doesn’t even need to be installed. It just runs. I’ve used Roxio and some other programs to edit audio files and they had huge footprints. This tiny program is every bit as powerful and easy to use.

Wavosaur! RAHWRRRRR!

Wavosaur! RAHWRRRRR!

Navigate to and open the file and you get the familiar pattern of spikes that represent the audio information. This program lets you select segments and modify them in a dozen ways or delete them entirely. Save the changes and then use Format Factory to convert it back to the compressed format. Save it right overtop of the original with the same name and you won’t even need to reimport it into iTunes. Don’t forget to delete the enormous WAV file when you’re done.

I have used this method to delete penalty tracks like those I discussed above. I have used it to knit together songs (Abbey Road side 2, for example, which should really be heard all together). I have even edited out portions from the middle of songs (Borrowed Time by Styx is a great song with a terrible 16 bar bridge where the band sings, “Yes! No! No! Yes!” in the middle and ruins the song. Not on my iPod.).

Once you have the programs on your computer, you can literally fix a song in about 5 minutes, which I find worthwhile to rescue some of my favorite songs from the machinations of some evil producer. Apologies for the geekiness of the post, but hopefully some of you will get some use out of this. More music tomorrow!

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April 15, 2009 - Posted by | Comment Post

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