If you have a microphone attached to your computer, you can record sound that you can save to the local hard drive. Another way to save sound files is to rip the music files off a CD, one that you should legally own, into the MP3 format. Most media players can rip music files for you. The process is explained later in this chapter.
You can record sound files via the attached microphone using the Sound Recorder, shown in Figure 42.8. This simple little utility is found in the Start All Programs Accessories Entertainment Sound Recorder menu. It works by simply clicking the Record button and speaking into the microphone.
Figure 42.8: The Sound Recorder utility can record sound directly into the microphone.
Recorded sound files can be saved using the .WAV file format. The .WAV format is created using the File Save As menu. This format saves all the data without any compressions, which results in file sizes that are much larger than MP3 audio.
When you insert a CD into the computer's CD-ROM or DVD drive, the computer automatically detects an audio CD and loads it into the default media player. Within the media player is a feature that can convert its audio files into MP3 files and save them to the computer's hard drive. This process is called ripping a CD.
Once you rip a CD's audio files, you can play them using the media player without having to insert the original CD again. This is a convenient way to keep your music collection on the computer. It also gives you the chance to shuffle all the songs in your collection into jukebox mode.
Most CDs are protected by copyright laws, and you should rip them only if you own the CD. Copyrighted music files also should not be made accessible where other users can download them.
To rip a music CD into MP3 files using Windows Media Player, follow these steps:
Insert a music CD into the computer's CD-ROM or DVD drive.
The Windows media player automatically loads and begins to play the music CD.
From the Windows Media Player interface, select Rip to open the Rip music tab, shown in Figure 42.9.
Figure 42.9: The Rip window of Windows Media Player includes a button that can begin the ripping process.
Click Start Rip to begin the process.
Each selected file converts to an MP3 file and copies to a folder with the album's name in the My Music folder. You can use the Rip Format menu to change the format between Windows Media Audio, MP3, or WAV. The Rip Bit Rate menu can change the quality/compression rate. The Rip More Options menu lets you change the folder where the audio files are saved.
If you enable the Copy protect music option in the Options dialog box, the ripped files are protected and require media usage rights to load before they are played on a separate computer.
Once you capture and save an audio file, you can use specialized software to edit the sound files. This software can combine separate sound files together, mix in sound effects, reduce noise, and convert the sound files to other formats.
Several different sound editing packages are available. Some of these are professional-level tools used by music producers ; others are intended for home use. If you're looking into editing sound files, consider these products:
Sound Forge: This is a valuable tool for mixing and editing sound clips.
Adobe Audition: Audition integrates well with other Adobe products.
Sony's ACID: Used to make music loops , many DJs use Sony's ACID on the dance floor.
Cakewalk: This is used to integrate MIDI sequencing and multi-track audio.
Goldwave: A simple-to-use Windows audio-editing package.
Sound-editing software displays sound by showing its relative volume over time, known as its soundwave . By looking at the soundwave, you can easily detect where the volume is loud and where the volume is low or pauses between speaking. This makes it easy to separate spoken words into separate sections. By splicing in new words, you can change the resulting sound files.
Editing software can also control the volume of the sound and add special effects, like reverb and reversed sound. You can also convert the sound files to different formats including the compressed MP3 format.
To edit soundwaves, just drag over a section of the soundwave to select it. Once you've selected a portion, you can cut, copy, and paste it to another part of the soundwave. You can also edit the selected section or completely remove it from the sound file.