How to Create MP3 Files of Your Home Recordings - dummies

How to Create MP3 Files of Your Home Recordings

By Jeff Strong

To create MP3 files, you need MP3 encoding software and a CD or audio file of your home recording (well, you need a computer, too). To create an MP3 file of your music, just choose the song to convert and let the encoder do the rest. Certain variables can make your MP3s sound their best — such as which encoder you use and what parameters you choose.

Choosing encoding software

You have a lot of MP3 encoding software choices. Some software encodes from various file formats as well as from a CD, whereas others don’t encode directly from a CD.

Not being able to encode directly from CD isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, because the process of lifting music from a CD (also known as ripping) can cause audible artifacts (noise, clicks, pops, and so on). If you encode from a WAV or AIFF file, you can first make sure that the sound going into the encoding process is as good as possible.

If you get an encoder that doesn’t encode from CD and you use a stand-alone or SIAB system that doesn’t support file importing (or you don’t have your recorder connected to a computer), you need CD ripping (copying) software as well.

Here are a few popular MP3 and AAC programs that both encode and rip:

  • iTunes: iTunes is free and can rip from CD into MP3 and AAC formats equally easily. It’s simple to use and, if you have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, or if you buy music from the iTunes Store, you already have it loaded onto your computer.

  • Switch Audio Converter Software: You can download the basic version for free, which allows you to play, rip, record, and convert MP3s and audio CDs. This program works with Windows PCs and Macs. There is also a plus version available for more encoding options that costs $30.

  • Toast Titanium: This is the most common Mac-based program. It costs about $100 and allows you to not only create MP3s, but also record your mixes to CD — plus a lot more.

Many MP3 encoders are available, so if you’re looking for a little more variety, do an Internet search for MP3 encoding software. You’ll find plenty of options.

If you record using a computer-based system and you use one of the more full-featured, popular programs such as Pro Tools or Logic Pro X, you can probably create MP3 files without getting additional software. Most decent programs offer this capability.

Encoding your music

The actual encoding process is pretty simple. Just open your MP3 encoding software and choose the parameters that you want for your file. Every encoding program is a little bit different — but keep the following points in mind when you encode your music:

  • To ensure that you get the best sound quality possible, encode your downloadable digital files from a WAV or AIFF file instead of directly from your CD. The process of ripping a song from a CD can create problems in sound quality.

    So, by converting your CD to WAV or AIFF files first, you get a chance to hear your ripped song and to correct problems that ripping may have caused before your music goes to MP3.

  • Import your WAV or AIFF file into a sound editor. Sound editor programs, such as Sound Forge or Wave Burner, work fine. (You can find sound editors online.) When you have your file in the editor, use the Maximizer plug-in to raise the overall level of your song.

    You lose some dynamics, but they may not come through with the MP3 or AAC file anyway. If you recorded your music to your computer, you can use the recording software instead of a separate sound editor to do this procedure.

  • Choose the stereo or joint stereo modes for a better sound. Most online music hosts require a stereo file. Choosing the force stereo option is fine if your encoder supports it.

  • If you want to put your music on the web, choose the 128 Kbps bit rate because it covers you for most situations. If you’re encoding for specific providers, check to find out what bit rate they prefer.

  • Experiment with different modes and encoding engines. Some sound better than others on certain types of music.