How to Add Distortion on Audacity

By Chris Anzalone

Updated September 22, 2017

Audacity is a digital recording program for Mac OS X and Windows, which allows you to record and manipulate audio files using a straightforward interface. Among its other editing options, Audacity offers an effects menu, complete with custom filters that you can apply to your music and other audio files. If, for example, you want to record a guitar riff and then apply a rock-and-roll, electric guitar atmosphere, you can add distortion to your recording. This effect is useful in other audio projects as well.

Open Audacity and create your audio recording if you have not already done so. You can connect a guitar, microphone or other analog instrument to your PC by attaching a 3.5mm adapter to your instrument cable and connecting it to your computer's "Line-In" jack. To record, press the "Record" button at the top of your Audacity window. It looks like a large red circle. To stop recording, just click the space bar on your keyboard.

Highlight the portion of your recording to which you want to apply the distortion effect. Just click your mouse over the start point or the end point, and drag it along the entire area that you want to cover. If you want to apply the effect to your entire recording, you can skip this step.

Click "Effect" on your menu bar and select "Leveller" from the list. When the "Leveller" window appears, select "Heaviest" on the "Degree of Levelling" menu, and select a number between "-25db" and "-35db" for your "Threshold." Select lower numbers for more distortion, or higher numbers for less distortion. Click "OK."

Click the green "Play" button to listen to your recording. If you feel satisfied with the amount of distortion, you can proceed with the other aspects of your audio recording project. If you feel that the amount of distortion is insufficient, however, click "Effect" on your menu bar and select "Repeat Leveller" from the top of the list.