Windows Sound Recorder

A simple introduction to computer music (only for older versions of Windows)
Description: The ‘Windows Sound Recorder software is included with the Windows operating system. It provides a way to record and manipulate sounds, in a very basic and user-friendly way. This makes it an ideal medium through which to introduce children to some of the sound editing processes made possible by computers, processes which they can go on to employ in their own electronic compositions.

In the UK National Curriculum, it is a Common Requirement of the Programmes of Study, Music. that "Pupils should be given opportunities, where appropriate, to develop and apply their IT capability in their study of music." In the activities described in this resource, pupils will apply their knowledge of finding, opening and saving files, in the course of music-specific activities.

In this project, all pupils will have experience of using ICT to record and change sounds. Most pupils will learn how to use some options from the Windows Sound Recorder menus and will understand that ICT provides a tool with which composers can change and develop their materials. Some will be able to apply very simple sound-editing techniques to real musical effect in their own compositions.

Sound files use up a lot of memory, so you may need to arrange for your saved recordings to be transferred to a removable storage device, such as a recordable CD.

Windows Sound Recorder is one of the programs supplied with the Windows operating system.. It is located in Program Files/Accessories/Entertainment. Windows Sound Recorder illustrates, in the most basic way, several ways of processing recorded sounds. This makes it an ideal classroom introduction to computer music.

Key Stage 2
"During this key stage, pupils should be taught knowledge skills and understanding through....... using ICT to capture, change and combine sounds"

a) The control buttons for Sound Recorder are just what you would expect to find on a cassette/CD player, so you plug your microphone into the appropriate socket on the computer and click on the red button to start recording.

Record, in turn, a variety of vocal and/or instrumental sounds. Observe the wave-form in the display and how this visual representation changes for different combinations of vowels/consonants, or instrumental timbres. (This is an excellent way to encourage more timid children to explore their voices because, with the focus on the visual display, they lose their self-consciousness. It is also a good activity for the singing class as it encourages good diction.)

b) Using the drop-down ‘Effects’ menu, click on ‘Increase speed ( by 100%). Replay the sound. In addition to the speed, what else has changed? Clicking on ‘Decrease speed’, will return the recording to its original state. (You can also undo changes by selecting ‘Revert’ in the ‘File’ menu.) If possible, record a short musical phrase, played on an instrument, and experiment with increasing and decreasing the speed. If you have previously played MIDI recordings, changing the speed (tempo), compare the effect of doubling/halving the speed of a Midi file with that of doubling/halving the speed of these sound-wave samples.

c) Record a suitable sound and select ‘Add Echo’ from the ‘Effects’ menu. Have they heard this effect used on any commercial recordings? How might it be usefully employed in future compositions?

d) Experiment with the ‘Reverse’ option in the ‘Effects’ menu. This is one of many ways in which composers sometimes change, or ‘develop’ their material. (Make a note to try this, ‘live’, in a subsequent lesson.) It is interesting to do this with a recording of words sung to a slow melody. If you didn’t know the song had been reversed, what would you think this recording was about?

e) Tell the pupils that they are going to combine two recordings. To do this they must, first, save each recording to a separate file. Then, with one of the files loaded, simply select ‘Mix with file’ from the ‘Edit’ menu and open the second file. That’s it! Why might they want to use this process when composing?

The class will, almost certainly, become absorbed in these explorations and there will be many opportunities for class discussion, reinforcing the musical concepts of pitch, timbre, tempo, texture, octaves, phrases, etc.. However, the biggest benefit will be gained by making opportunities for pupils to use what they have learned, creating their own compositions.

Key Stage 3
"During this key stage, pupils should be taught knowledge, skills and
understanding through....... d) using ICT to create, manipulate and refine sounds"

If appropriate, follow the activities for Key Stage 2, but with more emphasis on individual and small group exploration. In addition, explore the options for more advanced editing,


a) Insert a file in the middle of another one. Load the first file and move the slider to the point where you wish to make the insert. From the drop-down ‘Edit’ menu, select ‘Insert File’. Select the file you wish to insert. It will over-write the first file, after that point. Similarly, you can mix a second sound file with a section of the first by moving the slider to the desired point and selecting ‘Mix File’ from the ‘Edit’ menu.

b) Using the ‘Edit’ options to combine files previously treated with the various effects, there are considerable options for manipulating and refining the sounds.

Of course, the fact that one can do something doesn’t mean one should and, at the end of the day, pupils must be able to justify their decisions, musically. First, though, they need to practise and master the techniques of sound-editing, just as they would have to learn to play an instrument before they could improvise on it.

If the microphone is plugged in and switched on but, when you try to record, the visual display remains static, you need to select an appropriate input device. Open the drop-down ‘Edit’ window and select ‘Audio Properties’. Select the appropriate Default sound recording device. (This will only happen where you have additional recording equipment installed on the computer.)

Similarly, if the visual display changes as you record but, on playback, you hear nothing, then you need to change the playback device (Edit/Audio Properties).

© Audrey Podmore, 2003

(This project is only suitable for Windows XP and older versions of the Windows operating system in which, strangely enough, sound-recorder had a higher specification!)

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