How to Make E-mail-able Audio Recordings on Your Mac

by Trevor de Clercq

Setting up your sound input preferences

Apple Mac computers have been shipping with built-in microphones for at least a decade. You can use this built-in microphone to make a recording of yourself singing, playing, talking, tapping, ta-ing, whatever.

Before using the built-in microphone, you need to make sure that it is sensitive enough to hear you clearly but not too sensitive that it distorts. You can set the sensitivity of the built-in microphone through the "System Preferences" in the "Finder" menu.

Once the "System Preferences" are open, click on the "Sound" preference pane.

In the "Sound" preference pane, click on the "Input" tab. If the "Internal microphone" is not highlighted in blue, do that now by simply clicking on that input device.

The important thing here is to adjust the "Input volume" slider to get the optimum sensivity for your recording. To start with, drag the slider somewhere in the middle of its range, as shown above. The light blue bars on the "Input level" meter below that slider will turn dark blue when the microphone picks up sound. Now sing, speak, tap, or play something fairly loud (as loud as you think you'll get during a performance). You don't want all the bars on the the "Input level" meter to go dark blue. That means you are "clipping" or "distorting" the input. If that's the case, lower the "Input volume" slider (by moving it to the left) and test again until most of the bars (but not all) turn dark blue with loud sounds. Conversely, if very few of the bars in the "Input level" turn dark blue, then raise the volume (by moving the "Input volume" slider to the right) so that you will get a recording that is not too quiet.

Using Quicktime as a recorder

Apple Quicktime software comes pre-installed on every Mac computer. This software will easily let you record yourself using the built-in mic on the computer (or some other sound source if you prefer). First, launch Quicktime, which should be located in the "Applications" folder on your hard drive.

One Quicktime is launched, select "New Audio Recording" under the "File" menu.

Before recording, make sure that the settings in Quicktime are correct. You can access these via the little down-facing triangle on the right-hand side of the "Audio Recording" window that pops up.

In this drop-down menu, make sure three things are correctly "checked":
  1. The "Microphone" should be set to "Built-in Microphone: Internal Microphone." This will ensure that you are using the built-in mic on your computer. (If you are tech savvy enough, feel free to choose another input source, of course.)
  2. The "Quality" should be set to "High." If you set the "Quality" to "Maximum," the audio file that it will create will be too big to e-mail. "High" is good enough for our purposes.
  3. The "Save to" should be set to a folder on your computer that you want the file to be saved to. (Duh!) As you can see, I've chosen to save the audio file to my "Desktop." Feel free to choose somewhere else, just as long as you know where it is.

Now we're ready to record. Before pressing that big red button in the middle, though, you are going to want to make sure that your output level is set properly. If you are not using headphones, then make sure to turn down the output level (see below) so that your speakers don't feed back into your microphone. (Quicktime should turn down the output level by default when the built-in microphone is selected as the input source.) You can also record using headphones (so that you can hear how you sound in the microphone), in which case, you can turn up the output level since the headphones should automatically turn off the speakers on your computer.

Before you start recording, you might also want to check that your microphone is still picking up sound. If you make some sound (singing, talking, ta-ing, whatever), you should see the lighter gray bars in the middle get wider (when the sound gets louder) and narrower (when the sound gets quieter). These bars are the indicators in your sound level meter, and they help confirm that you are, indeed, actually recording something. Just be sure that those lighter gray bars don't expand to completely fill up the meter, which would mean that you are "maxing out" the recording levels and may be distorting your audio once you actually record. (If you are not seeing the lighter gray bars, go back to the "Setting up your sound input preferences" section described above, and make sure your microphone sensitivity is turned up.)

OK, now start recording! Press that big old red button in the middle of the recording window!

Once you press record, that big red record button will turn black. While you are recording, you should see those lighter gray bars bouncing around, again confirming that your computer is, in fact, "hearing" you making sound.

Once you've completed your recording, simply press the big black button in the center of the window.

The window should now say something like "Audio Recording.m4a," which will be the name of the file in whatever location you decided to save it. You should also now see transport controls, like play, fast-forward, and rewind. As well, you'll notice that the speaker level gets automatically turned back up, and you now are given an indication of how long the recording is. Play back the audio recording to confirm that you recorded something (and that you are happy with it).

You can attach this file directly to an e-mail if you want. Oddly enough, I've found that if you then simply go and select "Export" from the "File" menu, it actually makes the file size a bit smaller, although the benefit is somewhat negligible. If you really want to make the file as small as possible, then "Export" it. Otherwise, you can just attach it directly to the e-mail as it was originally recorded.

E-mail the audio file as an attachment

I won't go through how to attach a file to an e-mail. I will say that, if you are having problems, gmail seems to be pretty reliable and allows for fairly large attachments. So it may be worth just opening up some temporary gmail account solely for the purposes of e-mailing audio attachments.

One last thing: Before you e-mail your audio file, it would be wonderful - really truly wonderful - if you could rename the file something meaningful, e.g., "your name" followed by "the assignment" would be ideal. So, for example, if I were to send my version of Ottman 9.3, I would change the filename to:


Note that - for proper filename etiquette - you should use underscores instead of spaces, and you should use dashes instead of periods. It just makes computers happier that way.