This tutorial introduces how to process audio files from fieldwork recordings with Praat. See the tutorial Processing audio (with SoX) for the sister tutorial using SoX command line utilities.

Following an introductory section, the tutorial shows how to use Praat information about a soundfile and make two different modifications to the soundfile:1


Praat is powerful cross-platform, free and open source software created and maintained by Paul Boersma and David Weenink at the University of Amsterdam. It is widely used in phonetics and phonology and beyond. You can download for your platform at the following links:

It is regularly updated, so if you haven't downloaded a new version in a few months, you might take a look and see if there's a newer version available. The help files are extensive and include a set of introductory tutorials. There is also a helpful Praat Users group.

Instructions for tutorials

The files for the tutorials can be found this directory under tutorials/processing-audio-files (here). Once you've downloaded the ldc-kiy repository, you can navigate to the tutorials/processing-audio-files/your-turn/20111213/ sub-directory to access all the files used in the tutorial. Ignore the other sub-directory in your-turn called batch-demo, which is only for the SoX tutorial.

The tutorials/processing-audio-files/demo/ directory contains all the files used and generated during the tutorial for your reference (again, ignore the batch-demo directory). The your-turn/ directory is for you to play in and contains only the raw audio files the tutorial works with, and not any of the generated files from the tutorial.

Displaying audio file information

  1. Launch Praat.
  2. Select Open > Open long sound... from the menu at the top of the Praat Objects window, as shown below.

    Open long sound in Praat
    Open long sound command.

    A LongSound is distinct from a Sound object type in Praat. As it says in the manual:

    A LongSound object gives you the ability to view and label a sound file that resides on disk. You will want to use it for sounds that are too long to read into memory as a Sound object (typically, a few minutes).

  3. In the your-turn/ directory, select 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist.wav to be opened. Now there should be a LongSound 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist object listed in your object window. Note that it is highlighted in light blue. That means that it is selected. You can select an object by clicking on it in the object window.

    LongSound object in object window
    LongSound object 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist in object window.

    4. With LongSound 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist selected, click on the Info button at the bottom of the object window, as shown below. This will pop up the Praat Info window with information about the audio file displayed, including the file format, duration of the file, sampling rate, and bit depth.2

    Display info about the LongSound object
    Display info about the LongSound object.

Here's what it says in the Praat Info window:

Object id: 1
Object type: Sound
Object name: 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist
Date: Thu Jun 27 16:45:21 2013

Duration: 347.832 seconds
File name: /Users/amoebe/Documents/mind/proj/kiy-ldc/tutorials/processing-audio-files/your-turn/20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist.wav
File type: WAV
Number of channels: 2
Encoding: linear 16 bit little-endian
Sampling frequency: 48000 Hz
Size: 16695936 samples
Start of sample data: 44 bytes from the start of the file

Some highlights:

  • Object name lists the basename of the file, without the file extension.
  • Duration tells us that the file is 347.832 seconds in total.
  • File name lists the full path of the file on the hard drive.
  • File type lists that the file format is a WAV file, a lossless file format.
  • Number of channels indicates that there are 2 channels in the file (Channel 1 was for the consultant; Channel 2 for the translator/elicitor).
  • Encoding indicates that the bit depth is 16 bit. (little-endian indicates the byte ordering in the file.)
  • Sampling frequency indicates the audio file was sampled at 48000 Hz (or equivalently, 48 kHz)

The sample rate of 48kHz is much higher than needed for working with speech so we can downsample the file to keep the file size down. We also want to extract just one of the 2 channels, the channel reserved for the consultant (Channel 1), for further data analysis.

Extracting a channel

None of the file modification steps we show next can be performed on a LongSound object, so you'll need to open 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist.wav again using the Open > Read from file... command to open the file as a Sound object.

Read from file in Praat
Read from file command.

You can also remove the LongSound object by selecting it (click on it so it's highlighted in blue) and clicking the Remove button at the bottom of the object window.

We recorded the elicitation session with two channels,

  • Channel 1 (left channel): consultant
  • Channel 2 (right channel): elicitor/translator

To extract a channel from the stereo audio file, we do the following:

  1. With Sound 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist selected in the Object Window (so that it is highlighted in blue), click on the Convert menu at the bottom right of the Object window and select Extract one channel....

    Read from file in Praat
    Extract one channel command.

  2. In the Sound: Extract channel dialog box, type 1 in Channel (number, Left, or Right) to extract the Left Channel, which is the consultant's channel for the file and click OK. A new Sound 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist object will appear immediately under the original one and will be already selected.

  3. If you'd like to save this new file, you can do so with the top menu command Save > Save as WAV file... in a new folder you create in your-turn/20111213/ called data/.

  4. You can also click on the View and Edit button near the top righthand corner in the Object Window (with the new Sound object selected) to examine the extracted channel.


Below, we downsample the sampling rate of the file 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist.wav from 48kHz to 16kHz and write the downsampled file to a new file 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist-stereo.wav in a new directory in your-turn/20111213/1 we call data/. We give the new filename a -stereo suffix to remind ourselves that this file still has 2 channels. It's good to keep the stereo (2-channel) file around for reference, since it includes information about how items were elicited if we need to check those details later.

Warning: I've had Praat crash on me rather consistently trying to resample large files, including when I tried to downsample the original audio file 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist.wav. Try downsampling after extracting the consultant's channel, as described above.

  1. With the new, single-channel Sound 20111213/raw/20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist selected, click on the Convert menu at the bottom right of the Object window and select Resample.

    Click on <code>Resample</code> command
    Resample command.

  2. In the Sound:Resample dialog box, type in 16000 in New sampling frequency (Hz) to resample to 16kHz. You can leave Precision at the default of 50. This determines the quality of the interpolation used to reconstruct the signal in resampling. Click OK. You may have to wait a bit, but a new Sound 20111213-1-kiy-ap-framedwordlist object will appear below the original, selected (highlighted in blue).

  3. If you'd like to save this new file, you can do so with the top menu command Save > Save as WAV file... in a new folder you create in your-turn/20111213/ called data/.

  4. You can also check that the sampling rate is indeed 16kHz by re-opening the newly saved file as a LongSound object and displaying information about the audio file, as described in the first section.

  1. I don't know of a way to reduce bit depth in Praat. See the SoX tutorial for a way to do it with SoX. There is also a way to do it in Audacity by setting Default Sample Format in Preferences > Quality > before opening the sound file in the program, as described in the manual

  2. It's critical to open the file as a LongSound to get this information. If you open the file as a Sound object using Open > Read from file..., clicking on the Info button will display (after a bit of a wait) properties of the signal like average, min, and max amplitude and will not display file format or bit depth. 


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