Audio editing can take lots of practice before it becomes fun. First, you want to make sure you record good audio elements in the .wav format at the source. This will avoid major headaches. Having proper workflow is also very important and can also avoid lots of migraines. So is saving your edited audio material at different junctures of a project. I would use folders labelled such as ... unedited audio tracks, selected audio tracks, edited audio tracks ... and always copy and paste your newly edited selections into your latest folder, so that older folders have all the original audio.
When you get going, and you've recorded all the material you need, you also want to audio storyboard your story, and know which sounds you want, and then work on each, and trim them down to perfection separately. Do the same process for nat sounds and interviews, and also single out your room tones in case you need them. For nat sounds, you want to have 20 to 30 seconds to work with. You want a nat sound for each scene, and each interview. For interview sounds, get the part that is self-contained and has lots of energy or controversy and the one which helps tell your story. If editing into a soundbite, it's easier to make a cut in the middle of a sentence than in the beginning. You also want to make sure to cut long pauses and uhs and ahs out. Once you have all these clean tracks separated and identified in a proper folder, it will make it much faster for you to do your final edits.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AUDIO AT THE SOURCE
Above is an example of collecting really good nat sounds. Even though this is a lesson about audio editing, the point is the sound you capture at the source is much more important than any audio editing skill you have.
WORKFLOWS AND SOFTWARE
Here's a really good link on a good workflow for audio editing.
Audio editing software used at the student level generally includes Audacity, which is free and works well (but don't forget to add an mp3 plugin), Amadeus, which works very well for simple operations and doesn't cost much, and Adobe Audition, which is well worth learning if it's available in your classroom. Popular, free ones, which are fun to practice with also include Garage Band and even Imovie with just the audio. Some podcasters use Hindenburg Systems which has a cheaper version. It allows easy publishing to podcasts and multimedia systems. Pro Tools is the gold standard in the industry but it’s expensive. It does have a free version now you can try with. Here's a really good tutorial for Pro Tools.
AUDIO EDITING TUTORIALS
There are tons of links on audio editing available, such as this one on best practices for Audacity: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/audacity/audio-editing/. Here's a simple manual for Audacity and a really good tutorial.
You can also learn with videos. Here's one for Audacity, and another.
Below is one which shows a good workflow, and practice session with Audacity.
Here's one which describes most of the basic editing process with Amadeus.
DO's AND DONT's OF AUDIO EDITING
Now, we come to my very general list of audio editing do's and don'ts. As a visual person, I find it takes more time to edit audio on its own, than audio with video. Editing audio can be frustrating and take lots of time, but the goal to make the final result seamless and music to a listener's ear should be well worth the time.
DOs: Use fades, multitrack sliding with lots of nats, quotes bleeding into nats and voiced script smoothly and appropriately, boost and lower sounds if need be individually, add room tone underneath when needed for bridges, listen to your audio with and without headphones. Step away from your audio editing from time to time to have a fresh perspective. Have someone else listen to your rough edit to see if anything weird or strange sticks out to them. Always save what you are doing and know where and with what name you are saving your files. When you are done, export as an mp3.
DON'Ts: Avoid abrupt cuts and endings, unnatural fades, edits that are too tight, using hot/fried audio or audio that does not sound good, instances where talk is doubled up or two loud, similar noises are on top of each other, sloppy interview bites, with cussing, incoherent thoughts, leaving nats on for too long or when they become annoying to listen to... And something many students do .... DON"T NORMALIZE ALL AUDIO TOGETHER. That's like applying automatic settings to everything, which usually leads to poor, uneven results, since your audio material may come from many different sources. Normalize only as a last resort.
If you found this tutorial useful, check out other installments. Here's the full list of chapters from my audio tutorials:
Teaching Audio -- Instilling Passion
Teaching Audio part 1 -- Recording Audio
Teaching Audio part 2 -- Writing for the Ear
Teaching Audio part 3 -- Audio Editing
Teaching Audio part 4 -- Sound Effects, Using Music and Audio Libraries
Teaching Audio part 5 -- Anchor Leads, News Writing, Judgment and Features
Teaching Audio part 6 -- Voicing
Teaching Audio part 7 -- On the Scene Reporting
Teaching Audio part 8 -- Interviews
Teaching Audio part 9 -- Newscasts and Stacking the News
Teaching Audio part 10 -- Commercials
Teaching Audio part 11 -- Raising Your Game
Teaching Audio part 12 -- Podcasting Intro
Teaching Audio part 13 -- Window Dressing
Teaching Audio part 14 -- Podcast Lists
Teaching Audio part 15 -- Big Podcasts, Little City
Teaching Audio part 16 -- Listening to Podcasts and Publishing your Own
Teaching Audio, part 17 -- Joining Podcast Communities
Teaching Audio, part 18 -- Podcasting for PR
Teaching Audio, part 19 -- Promoting Your Podcast
Teaching Audio, part 20 -- Making Money in Podcasting
Teaching Audio, part 21 -- Building a Career in Audio