LING 045 — Fall 2017
Phonetics and Phonology

Basic guide to using Praat for acoustic phonetic analysis

Setting up your "lab"

To use Praat on your own computer, you can download it from its website, at http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/praat/. Most computers on campus seem to have it installed already, but since it doesn't have to be installed, you can just download it and run it on any computer (even if you don't have admin rights on it).

I recommend using an external headphone and microphone. Video conferencing or gaming headsets will usually work great. The built-in mics in most computers should also be okay, though these vary a lot—Macs at least seem to have consistently decent built-in microphones.

Recording a sound

  1. In Praat, click "New" > "Record mono Sound..."
  2. Enter a name for the recording in "name"
  3. Click "Record". Click "Stop" when you're done. Clicking "Record" again will replace your last recording with a new one.
    Make sure you speak clearly and not too quietly. Also make sure you have the microphone far enough away from your mouth that you don't get red bars during the recording. If you get red bars, click "Stop", adjust the microphone, and try again. If you continue to get some red bars, just continue with the assignment, but know that you may have to re-record the sound if you're having trouble measuring things.
  4. Click "Save to list & Close" to load the recording into the Object list

Measuring stuff

With any measurement, Praat is likely to give you a very exact number. As a general rule, you don't want to care about more than about one decimal place in frequencies (e.g., 461.5Hz) or more than 4 decimal places in seconds / 1 decimal place in milliseconds (0.0225s, or 22.5ms).

To prepare your environment in Praat to measure something, start by doing the following:

  1. Click on the sound you recorded in your Object list, and click the "View & Edit" button.
  2. Select a smallish section of audio (e.g., a word) that contains what you want to measure, and click "sel".
Measuring formants
  1. Make sure "Formant" > "Show formants" is selected. The red dots are formant measurements. They should more or less line up with the formants (dark horizontal bars) in the spectrogram, e.g. as found in vowels. If they fall between the formants (above or below), you may need to adjust your settings some. Check in "Formant" > "Formant settings..."—especially try changing the number of formants up and down some.
  2. To measure a formant, click on or near a red dot. The frequency (in Hertz) at the place you clicked is displayed on the left in red characters. For a vowel, you probably want to measure the formants near the center.
Measuring fundamental frequency
  1. Make sure "Pitch" > "Show pitch" is selected. The blue dots (and line) are pitch / fundamental frenquency measurements. By default, they don't line up with anything, but they should be contiguous for any vowel (where it's easiest to measure fundamental frequency).
  2. To measure the fundamental frequency of a vowel, click on or near a blue dot in the vowel. The frequency (in Hertz) at the place you clicked is displayed on the right in blue characters. If it's hard to get an accurate reading, you may want to lower the top end of the pitch range (in "Pitch" > "Pitch settings...", the number on the top right). By default it's at 500Hz, but you can lower it down to about 300Hz (unless you have an extremely high-pitched voice).
Measuring vowel length / duration
  1. After zooming in to the word you're looking at, select the entire length of the vowel you want to measure. You can hear if you've selected the entire vowel by clicking the gray bar below the spectrogram that corresponds to the selection. That gray bar also includes the length of the selection (i.e., the length of the vowel) in seconds. If you're not zoomed in close enough to your selection, you may miss some digits; if this is the case, just click "in".
Measuring aspiration
  1. Identify / locate the aspriation noise. Select it as with vowel length to view its length / duration in seconds.

Saving your recordings

  1. In your objects list, select the sound recording that you want to save.
  2. Click "Save" > "Save as FLAC file..."
  3. Choose a location and filename for your file.
  4. Repeat for any other recordings you want to save.

Creating a printable waveform

  1. First you'll want to make sure you have an object in your Object list containing only the audio you want to make a waveform of. You can do this by selecting the audio you want in the View and Edit window, and going to "File" > "Extract Selected Sound (time from 0)". This will put a new object in your Object list.
  2. Select the object in your objects list, and click "Draw" > "Draw...", followed by "OK". A waveform will appear in your Picture window. If you'd like to draw it with different dimensions, click "Edit" > "Erase all". Then you can select the area where you'd like the image to appear and repeat this step, starting from the Object list.
  3. Once you have things the way you like them in your picture window, you can select the parts you want to save (it'll put a pink border around it), and then go to "File" > "Save as PDF file..." and export a PDF version of the waveform wherever you'd like!

NOTE: If you're running Windows, there may not be a "Save as PDF file" option. There are two alternatives:


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