Audacity Newbie -- Recording output to multiple channels?

Hi everyone. Fairly new to Audacity, so please forgive my ignorance.

Running Win10 and Audacity 3.0.3.

I’m working on recording a “personal” project album. It’s just guitar and vocals. What I’m trying to do is get a setup like the guy in the video below. So what I want to do is “stereo record” (with two mics) my guitar, and do my vocals as well.

I’ve been told (on another forum that I’m on) that I would likely need a mixer, and I found one for relatively cheap.

Essentially what I want to do is plug multiple mics into the mixer, and then use “channels” from that device to record in Audacity (i.e. channel 1 to track 1, channel 2 to track 2, channel 3 to track 3). I understand this is possible, but don’t want to waste my money on a mixer if it won’t work.

So how is the “output” signal from the mixer broken into “channels”? And how would I set that up in Audacity? My understanding is that it can be done, I just don’t know how.

Here’s the video:

I understand this is possible

Maybe not as easy as you think. Multi-channel recording (over 2) in Audacity can be done, but the interface to the computer is not simple or ordinary.

The two normal sound channels in a computer, Record and Play, are both stereo (2 track), and to get numbers over that requires special software, drivers, and configurations.

We publish a separate forums for multi-track. Some of those posts send you to other related posts.

Audacity doesn’t play multi-track, I believe ever.

Rather than go straight for three or four channel multi-track, you may be a candidate for overdubbing.

Lay down a backing track and then play that back while you perform the next track. Play both of those back… and keep going. You can be three guitars and four voices. Ever sing harmony to yourself?

This has the advantage (other than not going over stereo) of giving you “clean” tracks. Only guitar and only voice. The performer in your video comments right at the top that he’s going to get vocal spill on the guitar microphones. He’s stuck with that, but if you overdub, you have completely independent tracks and you can mix them together as you wish.

For really real multi-track it’s not a bad idea to not do it on the computer. Scan through the forum of people having trouble recording a single voice track much less three or four music tracks.

There are multi-track recorders who’s day job is multi-track, not a computer being forced into it.

On the other hand, and I have done this once, produce your whole multi-track song in the mixer, and deliver stereo to the computer. You can easily do that all day long with relatively simple and affordable kit. The down side, of course is you can’t remix it. If you want your voice a little louder, so sorry. Sing it again.

You can also, as the obsessive engineer would say (raising hand) use two computers. Put two sound channels on one and two on the other. Shuffle files around later.


One more. I had dinner at a friend of a friend’s house and they had a high-ceiling living room with perfect theater echoes. I wrote it down. I want to put someone in there to perform with simple stereo microphones.


I can’t watch the video right now…

Of course you’ll need a mixer with USB for recording. :wink: And/or you can use a USB interface.

Most inexpensive mixers send the stereo mix to the USB port so you can’t record more than two tracks at once. However if you record vocals and guitar (or more) separately at different times, you can mix multiple tracks in software.

There are lots of multi-channel [u]Audio Interfaces[/u]. But you might need different software for multitrack recording… Sometimes Audacity can multitrack record but lots of people have trouble with it and from what I see on the forum not many people are doing it. A [u]DAW[/u] (digital audio workstation application) is designed from the ground-up for multitrack recording and mixing.

If you buy an interface I recommend getting one with direct-hardware zero-latency monitoring. There is always some latency (delay) when you monitor through the computer and if the delay is noticeable it’s difficult to perform. You can still listen to a backing-track from the computer at the same time. (There are things you can do to minimize latency but it’s best to avoid the issue altogether.)

Note stage/studio microphone are not interchangeable with computer mics. Mixers & audio interfaces work with stage or studio mics (balanced XLR connections). Studio condenser mics also require 48V phantom power which is supplied by the mixer or interface. Many interfaces have switchable mic/instrument inputs so you can optionally plug-in a guitar (and usually “Nuetrik” connectors that work with an XLR or guitar plug).


A note about mixing - Mixing is done by summation so you have to “watch your levels” to during mixing prevent clipping (distortion). Or, you can export the mix as floating-point WAV (which has no upper limit), then re-import and normalize the levels before exporting again in your desired format. (Analog mixers are actually built around summing amplifiers, but there are level controls for each channel plus a master level control so it’s more of a weighted average.)

However if you record vocals and guitar (or more) separately at different times, you can mix multiple tracks in software.

That’s the Overdubbing thing. We have a forum section on that.


Thanks for the information. I was hoping I could at least do like the guy in the video and “stereo” the mics for guitar. Although it sounds like I can still do that, but it’ll go to one track, so I would have to “stereo record” the guitars first (maybe with a rough backing track as suggested), and then go back and do the vocals on a second track. Is that correct?

Is that correct?

Yes. There are some things you need to pay attention to, but that’s basically it. The backing track can be a three minute click track from the Generate menu. Build up as you go. Don’t forget the lead-in.

Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
“You are my sunshine.”
“My only sunshine.”

You must be on good headphones for this and your USB mixer has to be able to do a direct monitoring mix. I’ve been calling that “Perfect Overdubbing.” Listen to a theatrical mix of your live performance and the backing track. Not all mixers will do that and the idea is so new that sometimes it doesn’t appear in the instructions even though it works.

There can be computer problems, too. If you’ve been keeping count, the computer has to play the backing tracks(s) to you absolutely perfectly at the exact same time it’s recording your live performance. It’s double the workload, but not all that much difference than trying to wrangle recording two stereo tracks at the same time.

You can do “imperfect” overdubbing. That’s when you perform to the backing track without hearing yourself. Almost any microphone can do that.

There are adjustments and setups before you start this. First Notes will not automatically line up.