distorted audio on export

so I recorded myself singing a song I like, synced it up to the instrumental, and played it back. it sounded fine in audacity, but once exported it turned into a distorted, peaking mess. so I did another take, farther away from my mic this time, and had the same problem.

I turned “show clipping” on, but that only shows a few short spots where i kinda expected to be peaking the mic a bit, while on the exported file, practically the entire second half of the song is distorted and awful. i’m at a loss for what to do now.

since my recording came out a bit quiet, but it would definitely be peaking if i got any closer to the mic or sang any louder, i turned the gain up on my vocals to +6.0dB, and the instrumental down to -6.0dB. i’m not sure if this matters, but i figured i’d toss it in there in case it does.

When you export, you mix your tracks together. And when you mix (add) two tracks that have “full” waveforms but are not peaking individually, you will frequently get a mix that is peaking in several places. There are many approaches to correct this problem. One way is to Select > All, then Tracks > Mix > Mix and Render. This will show you exactly where peaking would occur. And since Audacity works in 32-bit float, no information is lost. Then do Effects > Amplify to reduce the volume so it is no longer clipping.