General beginner help

Windows 8
Audacity v 2.0.6
.exe installer


I am in an acoustic band in Western Colorado and we are using Audacity to record our work…intending to put this on a CD to sell at our gigs.

There are three of us and we crowd around a single condenser microphone which captures two voices and acoustic instruments.

We have found the condenser mike “represents” us better than an army of dynamic microphones and pick ups…so we use this same set up in live performances although the settings on the board are different for live concerts.

My bass goes to an amp which pointed away from the condenser mike (so we don’t get it in the condenser mike mix) and it is miked with a dynamic mike on the grill as my amp has no line out.

Those two signals go to our PA board and, from there, to our laptop running audacity.

Audacity v 2.0.6 (running on Windows 8) is set to Stereo, 44100Hz 32-bit float. Audio host is MME. My recording volume in Audacity is at .60 and the signal gets from our Fender mixing amp to my laptop via a 3.5 mm input connector directly into the microphone input jack on the laptop. That inbound signal has no reverb in it.

Once I get a good take, I then filter that recording and use the following audacity effects and in this order:

Noise reduction based on a sample of dead silence
Normalize (with these checked: Remove DC offset AND Normalize max amplitude to -1.0)
Compress (set at Threshold -18 dB, Noise Floor -40 dB, Ratio 2:1, Attack Time 0.5 seconds, Release Time 1.0 seconds)
Equalization (base line at 0 and boosted to 6dB from 5,000Hz through and beyond 10,000Hz)
Normalize (same as above)
Leveler (Heavy @ -60db)

…and we are getting fairly good results.

I am currently testing out a few Audacity reverb settings to add to the above mix.

My question is this:

We are VERY new at all of this. The settings above are those I discovered on various YouTube presentations or via trial and error. Do you have any suggestions …things you notice as being overlooked, set incorrectly, needing to be eliminated or added???

MANY thanks in advance!

Moved to the “Making Music” board (as the question is mostly OS agnostic and about making music).
Thanks for all the details - a refreshing change :wink:


Your “mic” input is clearly able to handle “line level” signals (otherwise the recording would be heavily overloaded), but even so, my experience of laptop sound cards has been that they are generally quite poor quality. It would probably be worth considering upgrading the sound card at some stage. I use an inexpensive Behringer UCA 202 USB sound card (about $30) and I’m very satisfied with the sound quality.

Keep the amount of noise reduction to a minimum. The cleaner the original signal the better. Noise reduction always does some damage to the sound that you want to keep, so the trick is to start with as “clean” a signal as possible, and use as little noise reduction as you can acceptably get away with (less is more :wink:)

You’ve not said, but if your mixer is able to “pan”, then pan the bass all the way over to one side, and the mic all the way over to the other side.
Set the levels for both bass and mic so that you get a good healthy signal on both (don’t worry about matching the levels with each other). A “good healthy signal” is peaking at about -6 dB (the waveform occupying about half of the track height). This allows some “overhead” in the event of someone singing or playing a little louder, while making good use of the available dynamic range of the equipment.

When you have the stereo track in Audacity, split the track to two mono tracks ( - one will be the mic, the other the bass (plus some amount of “leakage” from one to the other). This will allow you to process the channels separately and balance them within Audacity.

You may want to duplicate the mic track and join them to make it a stereo track, so that you can then apply stereo effects (such as stereo reverb).

When setting levels, start from the “source” (the mic or guitar), and work from their along the signal chain, aiming for optimal levels at each stage. For example, start with mic position, then mic pre-amp gain (may be the mixing desk channel gain), then the channel level, then the mixer output level, then the computer input level (or whatever your signal chain happens to be - the important thing being that you work from the source, then follow the signal chain).

While you are working on the tracks, as long as the tracks are “32 bit float format” (default), then it is safe to normalize to 0 dB.
The final mix will probably want to be normalized a little below 0 dB.

For the vocals you can probably use a higher ratio, say 4:1, but it’s a matter of taste and depends on the material, so experiment with different settings.

Eq to taste.


No, not unless you want it to sound a bit distorted.
The Leveler effect is a “waveshaper” effect ( that reduces the dynamic range by distorting the sound.
If you just want to control peaks so that you can make the recording a bit louder, use a “limiter” rather than the Leveler.
A good limiter effect is “Limiter (2)” available here:
Instructions to install:

Generally you would apply this before the final “Normalize”.

If you split the track as suggested above, use the Track Gain controls ( to balance the levels of the bass against the mic. Then use “Track menu > Mix and Render” to combine (mix down) the two tracks into a single track, then apply the final normalization before exporting.

Steve…thank you for this great info! I will try these out and get back to you. THANKS AGAIN!