Newbie really basic question

I am very new to audio/music software. I want to create some music by recording my guitar, then add me playing mandolin, and maybe other instruments and such. Looking at getting a USB mic to start off with. If I’m ambitious, I might use this as a ‘soundtrack’ for a video!

So, can I do this (the audio/music part, not the video) with Audacity: record one track, then play it back ( thru headphones I assume) while I record another thrack, maybe repeat, then mix and produce a music file?

Thanks, David.

That’s basic overdubbing.

Play a backing track into your headphones and record a second track, and then a third, etc.

The tutorial is in two major blocks. There’s “Perfect Overdubbing” where you can hear yourself in addition to the backing tracks. That’s the cool one, but it takes separate audio equipment or special microphones. You can’t just plug your headphones into the computer.

If you don’t care about hearing yourself live, then any computer or microphone system will do.

This is Josh only wearing one muff of his headphones so he can hear himself during a multi-track session.
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To specifically answer your question, Edit > Preferences > Recording. [X] Overdubbing should be the only thing selected in that panel.

As per that tutorial link, you do have to set Audacity up so when you perform second, third, and fourth pass, they overlap the backing track exactly. That’s Recording Latency. You don’t have to set that up, but correcting lip-sync in post production is not fun.


Audacity is a multi-track audio-editor, so the answer is yes, e.g. see …

There is a slight but significant unavoidable-delay which can cause problems with synchronization, but that can be corrected for, see …

Thanks all. After posting I dug a bit into this and see there are instructions for doing just what I was asking about. The ‘preferred’ method seems to be using a usb mic which allows me to plug in headphones, so I can listen to a tract while recording along with (is that called ‘over’?) it. I looked too at info about latency, and how to deal with it.

On another forum some folks were poo-pooing using a USB mic, and instead recommend running the mic thru an AI, audio interface. I get a sense of the advantages (and cost), but I saw some videos where people recorded a song just as I am describing and it sounded fine to me.

Best, David.

On another forum some folks were poo-pooing using a USB mic

Me, too, but not for the reasons you think. If everything goes OK, you can use a nice USB microphone and thousands of people do. There are also people who arrive on the forum not getting their USB microphone to work right.

The Blue Yeti is a very popular USB microphone. It also occasionally has what I call the “Yeti Curse.”

Some computers have trouble with the USB connection and produce a constant mosquito whine sound in the performance. It’s difficult to get rid of. We generated a custom filter for it, but that’s not 100% effective, either. There’s no way to know ahead of time whether you’re going to be cursed.

Meanwhile, the microphone and interface people almost never have troubles like that, and they have the further advantage of being able to upgrade pieces of the system without obsoleting the whole thing.

There are other odd problems with a USB microphone that have nothing (directly) to do with sound quality. Can you tell if your computer is on without looking? Does it make noise? That can mess with your performance. In general you can help that by separating you and the computer, but you can’t get further away than one 6’ (2M) USB cable. Extending the cable is highly not recommended.