Overdub + Clipping Issues

Hello Audacity Gurus.

I would like to know if anybody can help me figure out the following issue I’m having.
I have seen this same issue in Audacity 2.0.6 on my Windows XP machine (really, I still have this machine alive and well) and in Audacity 2.3.0 on my Windows 10, 64-bit laptop.
I do not use Audacity regularly for recording, just for mixing and producing my final masterpiece! (Or attempting to do it…)
Hopefully I can explain my issue clearly. I searched for this same/similar issue on the forum, but I couldn’t find an answer, so please help me…

When I add a new track and attempt to add another track, either the first one or the second one causes the entire project to clip and of course causes distortion. This is very annoying and does not produce a good final product.

I’m currently working on a small project that deals with six (6) tracks: vocals, drums, keyboards, piano, etc.; all in separate tracks.
When I play each track separately, the volume is adequate and there is no clipping/distortion.
When I add the second track and play both, the issue starts appearing: it starts clipping and the associated distortion is evident.
So the more tracks I add, the worse it gets.
Q1: What Am I doing wrong?
Q2: What setting am I missing or failing to correctly use so that this problem does not occur?

On my Windows XP machine, running Audacity 2.0.6 I recorded the piano, guitar and bass parts with no issues. The sound is beautiful and I’m very satisfied.
When I tried to mix them, the above issue occurred. I thought that it was because the first track is also recording the second one, but it seems that this is not the case.

I exported each individual track and tried to mix them on my Windows 10 machine running Audacity 2.3.0 and the same issue was observed.

Please help me!
(Sorry for the long post…)

This is normal if you don’t reduce the volume of your tracks. Mixing is done by summation… Analog mixers are actually built-around summing amplifiers.

Analog mixers and multitracking DAWs have volume sliders for each track/channel, plus a master volume control. Audacity doesn’t have a master volume control. In Audacity, each track does have a volume slider (to the left of the waveform) or you can use the [u]Mixer Board[/u].

Just for reference, 1/6th is about -15dB. You generally don’t want all of the tracks to be equal and all of the peaks won’t line-up but that gives you a ballpark idea of where you need to be with 6 tracks.

Audacity itself won’t clip internally (although you an clip your DAC while playing) and if you export as 32-bit floating-point WAV your file won’t clip. Then you can open the floating-point mix and run the Amplify or Normalize effect (to bring the level up or down) and export again to your desired format.

each track separately, the volume is adequate

As DVDdoug, above, You can record the individual performances with good volume to avoid backgrund noise and overload problems, but you can’t mix them that way. In all cases you have to keep one eye on the Audacity playback meters to make sure the summation of all the sounds doesn’t exceed the ability of the export goal to handle it.

I don’t use the default meters. I move them to the top of the display, make them much longer and change the default to -96dB (on the left).

Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 3.14.00 AM.png
No more hiding sound just slightly quieter than the -60dB default and no more hiding performance sound just slightly short of overload and clipping.

This is the only way to achieve mixing perfection if you’re doing mix-down with the volume sliders to the left of each track. Those will not show their effect on the blue waves, but only on the playback mix—which can be a little magic if you’re not ready for it…

There is a more 'round-about way to see this by Tracks > Mix > Mix and Render to a New Track. Everything you have selected will be mixed into a new track below all your instrument tracks and that should match the bouncing sound meters.

It used to be possible to move the meters off the window and into the desktop and make them larger still. I’m not sure you can still do that.


Another metering note. There are two types of meter. In General, recording is done with the graded color meters (shown). Those start changing color as your volume increases and end an angry red as you get too close to overload.

Playback is generally done with the two-tone green meters, Peak and RMS (Loudness), but this isn’t indicated in your case. It’s much more important to see overload in obvious colors. If you do manage an overload condition, the meter will hold the red value to make sure you didn’t miss it.


And yes, you’re perfectly correct, a common cause of overdubbing overload is recording the backing track along with your new performance by accident. It’s so common, that the next message over from this one, as I write this, is suffering from that exact problem.


Thank you so much guys! You are the best.

I shall study all those tips and see what happens. I’m kind of new to mixing and I know I have lots of things yet to learn.

Your response is much and really greatly appreciated :wink: