Recording : Mono or Stereo

Hi guys,

I’m a singer/songwriter and my main use of Audacity is recording one or two tracks of guitar and my lead vocals above it, with a focusrite 2i4 audio interface.

But I’m wondering wether I should record in mono or stereo ?

Recording in stereo sounds like it’s gonna give a beter quality, but I read that to be actual stereo it needs to be recorded by several mics instead of one.

Plus when I record in stereo, a tracks is playing in only one side of the headphone, so I’ve got to turn it to Mono in order to make it sound as equally in both side of the headphone. So recording in stereo feels like a useless extra step, I could record in mono in the first place and not have to change it.

So my second question is the following : is there any other way to have a track play in both side of the headphones apart from changing it to mono ?

Thanks in advance (by the way I’m French, so sorry if there is any English mistakes :wink: )

You should check if the Focusrite will allow you to record in mono. Some devices will not. I have two USB devices. One will allow me to record either Stereo or Mono. It doesn’t care. The other will vanish if I choose the wrong one.

Devices such as the 2i4 are not mixers. You can’t assign a microphone to either right, left or mono unless special software allows that. Most don’t. We recommend using the manufacturer’s driver software for your Windows version rather than relying on Windows drivers.

Even if you do have two microphones, recording a single vocal or instrument is not recommended. If the performer moves at all left to right, the voice may sound very strange if the listener is on headphones. Your head keeps wanting to follow the singer left to right as they move.

There are exceptions. Recording an instrument that does not move like a pipe organ or calliope can be good in stereo because the surrounding room or environment is part of the show.

So yes, configure your 2i4 for mono. Many production problems go away if you do that.


but I read that to be actual stereo it needs to be recorded by several mics instead of one.

Normal stereo would be recorded with two mics, one pointed at the left side of the stage, the other at the right, with centered sounds picked-up by both mics and recorded equally in both channels.

Or, you could plug your electric guitar into the left input and record your voice on the right, but that wouldn’t sound natural.

With modern studio recordings, virtually everything is recorded on a separate “mono” track. (Often drums will be recorded with several mics, all on different tracks.) Many different instruments & vocals can be multitrack-recorded simultaneously, or the various tracks can be recorded at different times. (Vocals are often recorded last.)

Then when the recording is mixed, each instrument is panned left-to-right across the virtual soundstage in a realistic way, with lead vocals and lead instruments centered. (The bass guitar and kick drum also are usually centered.)

In your case, you’ll probably what to center the vocals. Then you can pan one guitar track left (or mostly left) and another guitar track right (or mostly right). If there is only one guitar part, it’s quite common to double-track the guitar parts (play & record twice, or more, and mix.)

focusrite 2i4

If you record in mono using only one input, you may find that your levels are limited to -6dB (0.5 or 50%) before clipping (distorting) because it’s “leaving room” for the unused channel. Don’t worry if that happens, because you can boost the levels after recording.

Ok, thanks a lot guys. I’ll try using the mono instead.