recording multiple tracks

Hi all,

Im pretty new to using audacity and i thought i was doing well but then things started going weird. I have two main problems which are pretty similar.

  1. how many tracks can audacity record? I was recording an original song (i usually do this on my 4 track but get sick of bouncing tracks). I recorded 8 tracks no worries but then the 9th track started jumping all over the place. ie i would sing along to a rhythm guitar (i am in time) but when i listen to it back the vocal would start in the right place but then about thirty seconds in would jump and the vocal would then be way out of time with the music.

  2. if it wasnt doing the above thing it was not even staring the vocal in the right place to start with, ie i would be singing along to a guitar track (yes i can sing in time) but when i listened to it back the vocal started at a completely different time to what i did when i sang it live. i know you can move the track left and right but its pretty hard to get things exactly where they should be.

any suggestions

You’ve reached the limit of what your computer can play and record at the same time.

What kind of computer, OS, RAM, sound card do you have? How well does the computer run in general?

The other thing we should know is; is your hard drive nearly full? Have you defragmented it recently (this often helps)? Also, what speed is it (5400 or 7200 RPM)?

A quick fix that might help is to minimize Audacity while it’s recording so it doesn’t have to redraw the screen. But this will only help a small amount and might get you 1 or 2 more tracks to work with at once.

I think your right,

I am using an ok computer (just bought from a computer shop A&R) which has minimal other programs on it and has a bout 50 GB of free space still (& i defraged about 1 week ago). I am only using the inbuilt sound card though.

I will try to minimise the window and see how i go.

If i record tracks which will be mixed centrally and not panned L or R in mono not stereo will that give me any more room for more tracks??

thanks for your reply


Are you recording all your tracks in stereo or mono?

It’s best to record any non-stereo instruments (most of them) to a mono track. Stereo tracks take twice as much computing power to generate / edit.

I don’t know how much difference the sound card makes. I think Audacity does all the computations for mixing using the processor and doesn’t tax the sound card to mix tracks. But I’m not sure about that.

Were you playing all eight while recording the ninth? You should be able to mute a few of those while recording, and I assume this will lighten the load on the CPU.

“Bounce” would be a great feature for Audacity, by the way. It has “Mix and Render”, but that feature automatically deletes all the other tracks, including the label track! Muting the other tracks would be OK, but deleting them is just the wrong thing to do.

Mr. Bill,

I don’t think muting any extra tracks will help, Audacity will still need to read all of that data from the hard drive in case the track is unmuted during playback or recording. The only way to free up resources is to reduce the number of tracks.

Also, you can get around not having a bounce by copying the newly mixed track, then using the Undo feature, then pasting the mixed track back into the project. It’s annoying, but it works.

Not sure i understand this, are you saying to copy a track into another project to reduce the load while recording other tracks then paste it back in when everything else is done?

ie if i record drums and a couple of guitars can i cut out say the drums and one guitar and temporarily put them in another project, then record a bass over just the one guitar track that is left in the original project, then when that is done, paste back the guitar and drums back into the original project.

hope that makes sense

thanks for all your input Alathan

It’s still odd to me that you’re limited to 8 tracks, that seems quite small. I used to record with a 800 MHz Pentium 3 and I was able to do at least 15 - 20 tracks at once. Admittedly I had a nicer sound card, but I’m not convinced that actually makes a difference. If you have any virus checkers running or any other software running all the time I suggest you disable it while recording. Unplugging the Network cable isn’t a bad idea either. You should give Audacity all the access to your hard drive it can possibly have, it reads/writes a lot more than most other programs.

That said, you certainly could export some of the tracks you don’t need to listen to while recording temporarily.

In order to do that,

  1. Write down and reset the volume and panning settings on the track you want to remove temporarily. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s a good idea.

  2. highlight the track and click Project → Quick Mix (or Tracks → Mix and Render in 1.3.3). This will make a new track that has a bunch of silence at the beginning until the track would normally have started. This adds more data overall, but it makes it much easier to line up later on (trust me on this).

  3. Now, export that track to somewhere safe and then remove it from the project. At this point, if you don’t mind losing all your Undo steps you can save the project and then close and re-open Audacity (remember Audacity has unlimited Undo, but only until you close the program).

  4. Do steps 1 - 3 with all the tracks you don’t need to listen to. Now you can go ahead and record several more tracks.

  5. When you need to mix the whole thing, import each of those tracks you took out earlier and reset the volume and panning settings. This is easy since you wrote down the settings before and you exported all the tracks with silence tacked onto the front of each track so they all line up nicely. Hopefully you can still listen to the thing with that many tracks.

I also have an 800 Mhz pentium and i never had this problem of overloading the computer.
i can’t remember exactly but i definately had more than 10 tracks rolling at the same time…
but it’s not just what computer you have it’s what you have on it - if there’s too much software/media on it,
or maybe even a virus, that can really put a load on the computer and reduce it’s performance.
Johnny from guitars101

Ironic that someone should reply to this oldish post of mine 2 days before my computer shat itslelf :astonished: . The computer repair man said that the parts that connect to my hard drive were faulty so im hoping that this is the cause of my inability to record many tracks before sync issues occurr, i will see when my computer is returned, im just glad the hard drive hadnt died :neutral_face: .

while im here, is there such a thing as anti latency, my computer had started recording tracks that didnt slow down but started getting ahead of the rest of the tracks. as the increase in speed was gradual there was no way to line up tracks as the speed was always different. very annoying. any way around this problem? (if my repaired computer still does the same)

Aha,just new too…Glad to see it!Thank you !

while im here, is there such a thing as anti latency, my computer had started recording tracks that didnt slow down but started getting ahead of the rest of the tracks. as the increase in speed was gradual there was no way to line up tracks as the speed was always different. very annoying. any way around this problem? (if my repaired computer still does the same)

This is not a latency problem, but it’s hard to say exactly what causes this behavior. It’s not common, but we do hear about this issue from time to time.

The best I can figure (and the jury is still out) is that it’s an issue with your sound card hardware. If the clock signal for the input and output stages doesn’t exactly line up, then you’ll get tracks that drift in and out of time as they’re being recorded. There are other theories about the cause, but in every case that I’ve heard the problem went away if the user bought a new sound card or audio interface.

On the other hand, I haven’t been around on this board as often as I used to, so if there’s a definitive answer out there for this issue I’d like to know please.

Is it solved already?:
I am just doing little research on gradual out of sync problems,
seems we both should try recording at 48000.
Make sure you do recording and playback on the same soundcard.
(some links here: ).

I think so,
most of the problems i had i think can be attributed to the sound card.
I purchased the behringer UCA 202 as a cheap replacement and so far i have not had any major latency or “anti latency” problems but i havent had a lot of time to play with audacity lately (Having a baby will do that :smiley: ).

For the record i’m not that keen on the UCA 202. It would be great if all i was doing was converting tapes to digital formats or doing stuff that requires single track recording and small projects, but for multitrack recording its not the best thing on the market (but it does do the job and the price no one can argue about)


I was actually experiencing the same problem you mentioned in your post. When i was recording the 30th layer in audacity, the music wont play properly. It did think of a solution but i need all of your advice…

I was thinking of exporting the file as WAV, and then reimport the WAV into audacity again to do another few layers, and then you repeat this process over and over again until you are done. But, i am not sure if this will affect the quality when you playback. Could someone give me some tips on this matter please?

Your computer is reaching its limit (if it’s a fairly powerful computer, it’s probably disk access speed).

Save your project as “backup.aup” (just in case you need to go back to this point)
Then save your project again as “new_name.aup”

Select some of the tracks that you are absolutely sure do not need any individual edition and from the tracks menu (Audacity 1.3.x) select “Mix and Render”. This will mix the selected tracks down into a single (mono or stereo) track.

This is the equivalent of “bouncing tracks” on a multi-track tape machine, except, being digital, does not suffer the same quality loss that you get with tape.

You have now reduced your number of tracks, and so long as you still have plenty of free disk space (check this from time to time) you can continue adding new tracks.

Hey, I know this topic is really old, but I am having the same problems with tracks not lining up
even though I am playing in time. However, this problem happens to me when recording only 2
tracks. I record one, and then when I record the second, it lags. For example, I record a drum
machine set to a tempo of 120 and then I record a guitar riff to it and it is good for about 5
seconds then it starts to lag. To make sure that it wasn’t just bad timing on my part, I started
over and recorded the drum beat and then opened another track and recorded the same drum
beat (both using a drum machine set to a tempo of 120) and the second one lagged. I am extremely
frustrated because I love recording but I can’t get it to work. I even tried downloading other recording
programs and I have the same problem. What should I do??



It sounds very much like the problem is with your sound card AvenueK.

My guess is that you are using either on-board sound, or a faulty sound card. If it plays back at a different speed to the recording speed, or the speed varies over time, then the problem is caused by the sound cards clock (timing) chip being too inaccurate. If that is the case, then the only solution is to upgrade the sound card.