recording problems

dear readers,
first post, so try not to be too critical, also im no recording or audio engineering pro, im sure this problems been addressed at one point or another so please bear with me.

i’ve been an active musician for many years, however recently ive been wanting to record some of my own music. Nothing too complex, just something that sounds somewhat decent to record and listen to in my spare time. im running a laptop with windows vista and my signal chains i’ve tried are as follows

(guitar has a lot of distortion as i play somewhat heavier music, ive tried turning the gain down, many different eq’s so dont ask) :wink:
1.preamp out on amp to mic in on laptop.
results in a flat sounding recording which records decent enough for a couple seconds until the gain seems to go down and the recording gets slightly quieter.
2.mic’d cab to mixer to mic in on comp.
might just be the mixer which is really old but when i record like this it tends to have a tremolo effect on the guitar which is not a good thing.
3.preamp to comp with verb in fx loop.
this was just out of desperation to try to get a less flat sound and to make it sound like the sound waves have gone through air instead of going through a bit of cable.

-electronic drums:
1.headphone out to mixer to comp and headphone out directly to comp.
both yielded horrible results with the same characteristics of #1 on guitar methods(noise and distortion decay)
1.line out to mic in

my mixer is a 16 channel peavey analog mixer, it has a tape out, headphone out, monitor a and b to monitor in stereo and a line out a and b also to be used in stereo, and no usb out, i know its not the best but it was free so who cares?

that being said, and im sure that was a lot to say, is there any way to get a better tone or at least a halfway decent tone because this is really starting to frustrate me. :unamused:
i know an audio interface or mixer that connects via usb would be a great fix that will bypass all this but its not in the cards because budget is a definate issue.
is my stock soundcard not good enough to record?
am i just not doing anything right?
do i just not understand the fundamentals or recording audio?
what is the problem
can anyone help me?

p.s. i’ve even tried using my stereo, using the monitor out to hear what im playing on another amp and using the mixers tape out or seperate line out to the stereo with a 1/8" to 1/8" cable from headphone out to comp, and i’ve even tried plugging the mixer into my stereos tape in and recording it to cassette and transferring the recorded cassette to my computer via audacity. the stereo is virtually a pseudo preamp in my case, not to much advantage, however is there a way i can get this to work as so… :confused:

Look for “AGC” / “Auto Volume” / “Echo Cancelling,” in microphone properties and disable as they could be responsible for the drops in volume occurring after a “couple of seconds”…

first off amp out to mike in is asking for big problems
even if you can tweak the gain down to almost nothing
you risk distortion and perhaps if it is not stable you could get the change in levels you noted

you really need an external audio interface that provides line in along with some gain control

search this site for reviews of interfaces
only certain ones work with audacity because of driver and or software legal problems

Regarding the “fading” after a couple of seconds, it is almost certainly as described by Trebor.

Most of the problems that you describe are because of your sound card. On-board microphone inputs on PC’s are really just made for telephone quality.
My preferred method for recording bass/guitar would be to mic up the cab, > microphone into mixing desk, > mixing desk into Behringer UCA202 USB sound card (around $25 US), > UCA202 to laptop USB port.

You can of course go better sound quality (at a higher price) than the UCA202, but the UCA202 will give you a huge improvement in sound quality over using the mic input of your laptop at a very low price. (I have a UCA202 and use it regularly - great value for money).

awesome, thats really a life saver. im ordering one as soon as possible.
good looking out.