I have a 4 track cassette recorder that I have used for years with Audacity. I mix/master the four tracks of music from the cassette recorder into Audacity using a stereo track. I usually apply one or a few effects which go on all four tracks because they are recorded into audacity and mixed to one stereo track. I mix/pan the tracks using the features on my four track device.

My question is…can I record at least one of the tracks into audacity on a separate track to apply effects to only that track and not the other three? So say I have drums, bass and keyboards into one stereo track in audacity with a reverb effect and then separate the fourth one with vocals for a flanger effect…can audacity do that?

Thank you

John Paul

The short answer is no. Audacity has no good ways to separate individual voices, instruments, or sounds in a mixed performance. You would need to be able to capture the four track tape in four tracks. There are interfaces which can do that, but it’s not easy or fun.

Marketing gets their hands in the pie to complicate things. Many multi-track devices default to capturing the first two sound channels as stereo. If you know the right spells and incantations, you can force the system to record everything in multi-track. Why did they do that? So the interface does something straight out of the box and you don’t send it back. It acts like you did something wrong and your natural reaction is start making phone calls and forum posts.

Marketing isn’t stupid.

We’ll see what others think.


My guess is you can’t back up and capture the missing track by itself because of tape problems. Tape wow, flutter, and other mechanical errors will prevent your split track from ever matching the stereo track.

Guaranteed the two background noises aren’t going to match.

It’s worth a try, though. You’re listening for instruments that sound a little like performing in a wine glass or milk jug. Or possibly moving or “wishing” stereo noise.


Ideally you would use a sound card (audio interface) that supports simultaneous recording of 4 separate channels. Failing that, you could try recording tracks 1 and 2 as a stereo track, then tracks 3 and 4 as another stereo track, then see if you can line the two tracks up to be synchronised. If the tracks are not too long and the playback speed is sufficiently steady, it should be possible (though a bit fiddly) to line them up close enough.

Once they are lined up, you can split the stereo tracks to mono (Splitting and Joining Stereo Tracks - Audacity Manual) and pan each track as you want.

Thank you!! I think I figured it out a fix by using an additional mixer with an FX box. I have tried synching up tracks in the past but they would not line up no matter how.

The other problem I have now (at which I had before) is when I connect my 4 track machine to use in audacity and try to pan the sounds either left or right, the panning knobs act as a volume control. Anotherwords when I pan everything to the right, it goes in the right speaker and when I pan to the left, the sound disappears.

last time this happened, it was something in the computer set to one channel and not two. I can’t find where this time. I know nothing is wrong with the cable or the device because I tested that…

Thanks again…

John Paul