Tracks not lining up, when recorded in time with each other

I have been having this problem with almost all of my recording programs, whenever I record a track, then lay another track over it, even though it was recorded in sync with the first track, it quickly gets way off time and sounds horrible. If the tracks dont line up, the songs no good! What is the problem here, is it just audio settings on my computer that need to be changed? thanks in advance

If the tracks are out of sync by exactly the same amount throughout the track. then it is probably a latency issue, in which case you should use Audacity 1.3.x and adjust the latency compensation to eliminate the problem.

However, from your wording, I suspect that the tracks are gradually drifting as the recording progresses. If this is the case, it is almost certainly due to your sound card and the only solution is to upgrade it.

yeah, it sounds like a sound card problem then, because the songs line up at the beginning but by a minute into the song its way off. Is it possible extra latency is occuring because I am now recording through a mixer then into the computer, instead of directly into the computer. Do you have any suggestions for the right kind of sound card for high quality, multi-track recording? I don’t know very much about sound cards, and I just picked up the alesis usb mixer last week.

USB !!??? That makes it a different story.

Can I ask for some clarification here so that I’m not barking up the wrong tree.

You have your mics / instruments plugged into the USB mixer.
The Mixer is plugged into your computer with a USB lead into a USB socket in the computer.
You are not using audio out from the mixer into an audio input of your computer sound card.
You have speakers/headphones connected to your computer sound card for listening back to what you have recorded.

(Also, the mixer is new? Under guarantee?)

yeah that is exactly what im doing, i have my mixer set up for my drum set with all the microphone settings the way i want them, so they sound good before they hit the computer. Then to get the info into the computer, im using the usb port that plugs from my mixer into my computer. But when i layed the guitar track down with the drums it wasnt lining up. I went to guitar center earlier today and they said its possible that i need a better sound card, but it might just be latency. I messed with the latency functions on audacity 1.3 beta… audio to buffer: 100 milliseconds latency correction: -75. And now everything seems to be lining up. You have any extra hints/ advise for usb mixing?

Other tips…? Hmmm

To help get the latency correction correct (spot on):

Record a short click track through your mixer onto track 1 - since you play drums, “stick clicks” are good.
Now take the output from your sound card, and instead of sending it to your headphones/speakers, send it back into your mixing desk and record it onto track 2 (use the recording meters in Audacity to get the level right). You can of course just use a microphone to record the sound from your speakers, but this will be a little less accurate.

As soon as you stop the recording, track 2 will jump back a little along the time line - if your latency correction is
set to -75 milliseconds, then track 2 will jump to the left by 75 milliseconds. This is to compensate for the time it takes for the sound on track 1 to come out of your sound card + the time for the sound through your mixer to get into Audacity and written to track 2.

Now zoom in close to one of the clicks. If the latency correction is right, then the clicks on track 2 should line up with the clicks on track 1 (to within a couple of milliseconds).
If the click on track 2 comes after (later) than the click on track 1, then you need to increase the compensation.
If the click on track 2 comes before (earlier) than the click on track 1, then you need to decrease the compensation.

Example - your latency compensation is set to -75 milliseconds. The click on track 2 is 11 milliseconds after the click on track 1. Track 2 needs to be moved an additional 11 milliseconds to the left. It is already being moved 75 milliseconds to the left, but we need 11 milliseconds more, so we change the latency compensation to -86 milliseconds.

When you have got the latency compensation as close as you can, make a click track that is 3 or 4 minutes long. When you record track 1 through the mixing desk onto track 2, the clicks at the beginning we know will line up correctly - all being well, the clicks 3 minutes later will also line up correctly.

If over the course of a 3 minute recording they drift out by more than a few milliseconds, then you have problems. In reality, you will probably get away with a 10 millisecond drift, but it should be a lot closer than that.

So now your equipment is accurately synchronised, now it’s your turn. Practice playing to click tracks generated by audacity, or from a metronome. Keeping exactly in time is much harder than it looks.

When making a multi track recording, use one track as your “timing track” and play each part in time with that one track. Any drift in your timing accuracy will be relative to that one track, so when you mix it all together any minor inaccuracies should be hardly noticeable.

When you record one instrument at a time, don’t worry about getting the relative volume levels correct, you can adjust that in the mix. Always aim for a good recording level. Peaks up to about -6dB is usually as far as you should drive it. It can be tempting to try and get the recording right up close to 0dB, but then you get a little over enthusiastic and mess up the whole take with clipping half way through an otherwise flawless performance. A recording that is 18dB too quiet can easily be pushed up with no noticeable loss of quality, but a recording that is just 1dB too loud can sound horribly distorted, so leave yourself enough head room.

Hmm, anything else…
About using mixers - make sure you have a good input level (no problem with drums) - as long as you are below clipping on the inputs (channel gain/trim pot), you can use the master fader to control the level that goes to the computer.

Avoid recording too much bass from the kick drum - a bass heavy recording of a kick drum can cause you to loose all the attack and punch.

Keep the drum recording crisp and dry - once you start using compressors and limiters, any ringing and/or natural reverb will become far more pronounced.

I admire you Steve.
I have a little correction. Though I think this is not important to afewgoodmenrock at all.

I have 0 latency correction, since I never needed to make it correct.
Yet the tracks get shifted if there is some playback.
I think the shift is some combination of ‘buffer’ and ‘latency correction’, probably their sum.

I’m using Audacity 1.3.4 on Linux, and that does not happen. If latency correction is set to 0, then no correction is made (the new recorded track is not shifted). This may be different in Audacity 1.3.5 as I understand that they have made some changes to the latency correction, but I have not tried it so at present I can not say.