Tutorial – Recording Multi-track Overdubs

This set of tutorials describes known, good, working methods of creating a multiple sound track overdubbing session in Audacity. That is, you record one track and then play it and add a second track against it — drums, guitar, voice; repeat as needed. You will be able to hear a mix of your live recording and the previous tracks simultaneously in your headphones (also required).

Generally, purpose-built hardware is needed to hear your live recording without unacceptable playthrough latency – without that hardware you will hear what you are recording too late. Failing that, a method for overdubbing using your computer’s on-board sound card is given too.

Overdubbing with specialist hardware

These sub-tutorials explain the creation of multi-track overdubs using three different specialist hardware configurations.

  • A USB microphone pre-amp with one XLR microphone input and a mini-jack headphone socket.
Tutorial – Overdubbing with a Shure® X2U Microphone Amplifier-USB Adapter
  • A stereo, line level, USB external sound card (2-channel USB/Audio Interface).
Tutorial – Overdubbing with a Behringer® UCA202 Stereo bidirectional USB Sound Card
  • A USB microphone.
Tutorial – Overdubbing with a Samson® G-Track USB Microphone

All three have been hands-on tested. They can be made to work on Linux®, Mac®, and Windows®.

Overdubbing using your computer’s on-board sound card

You may also try overdubbing using your computer’s on-board sound card. Note that standard sound cards supplied with the computer often are not very good, the main problem being that the microphone input can be noisy.

On Windows or Linux, you can try unmuting your input in the playback side of the system mixer. This will give you low latency hardware playthrough of what you are recording. Older Windows XP systems quite often have this feature.

On all operating systems, you can try Transport > Software Playthrough (on/off) in Audacity instead, but this will always mean you hear yourself late and could cause audio breakup.

  • The following tutorial is designed to help if your equipment does not have hardware playthrough and software playthrough is not an option. You may not be able to hear yourself during the recording.
Tutorial – Overdubbing using your computer’s on-board sound card
  • To achieve lower latency software playthrough on Windows you can:
    • (Only gives somewhat lower latency): On Windows Vista and 7, right-click over the Speaker icon by the clock, choose Recording Devices, right-click over the input, choose Properties then on the “Listen” tab, enable “Listen to this device”.
    • (Advanced) Compile Audacity with ASIO® true low latency support. Ask on the Compiling Audacity board of the Forum if you need help.