Recording Music Using Audacity Part II

Last week in Part I of this article series we discussed getting started using Audacity - how to go about downloading it as well as the hardware, equipment, and interfaces you may need to get the best recording. This week we'll discuss the program's settings in order to be ready to start recording some tracks!!

Audacity Settings

Open up the Audacity program and look at the top of the page as shown below.

We see the microphone/ USB Input Device setting up here. Sometimes the default setting is OK for the 1/8 microphone jack, other times you need to change this by clicking on the drop down list box arrow as shown below.

An important tip is some computers have a back and a front 1/8 jack, so again you may have to switch/toggle this setting to the correct jack. Also to note, you may have a different name for your microphone jack then another person. It all depends on the hardware driver that is installed in regards to name translation of that jack in Windows and in a lesser extent, Linux.

Also, if you are using a USB Audio Interface Cable or USB Audio Interface box, you may have more than one USB setting here. If we look at the picture below, this is what I am showing when I have the Behringer UMC22 USB Audio Interface attached, note the 3-USB Audio CODEC driver that I selected:

If you are recording your voice with a microphone, or an acoustic electric guitar or maybe even miking an electric guitar amplifier you may not need real time monitoring of the audio. Also if you are using a USB Audio Interface box there is usually a headphone jack for monitoring the audio signal before it goes out to the computer, which eliminates any sort of latency, which we will be going over later here in this article.

If you have an instrument like a synthesizer or another instrument that you need Audacity to provide real time sound as you are playing, then you need to follow the next few steps. If you still don’t need real time monitoring, please make sure at least the “Overdub” box is checked, as shown in the steps below:

Next, hover your mouse over this part of the toolbar, you may see this yellow pop up box as you see above. Click on your left mouse button on the highlighted input level meter to activate monitoring. If you cannot hear what notes you are playing out of the speaker, try the next step and redo this part that we just tried.

On the top of the toolbar, click on “Edit” and then on the dropdown menu on “Preferences”.

If the boxes circled in red above are “not” checked, check them, this will allow Overdub (even if you do not need real time audio monitoring, you will still need these settings checked off) and more importantly software playback when recording.

After doing like we saw in the previous step, left mouse click on the input level meter to activate monitoring. When you play your instrument or microphone, you should hear the notes you are playing out of your computer speaker. If those notes that you are playing sound like they are delayed that is called latency, and that will happen if you are using a 1/8 microphone jack or USB Audio device.

Drivers, computer hardware, even cables can cause latency. To lessen this, if you have a USB Audio Device with a headphone jack, use that instead of the monitoring function of Audacity as listening to the headphone jack on the USB audio interface box will allow you to monitor the sound from that device. If you are using a 1/8 microphone jack on the computer itself, you can try the following steps.

Again, on the top of the toolbar, click on “Edit” and then on the dropdown menu on “Preferences”.

You will remember that we made sure that the boxes (Overdub and Software Playthrough) were checked in regards to active monitoring. Now for latency issues when listening to the live monitoring, you may be able to make the latency a bit better by changing the audio buffer to 2 milliseconds and latency to a negative number. These settings may be different then what your computer needs. You have to experiment here for the best results. Also don't close out the box yet with the “OK” button. Let’s go to the left hand side and select “Quality”.

The Quality preferences are in regards to the various sample rates of your recording. The smaller the hertz (Hz) the more improvement in the sound of notes in real time, but the less quality of sound you will be recording.

Next week in Part III of this article series we'll dive into finally recording tracks!! Thanks so much and let any questions you may have in the comments section below!!

-Thomas Rawding - MU Columnist

*Thomas Rawding (AKA: Mr.Tom) is an multi-instrumentalist, singer and a registered songwriter currently under BMI, Inc. He has been playing and recording music for more than 20 years and continues to write and record songs in South Carolina, for both retail sale and commercial licensing.

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