Least expensive way to record 2-tracks at once

Newbie alert!

My goal: To record me and my acoustic guitar. Guitar on one track and vocals on a second track - at the same time.

I would like to get the correct hardware and start experimenting.

I already have multiple mics and a little 8-channel Behringer mixer/preamp. I have a nice powerful laptop with lots of RAM and Harddrive space, BUT it has a generic soundcard built-in. I imagine I need a different (external) soundcard?

What soundcard would do this? (in preferably the least expensive way?)

Thanks in advance for your advice. I look forward to posting some tunes soon!


The input on your laptop’s soudcard is probably a stereo input, which means that you’ve already got two seperate inputs! You’ll need a Y-adaptor with 1/8" stereo plug on one end and the other end split to two (RCA, 1/4",) whatever the ouput of your mixer is.

In n-track, on the record VU meter, click the little hammer icon and select “two mono tracks” or whatever it says.

plug your mic and guitar into you mixer, pan the channels completely opposite of each other, and start recording – if I haven’t lead you astray, at this point you will be recording two seperate tracks.

However… I wouldnt’ expect great sounding results from the laptops input… You’ll probably have better luck with an external card.



John’s hit it dead on… You can do what you want to do with what you have plus a Y cable. But the quality will suffer. Onboard sound cards are too near the motherboard and pick up a lot of interference (lots of electricity zipping around).

As you get better at recording and your expections go up, you’ll want to consider a firewire sound card.


well don, or mak, which is it? lol

anyway, just a few things to keep in mind, and I’m speaking from my limited laptop recording experience.
John made a pretty on suggestion with the panning.
However you have to keep in mind that you might get bleed from the guitar (since it’s aoustic) into the mono vocal track. Wich may be toublesome if your gonna add effects too it later.–compression being one of the more popular. When it’s compressed even slighlty the guitar bleed will get even more pronounced.
Now if was an electric guitar, different ballgame, the bleed over would naturally be mostly gone since you could directly plug it into the mixer.
Now there are cheap interphases out there (most run on USB) that could give you two stereo tracks IE Moto ect.( I think Madio make’s them along with many other more expensive companies.about $99 us.
You would still need some way to isolate the two sounds. Even with the interphase box there’s a chance of bleed from each intrument Voice/guitar, but the resulting tracks would be stereo, not mono. Some people can’t tell the difference but trust me there is one. Especially when it comes to guitar. There’s just no effect or quick fix to make a track real stereo. With your setup you’d almost have to record the guitar track twice, moving the mic around for each one till you get a good stereo image.
I’m shure it would be good enough to record a couple demos but if you want better quality and more options you’d need to either find a way to isolate or sheild the vocal mic from picking up the guitar/ and visa versa.
It’s either that or learn to play the two parts seperatly along with a click track or something.
I know what you mean though, it’s just more natural to sing and play at the same time. If you had a acustic that had a built in mic, you could avoid the vocal bleed, and just play the song. You’d probably just have to go back and re-record the vocal track to have a clean track to add any FX.

Good luck


Yes, all the things above are good advice. I started exactly the same set up, except no laptop. Mic’ed my acoustic and a mic for vocals. Panned one right the other left on my Berry mixer. RCA outs to the 1/8 line in to the PC, got 2 tracks. However, the BLEED was horrible. Once you start putting effects on either track it just doesn’t work with the other track. You’ll always hear vocals on the guitar track and guitar on the vocal track.

I thought I couldn’t play a song without singing or sing without playing, but over the year I have gotten used to recording my guitar track (s) first, then the vocal track separately. I find my guitar playing is not as expressive without my singing, so I try to sing with zero volume (if that makes sense) while I play. Occasionally a little vocal comes out and it gets picked up on the guitar track, but it is infrequent.

Good luck.

Cool everyone. Thanks for the input. I’ll report back with some tracks soon!

Don Mak

Personally, i’d rather here a fair-quality rendering of a live performance where there’s energy and feeling in the performance than a studio-quality song that’s obviously been layered and lacks energy.

Studio musicians get work because they’ve proved they can put life in a studio track. It’s nice when you can get both life and quality.

But if i have to choose one, i choose life.

Just a thought…


Quote (teej813 @ Mar. 29 2005,19:50)
Personally, i'd rather here a fair-quality rendering of a live performance...

That's assuming that we have the ability to get through an entire track without missing a guitar lick and singing on pitch at the same time... heh. Not me. :D

Here's what I do:
1 -make guide tracks - sing and play the song
2 - re-do the guitar track using first tracks as a guide
3 - re-do the vocals to the new (clean) guitar track
4 - Viola. :;):
Here's what I do:
1 -make guide tracks - sing and play the song
2 - re-do the guitar track using first tracks as a guide
3 - re-do the vocals to the new (clean) guitar track
4 - Viola

You add a viola to your mixes ?


:p :p :cool: :O :O

Yeah, but everyone knows that violins isn’t always the answer …


haha… I’ve heard JB’s music, and i don’t recall a violin anywhere! :cool:

And yes, of course there are exceptions. But Bob Dylan, for example, isn’t one of them. I can deal with the vocal slurs and imperfections of the performance because of the magic that happens when he sings and plays.

Early Beatles come to mind as well. If you really listen to some of those older cuts, the harmonies (especially) are horrible. But the energy and power of the performance hides the flaws.

i dunno… not trying to discourage anyone from learning how to layer their songs. I’m just trying to impress on some of the newer folks that recording/mixing technique is only a small part of producing a hit.

It’s the song, dangit! Write a good song, sing and play it with all your heart, and when you’re 60 playing it for your grandkids, they’ll snicker and make fun of you behind your back.




Quote (teej813 @ Mar. 30 2005,06:15)
haha... I've heard JB's music, and i don't recall a violin anywhere! :cool:

Listen again.

Track 14 - "Sleep"

Violin played by this wonderful lady:

Quote (Wihan Stemmet @ Mar. 30 2005,04:56)
Yeah, but everyone knows that violins isn't always the answer ...

I much prefer sax to violins.

*bigger groan*
I much prefer sax to violins.

Bwahahahahahaha !

LoL !

That lady's got talent. I'm pretty sure she's good on the violin as well ?

And then I'll bet she's got a lovely personality as well.

ooooooo… yeah, i forgot, JB. My appologies to the talented and pretty lady. :)


What would a movie be without sax and violins? Rated G of course. :)

I don’t know why, but during “music time” when I was a kid in elementary school, the girls would always slap me when I asked if I could ring their triangle with my rhythm stick. Took me by surprise, as I didn’t think they’d know what I meant until at least middle school!

Tony :p

Note that your soundcard’s LINE input is probably stereo, but the MIKE input probably isn’t.

Line inputs on built-in soundcards are usually good enough to make great recordings. Mike inputs on the same cards usually are not. Avoid the mike input if you can (and since you have a mixer, you don’t need it or want it anyway unless it’s the only jack it has).

If your computer only has a mike input, then get a soundcard. You can do great with something as simple as a SoundBlaster Live card.

Have fun recording. You’ll find there are limitations to recording both vocals and guitar at the same time. You’ll also find that it takes a lot of practice and new skills to record them separately.

I highly, highly recommend that you develop the skills to be able to do them separately, using a click track. The skills you will learn will translate directly to your live playing and improve your performance there as well.

It’s not an either-or situation. You can and should use both methods, and learn as you go which works best for a given tune or musician. However, as you get better at the one-track-at-a-time method, you’ll find that you have a lot more flexibility and capability to make great recordings.

Teej, for folks who can’t make a good, lively recording one-track-at-a-time … well … too bad for them! Method is no excuse for results.