From Audacity Manual

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To record:
  • Set the Recording Device,
  • monitor and then adjust the recording level,
  • then press the red Record Record button button.

    Correct adjustment of level before recording is essential to avoid noise or distortion.

  1. Set the Recording Device either in the Devices section of Preferences or in Device Toolbar.
  2. Click in the Recording Meter to start monitoring as in the following image:
    Recording Toolbar in use.png
  3. Singing or playing the loudest part of what you are recording, adjust the recording level using the right-hand slider on Mixer Toolbar:
    so that the moving Meter Toolbar bars do not get too close to the right-hand edge of the meter.
  4. Optionally, turn on Transport > Software Playthrough (on/off) (so it has a check mark) to hear what the recording will sound like.
    Warning icon Don't enable Software Playthrough when recording computer playback because it creates echoes. To hear what a recording of computer playback will sound like, make a test recording to check the level before recording for real.
  5. Press the red Record Record button button to record for real.
  6. Audacity will record until you stop the recording using the yellow Stop Stop button button.
To record a specific length of time:
  1. Use Tracks > Add New to create a new track if there are no tracks yet
  2. Drag-select a region in an existing track or choose the selection to be recorded in Selection Toolbar
  3. Ensure Transport > Overdub (on/off) is enabled (on) which is its default setting, then press Record Record button to record in a new track.
Alternatively, try Timer Record.

More help at:

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