Multi-Track Recording - The Basics of Multitrack Recording

Building a home recording studio. How to record at home.

Setting up your home recording studio for a fraction of the cost.

A series of Articles on Basic Home Recording

Permission to reprint / edit has been granted. Please note: Some of the articles printed here are an abridged version of the articles Jim presented to the Sharesong songwriters group.

Part 3 - Standalone Recorders
Part 4 - Intro to PC Recording
Part 5a - Audio software - freeware / shareware
Part 6 - Introduction to Multitrack Recording
Part 7 - Audio Recording Software
Part 8 - Sound cards - Input Basics
Part 9 - Microphone Inline Preamps
Part 10 - Microphone Essentials
Part 11 - How To Choose a Microphone

Part 6 - Introduction to Multitrack Recording

If you are new to recording you may have found the 2Channel stereo recording of the last installment very lacking in flexibility. It is possible and actually likely that some may have found it adequate for what they are recording. In all honesty I do a lot of 2 channel recording in a simple .wav editor, but when I am wanting to work on a song, ie arrangements, different instrument sounds etc, I use multitracking.

Multitrack simply is as the word describes multiple tracks. In stereo recording you have 2 channels, left and right. So what if you could take those 2 channels and make those useable as 2 inputs, the left channel being input named L and the right channel being a second input named R? Well then a 2 channel stereo recording could be made 2 track if you can record the
left channel as 1 input, play it back (monitoring) so you can then record over it on the right channel with the right input giving 2 independent tracks to record with. Practically lets say you record your guitar on 1 channel called track 1 and your vocal on the right, track 2.

If you followed the example above with the guitar being 1 track and the vocal being number 2 you will notice upon playback each track will have its own speaker, you could change the 2 tracks to mono as most programs allow for stereo-to-mono conversion, but what if the guitar is louder that the vocals or vise-versa? Then the next tool in multitrack recording is the mixer.

The mixer is a part of that process allowing you to mix the levels of each track for either a "mixdown" or to apply to the stereo-to-mono conversion. It can be a mixer that resembles a real mixer or it can be as simple as a left to right slider. If your program supports 2 independent track recording it should also have the ability to mix the 2 mono tracks.

You may have also notice or assumed the guitar and vocal lack dynamics or sound to harsh. You can also add effects to each. track. Lets say the guitar sounds like you are playing in a tin can, you can apply an EQ effect to the track and increase the bass frequencies. Perhaps the vocals sound too in your face you can apply a reverb effect to your vocals to add some space to allow the vocal to "sit in the mix".

So you can see there is great flexibility to really make your recording sound good. With the right tools and education you can actually make your recording sound very professional.

In the next installment we will look at software and I will post some links to some free software and demo software. This is where we roll up our sleeves and have some real fun. I find you can read about it all day long, but playing with it that is the best learning. I will post some raw tracks that can be used in any program you choose to use. By the way what we are about to do will also apply to online collaborations, which hopefully we will do a few to really put it all to work. We will also begin looking a bit at technique and little details that separate a poor recording from a good one.

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