Food is just like music, we enjoy its medley of flavors but forget the skills that were put together to come up with such taste. The same thing is true with the music we hear on the radio. We just listen to it without realizing all the efforts exerted to come up with such finish product. Though it is true that the credit often goes to the singers and musicians, the engineering side of its recording process is often neglected.
Before 1850, singing is indeed a tough career. For a song to be perfectly recorded, singers and musicians must perform their part well to perfect the piece. Any mistake committed (either by the musician or singer) will require all to start the recording all over again.
But things changed when Les Paul experimented on the recording. He tried recording himself to make it possible to play several parts of one song. He succeeded in convincing Ampex (a recording company) to create a 3 track recorder. This gave birth to the first multitrack recorder that plays various channels or tracks of sound to record and make playback synchronously. Ultimately, he can record vocals and guitar on separate tracks allowing him to edit a single track without the need to delete the other. Since then, multitrack recording evolved in the recording industry.
In 1960, the 4 track recorder was used. This was innovated by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and producer Phil Spector. They exhausted the use of multiple tracks features and tried them with their created fresh sounds. John Lennon from the Beatles even merged together different versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever” song and George Martin (the producer) came up with a final product using two 4-track recordings. Soon, the 8-track recorders were used as the industry standard.
In 1990, recording became digital as it evolved from an analog tape recording. But this only made multitrack process even more sophisticated. Today, a 24-track recorder is used as a standard in the music industry. However, this technology is often linked together to create 48 or even 72 tracks when needed.
How it works
According to a recording engineer; Bruce Barlett, a multitrack recording process will rely on the types of equipment and machines available in a certain music studio. But in a typical setup, you need to decide which voice or instrument will be recorded to what track. You will need to setup the telephone to its corresponding instruments and plug several mics to the mixing consoles. Mixing consoles are mixers that allows an engineer to control the audio and different audio signals of different volume levels. However, there is no need to perfect the levels by this stage. You just need to tweak things to create the best tonal qualities and sounds when you do the mixdown phase later. The mixing console, on the other hand, is attached to the multitrack recorder, sending various microphone signals to the correct track to be recorded. Recorder mixers can also be used where 2 machines are combined into one. You can also use the digital audio workstation which employs a software which makes the recording, editing and mixing music. Different mixers can also be employed by connecting them to a computer. However, take note that computers have the tendency to crash recorders.
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