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OK - how do you do it? As this is my game here are my rules: 8 tracks of analog; rock band; DAT machine; decent mixing board with, say 16 channels; a handful of decent mics & pres and such (though I care less about specific gear and more about dealing with only 8 tracks).

Do you get mono drums, and if so do you go with multiple tracks then bounce, or do you set levels and track a bunch of mics to one channel?

Do you record 6 tracks, bounce to 2, then fill the original six (for 12 tracks); or maybe mix 8 tracks to DAT, bring it back onto 2 tracks and fill up the rest (for 14)?

Or maybe you just work with 8.

Whatever your preference, please elucidate.


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anonymous Wed, 03/13/2002 - 06:42

So many varibles come into the decision.
All the methods you reported are valid.
Too many factors such as method (layering the band as opposed to a live snapshot), arrangement of the music, amount of vocals and other overdubs ect ect.
More input and information is needed for a more heplful response, BUT it is a 'got to be there' situation that assess the best way to approach the recording method.

With that said... mono drums are fine, sometimes much punchier than stereo, mono bass, and mono guitar. Lead Vocal. 4 tracks down 4 left. Are there Backing Vocals? Any doubleing? From this point on there are many directions to go depending on the above mentioned factors. I would say that if you are not an experienced mixer, leave as many options open for you for the final mix.

Bob Olhsson Wed, 03/13/2002 - 07:03

I wouldn't want to build a track up one instrument at a time with just an 8 track. Most major label 8 track recordings used two 8 track machines to bounce down to maybe 4 tracks. The thing to think about is ease in balance rather than stereo. For example a good drum strategy for a 4 piece rock band is two tracks of drums split overhead-kick-rack toms on one track and floor tom-snare on a second.

A very common technique was a live bounce where you would mix a live mike together with a recorded track. This was used to stack backgrounds, double-track things, etc. Another was to put different things on the same track at different times and then route it to multiple console inputs for the mix. Each input would then be set up for one part of the track.

The main things are recording more than one instrument at a time and adapting your track layout to fit the particular situation.

anonymous Wed, 03/13/2002 - 08:26

I had a situation here recently in which I dusted off my old Tascam TSR-8 (retired from my studio about 3 years ago when I went DAW) and took it to one of my live gigs to record the band, really just to put together a demo CD to try and get more gigs. I tried to leave as much separate as possible- keys, bass, ac gitar, elec. gitar,and 3vocalists all got their own track, leaving 1 track for drums. Nothing exotic here- parked a 57 in front of kit about 18" above cymbals and a 57 on the kick- when I got the tapes back home and got ready to transfer them into the computer I was blown away by how punchy and full the drums sounded- a bit of eq and some mild compression and done! One of the things that helped me here, I'm sure the biggest thing, is that I had a REAL good drummer playing a real good sounding kit. It really made me think about trying some minimalist micing techniques for my studio recording!

anonymous Wed, 03/13/2002 - 09:02

Bob, all the techniques you suggested are quite effective in experienced hands. We don't know the proficiency of the person doing the recording, and some of these techniques could be asking for trouble IMHO.
I was asking for more info on the band, style, Overdubs (backing vocals, ect...) to help him come up with track layout as well as overdub plan.
Discipline is the order of the day when having limited tracks to work with.
This is a tough call, not knowing enough of what the situation is.

Brings back the 'old' days though, doesn't it ?

anonymous Wed, 03/13/2002 - 10:07

Back in '94, I had an 8 track analog studio. I probably recorded only 30 bands with that studio, but I developed a system that worked well, however, a bit of bouncing. I would record the drums in on 3 tracks:

1st. Kick on track six (it doesn't matter which one) snare, toms and overheads paned stereo on track 7 and 8. The only challenge with that setup was that all eq and fades to the snare went to the toms and overhead and visversa. However, once you get used to it, it worked pretty well, and the kick is free to move around freely on the mix. I feel like this is very important.

2nd. Bass recorded to track 5.

3rd. All guitar tracks to 1 & 2 and bounce them to 4.

4th. I would record those same tracks again (yes, playing the guitar parts again) to 1 & 2 then bounce them to 3 for a stereo mix of the guitars. This made the guitar sound huge.

5th. Now I have two tracks left for lead & backing vocals, guitar solos etc. When recording keyboards, tracks 2,3, and 4 have to change a bit, but I've already bored everyone enough so I won't go into that.

This is not a perfect setup, because eating up 3 tracks with the drums is costly, but I felt it was worth it. As well, learning to bounce correctly was a major part of making this a success. Doing it this way, I only lost one generation on the guitars, and that wasn't to bad (kind of cool in some cases).

I'll shut up now.

anonymous Wed, 03/13/2002 - 12:12

If you have confidence in your ability and great musicians, you could also try recording the rhythm section live to two tracks of the eight track. I did this once on a Tascam 58 with the great Michael Braun (Hall & Oates, etc.) on drums and a bunch of other crack players. That left six tracks for overdubs, solos, lead and background vocals, etc. If you can get a great sound on the stereo basics, it will sound better than going mono or bouncing multiple times. You need balls for this, though..... I've found that live to two track is a great way to record rock music when the budget is tight, tracks are at a premium, or time is limited.

Dave McNair Wed, 03/13/2002 - 18:10

I have to put my .02 worth in. I too worked in an 8 trk studio many years ago and tried many different schemes. I think my fav is drums mixed to 2 tracks stereo. Then you have 6 left over for mono bass, gtrs, vocals, ect. I like the drums stereo and you will quickly learn how to get a balance that will work later. For example, go light on the low end of the kick and make sure it has a good point on it cause you can add lows later. This will only beef up the toms and snare a bit. Also err on the conservative side with the overheads, cause when you add a bit of top to bring out the snare come mix time, the cymbals will pop out too. I'd also compress the whole drum mix to tape with something like an RNC. Rock on Steve.

mixfactory Wed, 03/13/2002 - 20:12

All the ideas the guys gave are valid(brings back more nightmares than anything). I will stress though where the tracks are placed is very important. We are talking about analog here and you didn't specify the machine. Some machines have better cross talk than others. Like placing a bass track next to a vocal track will end up as mixing hell. By the way will your last track be smpte? If so, than start looking at your eight track as a six track, cause anything you record on the seventh track will affect the smpte tone(eighth track). There are so many nuances with a little bit of tracks that its crazy just thinking about it.

GZsound Wed, 03/13/2002 - 23:08

I have recorded several CD's using eight tracks of ADAT. We play the rythm tracks at the same time. Stereo drums, bass, guitar and mono keys. This leaves two tracks for overdubs.

I usually record the lead vocal and the lead guitar or sax lead on the same track and harmony vocals on the final track.

If we need more tracks, I'll record the rythm tracks to my 8 track analog tape deck and mix to stereo on the ADAT. That leaves six tracks for overdubs. We did one tune where I played seven sax parts..just because I could..using both tape decks and it worked well.

McAllister Mon, 03/18/2002 - 06:21

. . . sorry for the lateness of my reply, I was knee deep in SXSW. But it's Monday now, post coffee, and here I am.

A point of clarification: I am less concerned with laying out what setup/instruments I am working on and more into what YOU have done when limited to 8 tracks in a rock (or rock-esque) context.

No smpte. Only the one 8 track machine (Otari 1/2"). Arrangements will be nailed down as much as possible beforehand, the players are very, very good.

Thanks everyone for responding.

Ted Nightshade Mon, 03/18/2002 - 06:52

"Players are very, very good." :D :w:

This is a great topic for me, although I'm not analog tapin'.
My RME converters sound real nice at 96k, not so nice at 48k, so I'm using 96 and can only get 10 tracks at once out of my PowerBook, although I get virtual tracks and that.
So I'm contemplating getting some really glorious converters to sound good at 48k, or just working with my 10 tracks. I don't trust the digital mixing too much, so I'd like to do a minimum of bouncing, more or less like analog tape style.
The methods Bob Ohlsson is mentioning, with the live part dubbed during a track bounce, is a challenge I'd like to aspire to. This is how the Beatles crammed all that to 4 and 8 track, no? With multiple musicians recording to most tracks?
Anyhow I'm much enjoying the discussion.

Dave McNair Tue, 03/19/2002 - 17:45

Why don't you get an old 8 track 1/2" and really have some fun? I'm not casting any negative vibes on your current setup, but if you really want to hone your chops the oldschool way and have lot's of fun at the same time, go find a 4 or 8 trk reel to reel and work that in to your scene. You can always bounce to dig and continue on that route, but then that's not really cricket.

Ted Nightshade Wed, 03/20/2002 - 12:07

Well, the usual reasons I guess.
I don't know beans about the machines, and that combined with my obscure location makes it pretty hard to shop for one. I don't care to chase around an old beater, and I can't spring for a nice new one, so informed shopping is a must, and I'm not too informed.
My local old school engineer friend discourages me from such obsessions, for what he sees as my own good. (Probably because I'm a composer-musician-performer-recordist and he thinks I'm too geeked out already) He's run them all, more or less, in his day.

Of course I'd love one.

anonymous Sun, 03/24/2002 - 02:06

In the past ive put well rehearsed live band onto 2 tracks(your right it does take balls!)but try to mix eq middle light and pan away from centre for the instruments esp guitar toms and snare. Do a few takes and keep guitar solos for overdubs later.Lay your vocals(at least double tracked for that big production sound) solos and other bvox (all band members round 1 omni mic,loudest at back onto 1 track) on 6 remaining tracks try economizing by having guitar solos on the same track as main vox.While mixing down to 2 track DAT try adding another overdub (this really does take extra balls!!)Ive found that most rockesque vocals will either be double tracked harmonized or adted good luck...pan those guitars wide!!!!