What is on all those tracks???

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by ByraFerk, Mar 24, 2008.

  1. ByraFerk

    ByraFerk Guest

    I see lots of people using 40-50 or even more tracks on projects, and I cant figure out what in the world they are all for. I dont think Ive ever used more than about 20 tracks for a song, and usually its less than that. Can someone shed some light on this? Even better would be some example tracksheets that show whats going on with all those tracks.

  2. danbronson

    danbronson Guest

    drums: 2 mics per drum, overheads and room mics, mic on the hihat, maybe on the ride too, there's maybe 16-18 tracks right there
    bass: 2 mics?
    guitars: two guitarists, 2 mics on the amps for each take, 4 takes each plug a guitar solo could be another 18 tracks
    vocals: 2 for leads, 4 for backups maybe
    extra stuff: synth, harmonica, piano, tambourine, etc... could be another 4 to 6ish

    What's that? Up to 48 tracks?

    Now, that's a lot more than I think I'll ever use, even if I could. But it is definitely possible to use that many. I also usually end up with around 20 max.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Another use you may not be aware of - suppose you want to "comp" a vocal track. That is, you put each take on a different track and then go through syllable by syllable and paste together a track composed of pieces from of the individual takes. You will set up a different track for each take (at least temporarily). I've never done this, but I've never had a singer whose breast size was bigger than her IQ.

    Another point: Having lots of tracks is a means not an end. A lot of pro studios do this as insurance so they can offer clients a lot of options without doing a lot of retakes. If you know you get a drum sound that you like with just four mics why record a dozen. But if you don't know for sure what the client wants in advance throw the whole mic closet at the set. (Especially since it looks impressive and you are being paid by the hour.)
  4. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I've seen a few people who do this. I've had a couple up in the 30's but rarely more than that. IN the cases where I've seen this, the engineers didn't have all 50 tracks playing back at once. Usually the additional tracks were scratch tracks, backups, or additional takes.

    It's not hard to end up with a project with dozens of tracks.

    Picture this:

    Someone has a song with 6 or 7 different synthesizers. Not all of them play at the same time. One may be just a sound effect at the beginning of the song. Another may only be used in a chorus, etc, etc. Instead of putting these on one track, they'll create a track for each instrument. That's not really a bad thing and in some cases desirable.

    In the old days of tape, one might record each individually then comp them together onto one track. These days with unlimited track counts, each instrument from each part of a song can have it's very own track.

    Now take that example and do the same with guitars and vocals and whatever other instruments may be in play. The tracks can add up pretty quickly.

    Take all of that and add multiple takes. I use cubase and can have multiple takes recorded within one track. Some people I've worked with don't know how to do that so they record every new take to a new track.

    Looking at this you can see how someone can end up with a project with 50+ tracks. It's very likely that they never have audio from all 50 tracks plaing at once. It's just that their project consisted of 50 tracks.
  5. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Dec 25, 2007
    Atlanta, Ga
    A buddy of mine engineers Hip Hop from time to time at a big studio here in ATL. He says that it's not uncommon for those guys to use 10 - 14 vox overdubs.

    Makes it sound krunk I guess.
  6. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    I've talked to film and post guys... you talk about track counts... OMG... 128 is kinda' the norm anymore.

    orchestra song 1=24, fades into orchestra song 2= another 24, car noise=2, foley walking=2, wind=2, comped dialog=24, dog barking=2, etc.... Then if it's a 5.1 surround mix??? 256-512 total tracks... it's insane.
  7. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Member

    Feb 15, 2006
    For a small project.
    I have witnessed over 1200 tracks prior to predubbing, on "A" features.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I've used 50 or more many times. lots of were for percussion. Some tracks for just one part for 2 bars.
    other for strings, effects like samples that were taken from a group of tracks and then dropped into there own tracks for adding vocal effects to an ending. Too many reasons to list. Sometimes letting the guitar player jam the entire tune on may tracks and then pulling parts from everywhere to help build the song.

    It can be a great convenience because its easy to find a small part, mute little things when mixing. and so on.
    More tracks more noise.
  9. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Audio post can be extremely track intensive; with 5.1 surround sound a single sound element can use up to six channels. "The Lord Of The Rings" film trilogy used four 256 track PT systems synced together - one system for dialog, two for sound FX and ambiences, one for music. Two 256 track PT systems is quite standard on action/adventure films.
  10. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    The difference between pro and amateur to me, seems to be that where they use 500 tracks just to add some effects, amateurs like me end up with 4. Guitar, vocals, couple of other instruments.
    (Mixdowns are about 200 times faster though ;) )
  11. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Funny...amateurs like me use 500 tracks just to get one guitar part down through an entire tune :?

    And it ain't because I'm a perfectionist! :roll:

  12. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    I'm a perfectionist as well...unfortunately the band isn't.
    Actually we do the stuff 'live' anyway, so there's no multiple takes. It's "play it once and then play something else".
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Nobody quite mentioned what kind of application although these tracks were being utilized in?

    For television & movies, you are dealing with dialogue, effects & music.

    For rock-and-roll recording your dealing with a half-dozen morons, who can barely count to 24, generally just up to four. So usually you're safe with 24 for rock-and-roll.

    Virtual tracks? Oh you want virtual tracks for people that have virtually no talent? Well that's not really nice but having worked with world-class performers, they usually get it down in the first few takes. So I'm never really terribly concerned about virtual tracks although they can be very handy in postproduction for theatrical releases. I find that I can't keep their first take, record other takes on other tracks and dump/erase what I don't like or want. But people don't care what kind of workflow you observe as long as your end result is a quality professional product.

    Would you like lettuce & tomato on your Jensen Transformers?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  14. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I just did a "Folk" song that was primarily just voice and guitar. Ok, make that TWO guitars, one of them had two mics on it. Now we're up to four tracks, counting the vocalist.

    Then we needed a children's choir for the end segment. We only had five kids; two of them were very young and needed a lot of coaching. THe older kids did their parts several times. Five kids, five passes each. 25 vocal tracks that we ended up comping to stereo, spreading them all out across the sound field. (To be fair, we turned off the indivdual tracks once they were bounced to a stereo composite, but they were all still there on the timeline, albiet muted.)

    We also needed a fife & drum corp in one of the middle breaks (It's a patriotic song, sorta....) Two synthesized flute/picollos and three sets of various field and snare drums - one doing rolls and the other doing snaps. Five more tracks here....

    An acoutic piano (recorded in stereo) was needed for the intro, post-chorus turn-around, and accent chords for the final coda. Add two more tracks here.

    Last but not least, "Acoustic" strings were needed: One arco bass part (with stereo ambience/effects, and one cello on top of that. Three tracks total for this, plus another doubled set of low strings - two more tracks for a stereo ensemble over top of the bass and cello. Five "string" tracks, total.

    Give or take, that's 40-41 virtual tracks overall, depending on how you count it, not to mention a few edits within the tune, with a few flown-in parts from alternate takes.

    Yeah, it's nuts, but as others have mentioned, rarely are all of them going along at the same time. There's just no longer any need to worry about track count (or residual tape hiss) piling up.

    Honestly, for the most part, we kept removing things to keep it basic and let the story tell itself, while the overdubs just added impact where needed. The hardest part is knowing what to leave OUT. :cool:
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Pssst....your fly is open.

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