100+ tracks for one song

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percussion boy
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100+ tracks for one song

Post by percussion boy » Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:00 am

There's a gearslutz thread going asking if people use more than 128 tracks -- to record songs (i.e., not a movie situation where you've got music, dialogue, and foley to deal with). There have been multiple responses from people who at least break the three figure barrier.

The thread cites some reasons why, e.g., stacking bg vox using one singer, building up a sampled orchestra with one keyboard player, etc..

Still . . . 100+ tracks? Can anyone hear the difference? Don't all the little tracks quarrel with each another?

Please explain, I feel old and stupid.
"The world don't need no more songs." - Bob Dylan

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Post by RedCrownStudios » Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:30 am

I cant imagine ever using that many tracks on a music only release. At most I think I have had around 40 tracks and that was recording/mixing a live concert cd with lots of guitars, keys, etc.

If there is one downside to digital recording it is the availability of tons of hard drive space for cheap and more tracks than you really need.

Sometimes I wish for the old days of 24 track limitations, if anything, just to say, "do we really need that in the mix?"

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Re: 100+ tracks for one song

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Jun 15, 2008 2:33 am

percussion boy wrote:There's a gearslutz thread going asking if people use more than 128 tracks -- to record songs (i.e., not a movie situation where you've got music, dialogue, and foley to deal with). There have been multiple responses from people who at least break the three figure barrier.

The thread cites some reasons why, e.g., stacking bg vox using one singer, building up a sampled orchestra with one keyboard player, etc..

Still . . . 100+ tracks? Can anyone hear the difference? Don't all the little tracks quarrel with each another?

Please explain, I feel old and stupid.
This has an easy explanation : Dumb Insecure musicians that throw everything AND the kitchen sink to a crap song, in the hopes it will somehow become "something" other than the steaming poo it really is.

Here's a great litmus test for any song:

Have it played with ONLY one voice and one instrument, like guitar or piano.

If it works there, then it is a good song. No Worky? Throw it out BEFORE spending months trying to get it to work.

Most great artists do this with their producer / band before investing any time on a song that may or may not have potential.

I think the overavailability of plug-ins and "pro-sumer "vintage-like" hardware is only contributing to this mediocrity. As in "ooohh let's try this brand new vintage mic with this new plugin-ificator on it, I'm SURE it will make the song that much better / vibeier / catchier / cooler / a HIT"... not...

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Re: 100+ tracks for one song

Post by rwc » Sun Jun 15, 2008 4:06 am

double post. tape-op is slow in the morning. alas, so am I.
Last edited by rwc on Sun Jun 15, 2008 4:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 100+ tracks for one song

Post by rwc » Sun Jun 15, 2008 4:09 am

noeqplease wrote:
percussion boy wrote:There's a gearslutz thread going asking if people use more than 128 tracks -- to record songs (i.e., not a movie situation where you've got music, dialogue, and foley to deal with). There have been multiple responses from people who at least break the three figure barrier.

The thread cites some reasons why, e.g., stacking bg vox using one singer, building up a sampled orchestra with one keyboard player, etc..

Still . . . 100+ tracks? Can anyone hear the difference? Don't all the little tracks quarrel with each another?

Please explain, I feel old and stupid.
This has an easy explanation : Dumb Insecure musicians that throw everything AND the kitchen sink to a crap song, in the hopes it will somehow become "something" other than the steaming poo it really is.

Here's a great litmus test for any song:

Have it played with ONLY one voice and one instrument, like guitar or piano.

If it works there, then it is a good song. No Worky? Throw it out BEFORE spending months trying to get it to work.

Most great artists do this with their producer / band before investing any time on a song that may or may not have potential.

I think the overavailability of plug-ins and "pro-sumer "vintage-like" hardware is only contributing to this mediocrity. As in "ooohh let's try this brand new vintage mic with this new plugin-ificator on it, I'm SURE it will make the song that much better / vibeier / catchier / cooler / a HIT"... not...

Cheers
This sounds so un tape-op, but is so true.

If I'm given two guitar parts to balance, fine. If I get 70+ tracks of bullshit parts that I have to weed through like a swamp until it sounds like a song, I am so quoting 3x my regular rate for the project, with no feeling of guilt. :evil:

I recently recorded this stuff for a well known vocal coach. I didn't finish in time for my next session, because he was too stoned. He spent the three hours I spent with my other session getting stoned, and the proceeding five hours to 4 AM, which I charged him for, getting stoned as we recorded new parts for this, approximately 1:37 long segment over a loop I made of his partner's song.

He kept adding these parts that made NO FUCKING SENSE whatsoever. And when one wouldn't work, he'd add another one.. like a voice saying hello at a weird time, then another one saying hello in a high voice, and ask me to "make an effect, I dunno, do what you engineers do! it'll work!"

the best part is how the lead vocal was him before being stoned, so you had a basis of comparison.

I wound up with like 175 tracks of garbage answering each other and doing all sorts of weird shit. I did my best to make it work, but when I sent it to the person editing the video for the DVD, she laughed and said "you have got to be fucking kidding me." we still get a good laugh out of this...

underdubbing is great.
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sun Jun 15, 2008 8:33 am

some people should not smoke weed.

depending on the band/song/project/phase of the moon/whatever, i will often record A LOT of tracks. and i will sometimes record all the guitars with two close mics and a room mic, so the tracks add up fast.

the last record i did, a couple of the songs were brand new, and the band hadn't totally figured out the arrangements, so we tried out a ton of different ideas. so the tracks added up. yeah i'm well aware that it's better to have the arrangement nailed down and blabla, but you don't always have that luxury, and i'm not NOT going to record all the ideas just so i can look tough on internet messageboards.

anyway, if you looked at the sessions at the end of tracking, a couple of them were almost 100 tracks. but most of those were muted, and since i sort of mix as i go during tracking, it isn't a complete clusterfuck come mix time. i can generally just delete all the unused stuff and clean the session right up. i almost always end up with less than 32 tracks in the end. i can't imagine actually having 100 tracks playing at once....

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Post by drumsound » Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:51 am

I work on one of 2 24-track devices. Thinking of 100+ tracks makes my brain hurt. I have however had to bounce things to free up track space and whatnot in the past. And part of me would like to sync my machines some times. But then were still looking at 48 tracks max in my world.

Maybe I should just break down and buy a DAW...

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:25 am

drumsound wrote:I have however had to bounce things to free up track space and whatnot in the past.
one thing i like about having unlimited tracks is i never have to stop or slow down a session to make room for something. if people want to try out new ideas, or need a few takes to really get a part right, no problem, i can create new tracks for them all day long.

yeah yeah i know indecisive musicians and engineers with computers are ruining music and we would all be better off tracking everyone in the same room live to 2 track, yadda yadda yadda etc etc ad infinitum. personally i see no reason not to record everything, it's just not that hard to sort it out and clean up afterward...

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Post by drumsound » Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:31 am

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
drumsound wrote:I have however had to bounce things to free up track space and whatnot in the past.
one thing i like about having unlimited tracks is i never have to stop or slow down a session to make room for something. if people want to try out new ideas, or need a few takes to really get a part right, no problem, i can create new tracks for them all day long.

yeah yeah i know indecisive musicians and engineers with computers are ruining music and we would all be better off tracking everyone in the same room live to 2 track, yadda yadda yadda etc etc ad infinitum. personally i see no reason not to record everything, it's just not that hard to sort it out and clean up afterward...
That's one of the most attractive things in a production environment.

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Post by mjau » Sun Jun 15, 2008 12:02 pm

drumsound wrote:Maybe I should just break down and buy a DAW...
If so, we'll gather in Bloomington and have an intervention.

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Post by RefD » Sun Jun 15, 2008 12:14 pm

i record on DAW and, after a few early flirtations with too damned many tracks, decided to set myself an artificial limit of 16 tracks.

this has almost never proven to be a liability.

the few times it has, i fudged and let myself have a 24 track limit as an exception.

limitations are a great method of self-editing for everyone involved.
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Re: 100+ tracks for one song

Post by Jay Reynolds » Sun Jun 15, 2008 12:23 pm

noeqplease wrote:Have it played with ONLY one voice and one instrument, like guitar or piano.

If it works there, then it is a good song. No Worky? Throw it out BEFORE spending months trying to get it to work.
This is only true for certain genres. DJ Shadow and Bjork would both fail this test. And James Brown. I doubt Outkast's Stankonia would have seen the light of day if those guys had tried to impress somebody with an acoustic piano/solo voice version of "So Fresh, So Clean".
Prog out with your cog out.

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Post by Randy » Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:55 pm

mjau wrote:
drumsound wrote:Maybe I should just break down and buy a DAW...
If so, we'll gather in Bloomington and have an intervention.
I'll bring my two desktop Macs. Neither of them work fully. I'll turn them on and we can watch the session disintegrate while the software crashes. That'll cure ya!
not to worry, just keep tracking....

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Post by Professor » Sun Jun 15, 2008 2:30 pm

They are just a bunch of tools.
Trying to say that someone who uses more tracks than you do is a bad musician is really close to saying that the mechanic who owns a full set of standard AND!?!? metric socket wrenches is somehow inferior in his creative capacity and ability to overcome adverse situations with ingenious solutions.
Maybe he just believes in using the right tool for the job. Or doesn't like to round off the edges on nuts with the wrong wrench.


I use exactly as many tracks are necessary for the project, and having no limitations on that is sometimes quite helpful.

And do you really think that 100+ tracks really means 100+ simultaneous sounds being mixed?
Even in a film session that's not usually the case.
I just mixed a few jazz combo tracks last week, and we recorded the session with 4 mics on drums, 2 on piano, 1 on bass, 1 on alto sax and 1 on tenor and/or bari sax (player switched up). That's 10 total original tracks. And when I mixed the songs I ended up with at least 18 mix tracks.
Did the musicians suddenly become incompentent? Did I? No, I just happen to not like using automation when I can just use another track.
So there's one track for when the alto is playing in the section and another for his solo, so I can pan him slightly more center, give a slight boost to his level and brighten the tone just a tiny bit, and have a slightly different reverb blend. After all, when he is playing the head with the tenor, he needs to perform a different function in the music than when he is playing a solo.
The tenor player switched between tenor and bari on different tunes. So his one track became 4, one tenor 'section', one tenor 'solo', one bari 'section', and one bari 'solo'. The piano track went from two to four for a solo. The drum overheads went from two to four so I could push forward the sound on one of the tunes in a different way than the others.
And all this was just for a quick jam session recording when we had a guest artist in town. The recordings will never go anywhere except to the performers. But I doubled the original track count in mix down.

Now take the same concept and apply it to a recording with 8 mics on drums, a couple bass tracks, various keys, maybe a handful of guitars and doubled guitars, add some lead vocals at a verse, a chorus, a bridge, then some backing vocals as well.
Where is there some rule book that says the lead vocals have to be recorded with one mic and mixed the same way on the same track through the whole song?
I like splitting verses and choruses because it allows me to overlap them a little if the music calls for it, and it allows me to treat them differently in the mix without automation.
If it takes 20 tracks to do that is it somehow more noble than if it takes 40, or 60?
And what kind of difference does it make to you?
Read Bruce Swedien's "Make Mine Music" book and see what he says about using lots of tracks. He used to use two synch'ed 24-track machines so he could record as many sources in stereo as possible. He used to submix drums to a stereo pair so he could layer on all the overdubs before coming back to the multi-track drums for final mix. He used as many tracks as he needed to, and as many as the technology would allow. And he has the credit for engineering the biggest selling album in the world.

So limit yourself at 16 if you want... or 160.
Nobody else is really going to care about how many tracks you did or didn't use.
The finished product is has to sell on its own entertainment value alone.

They are just tools. You can try to chop down a tree with an axe, or a chainsaw, or you can stand in the forest and beat a dull rock against it until it falls. And in the end, people will expect to spend the same price for the 2x4 that comes out of it.


-Jeremy

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Post by Anthony Caruso » Sun Jun 15, 2008 2:40 pm

The situations I've seen 100+ tracks are almost exclusively in the radio-aspriring-pop/R&B genre. It makes sense when you see it that way, and it is mostly due to background vocals. And I dare say NEVER are 100 tracks actually playing at the same time. It's just easier to put all of your verse vocals on tracks seperate from chorus (or "hook" as they) vocals and bridge vocals, ad libs, etc.

Now take into account that when the hook hits, vocal parts are often quadrupled. So imagine a hook lead (doubled) and a few harmonies (quadrupled) and a couple "ahh ahhh" kind of pad things (quadrupled), and we are looking at a 24+ track hook.

And the bridge, if its a "take it home" kinda bridge, there could be just as many vocals as the hook.

Prechorus is a totally separate entity, often stacked vocals to contrast with a more focused verse vocal. Add on like 12 more tracks for that. Second pre has another harmony? Add a couple more...

Oh yeah, the music... this isn't Bob Dylan, there are 1-3 kicks, 1-3 snares, maybe different basses for different sections, pads, samples looops, lots of layered stuff. Some parts are doubled. We would easily fill 4+ buckets on an SSL with just Basics and have more music down on the right side. Looking at 30+ tracks easy.

Now take into account all the little stuff, the distorted answer vocal only in verse 2, the little percussive breathing things in the break between chorus 1 and verse 2, ad libs on chorus 3 (so that it seems different because it was most likely flown from chorus 1!) etc etc etc and you have a big ass session.

I'm not defending this stuff, just illustrating from experience how it is possible to have that many tracks in a song, and how it makes sense in the context of the genre. And to preemptively respond to the inevitable "You don't need that many vocals if it's good,", two words: Freddie Mercury. Just because the medium was limited in track count doesn't mean he didn't have 50 vocal tracks going, they just had to bounce it at the time. It's just a sound, it's not the end of music...

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