Today’s featured FAQ Friday question is: How do you avoid using too many tracks in a song? Led Zeppelin and Yes all recorded on 8 tracks.
Yes, those bands did record on 8 tracks early on, eventually getting up to 16 or 24 tracks as technology progressed. So do we really need to use the amount of tracks we often do today?
Let’s go to one of my favorite bands for a minute: Queen.
Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded on a 2 inch tape, and was rumoured to have been on a 16 track. If you listen to that song, or anything else from that era, on one track, there are actually multiple laters of vocals, for instance. The same could be said going all the way back to Yes, or any other bands in that era. There are tracks with multiple overdubs on them.
So why am I pointing out this obvious fact?
It really is not so much about the amount of tracks. If you were to break down Bohemian Rhapsody, for instance, you might end up with 4 part harmonies, on each side, that were layered 4 times. So 16 and 16, dumped down to maybe a pair of faders. So what they were doing is they were recording 4 people around the microphone, another 4 people, them bouncing them down. So the track count is actually a bit confusing because, ultimately, they had a ton of overdubs on there. The difference is that they were making sub mixes of all those parts
One of the things that you should be thinking about commitment. That doesn’t necessarily mean bouncing your 16 part harmony on each side to one tracks on the left and one on the right, because you may want to reblend them. Create the blend of the harmonies on each side, then group them to a stereo file. Now, with ProTools, and I’m sure many other DAWs, you can hide all of those tracks and just have them on a stereo fader. So now 32 tracks are on a stereo fader, just like Queen would have done on a stereo tracks.
I think it is always confusing when we talk about track counts, because although we say that The Beatles or Zeppelin or Queen only had 8 or 16 or 24 tracks, we weren’t actually only listening to 24 individual things. We were listening to a ton of things that were summed together.
The problem is not in the track count, it is in the execution, and comes when you are not committed to the goal of what you are trying to create. When it comes to multiple tracks, just make sure that you are committed to an idea. Intention and commitment are what allow you to build a song. Let’s not get hung up on the amount of tracks, because there are so many ways to commit to things: by grouping them, bouncing them to stereo faders, and more, in the same way that was done on a 4, 8, or 16 track in the past.
Watch the video below to see the full answer to this question, and the answers to other great FAQ Friday questions!