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There is always this confusion about what the difference between overdubbing and multi tracking is. The fundamentals of both are the same because they are used in audio recording sessions.
If you look at what they mean, you will find that there really is no comparison. There are more reasons why they are different as well, even though they are used in the same recording process.
The beginning of overdubbing came in the late 1960s, where one could record over a recorded track on a tape. This process was further optimized over the years due to the digital improvements and resulted in many complex functions in the audio production software.
The digital age has changed the way a lot of things have been done in the last two decades. The changes in the way tracks are recorded today, took away the burden from a lot of producers by helping them overdub with the help of a single button.
Overdubbing is, in simple terms, adding elements to the already recorded track. Multi tracking, on the other hand, is all about recording multiple elements at the same time.
It makes no difference whether it’s overdubbing or a fresh recording. Multi tracking has been given more importance in the digital age as it makes the recording process easier for music producers.
Understanding how overdubbing and multi tracking work together will give you a deeper sense of how the world of music production works. In this article, I will walk you through how overdubbing and multi tracking work in music production and how to approach them. Let’s get started shall we.
What is overdubbing
Overdubbing is nothing but recording over an already finished track. This can also be inclusive of adding elements to a song that has already been recorded in a studio.
This technique has been used in the last two decades to add vocals or an extra instrument to a song, specifically where there is limited or no access to the various methods available today.
These were the crucial steps involved in making sure that the songs were properly matched with the original track recorded by musicians in a single session.
Nowadays the process of overdubbing is much simpler because you can add multiple elements over a song easily. This is made possible by the introduction of the audio production software.
Audio production software can handle overdubbing pretty very and allow you to add multiple tracks above a single instrumental track, resulting in great commercial releases.
One of the reasons why overdubbing is not used as much nowadays is because of the introduction of multi-track recording in the audio production software. This technique has made overdubbing disappear slowly.
The change in the complete setup of how the recording is done professionally in a studio, gave way for multi-tracking to be the norm for studio recording.
There were often some doubts for people, as to whether they should do overdubbing or multi track recording. This uncertainty has been eliminated by today’s software modules that are available in audio production software.
There is no doubt that multi track recording has taken over completely, in terms of the quality of the recording and the ability to sync the music properly to the original recording.
What is multi tracking?
Multi tracking is a process that was introduced in the audio production software, to record multiple audio or midi tracks at the same time. This was completely new as only one track could be recorded in the overdubbing process. Multi tracking is used when you need multiple instruments to be recorded in a single session.
This method is also used when there is less time for recording the project. Les Paul was the one who first invented the technique of multi tracking his sessions.
A “recording session” refers to the overall act of getting a song recorded. That includes all the instruments and vocals. A “tracking” session typically refers to recording one instrument, such as vocals.
Multi tracking made sure that the time it takes to record projects is reduced. The efficiency of a producer to be savvy with his recordings and reduce the time at the studio was made possible by multi tracking.
This gave producers the opportunity to work on more creative effects and making the recorded elements of the song shine through.
This method helped to advance the quality of audio recordings that we have in today’s music and film industry. There are now multiple layers of audio which can be recorded simultaneously as well as orchestrations tracked at the same time in studio.
Multi tracking has practically replaced the overdubbing process, resulting in efficient systems that record multiple elements at the same time.
Nowadays the systems have advanced to the point where multi track recordings have changed to multilane recordings. In this process, the songs are recorded repeatedly in the same lane and the best recording is chosen at the end.
How overdubbing differs from multi tracking
It is difficult to compare overdubbing with multi-tracking as they are from different generations of music recording. Music was recorded using overdubbing a long time ago.
Even though the term is attributed to a function in audio production software, multi tracking is used to record tracks into the midi and audio channels.
This was not the case a few decades ago. This is one of the reasons why they can’t be compared and are two different methods that shaped the vocal recording over the years.
The one comparison that can be made is that in overdubbing you were able to add only one element during the session whereas in today’s multi-tracking you can add more than one element in a single recording session.
Learning multi tracking will help you to make more creative effects in the audio production software including shaping the midi and audio channels to emulate different functions of composition.
This was not possible with overdubbing as the midi channels were not meant to be recorded on and only considered as signals.
The change from overdubbing one track at a time to multi track recordings has made music production more robust and efficient over time.
Should you double-track vocals?
Double tracking vocals is a technique that has been used by professionals in audio production software to make sure that the audio is recorded in two lanes for further manipulation.
This was very important in the olden days where digital recordings were not available. This is not critically important nowadays to the double-track vocal.
What decibel (dB) should vocals be at?
When you are mixing your vocals, along with your drums, vocals should be the loudest elements in the mix. If you are mixing with a reference of -6dB in a mixing console, then make sure that the vocals are hitting at -12dB.
This is a sweet spot for the highest volume component in the mix, to get it under -6dB in the master bus.
What effects make vocals sound better?
Adding room and space to a vocal is what makes it sound better. This adds presence to the vocals which are usually missing when it comes to instruments that are recorded electronically using the software.
Adding reverb and delay adds room and space which makes the vocals pop in the mix, much more than other instruments.
How do I make my vocals brighter?
Vocals can be made brighter in audio production software by various combinations of methods. One such method includes complete equalization of bands 7.5 kHz to 20 kHz.
These frequencies are boosted with a curve in an equalizer to bring the sheen from the high end which makes the vocals shine brighter in the mix.
The recording process in a studio itself is complex in multiple ways. The modern tools have made it possible to record faster with minimal issues.
If you are learning about both overdubbing and multi-track recording always make sure that you are learning how to use them with both midi as well as audio tracks, while recording.
This will ensure that you are well versed in both the spectrums used in modern day music production. The recording process has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Adaptation is the most important thing a music producer has to embrace in their journey.
Making the mistake of completely ignoring the aspect of multi-tracking will test your abilities when recording multiple instruments in a studio environment. It’s better to be prepared than to regret it later.