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ESDAWHAT IS A RECORD PRODUCER?

2. THE DEVELOPMENT OF MULTI-TRACK RECORDING TECHNIQUES

It was only in the late 1960's that multi-track recording facilities first became widely available and it was this development which largely precipitated the changing role of the Music Producer.

Multi-track recording studios use tape recorders, which allow recordings to be built-up in stages rather than in a single 'take'. Until quite recently, this could only achieved by the use of recording and playback machines which used special heads on tape recorders which are divided up into separate 'sections' or 'tracks' which are capable of discretely recording sounds on to one or more of the corresponding 'tracks' onto a tape being passed across it. Each track can be recorded (or played back) independently of the others. A simple analogy would be to imagine a number of individual tape recorders being used simultaneously, but all being synchronised together. Since the advent of DAW (Digital Audio Workstations), multi-track recording has become more accessible to computer users who use programmes designed to manipulate recorded performances in a multi-track way but in the digital domain.

For example, early multi-track tape recorders capable of recording, say, 'four tracks' could use Track 1 to record drums and bass; guitars and, say, piano could be allocated to Track 2. Lead vocals to Track 3 end vocal harmonies end percussion to Track 4. Furthermore, multi-track technology allows one track to be used to record whilst other pre-recorded tracks can be simultaneously played back. This means that all the instrumental parts of a song can be recorded and finalised before the vocalist performs.

Since multi-track recording may comprise several discrete performances, it is possible to isolate individual constituent parts of such a recording and to listen and vary those parts an infinite number of times. Further material may also be recorded in a way, which does not interfere with the tracks already recorded. Thus infinite experimentation in trying out combinations of recorded sounds is possible. The final process would usually involve balancing the individual constituent parts so that they form a coherent 'mix' of all the separate performances creating what appears to be a 'single' performance.

'The advent of multi-track recording has taken the emphasis in the recording process away from those performers and arrangers whose task was to ensure that a complete performance was delivered and recorded together in one take. Instead, the emphasis has shifted towards Music Producers prepared, to a significant extent, to develop ideas, sounds and arrangements as recording progresses using the new technical and creative freedoms granted to them by multi-track recording technology to direct the creation of recorded product.

The advent of multi-track recording has meant that the recording studio has evolved from a place where live recordings were merely faithfully recorded to a place where recorded performances are processed and manipulated as part of a much more complex recording process. The results are often breathtaking even though they may bear little resemblance to the original performances, which were recorded. Today's record buyers have become accustomed to the dazzling productions which modern recording processes are capable of sustaining. First class studio production is now crucial to the success of every sound recording.

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