Concept

Multitrack recording

Summary
Multitrack recording (MTR), also known as multitracking, is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking became possible in the mid-1950s when the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same reel-to-reel tape was developed. A "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on the tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized. A multitrack recorder allows one or more sound sources to different tracks to be simultaneously recorded, which may subsequently be processed and mixed separately. Take, for example, a band with vocals, guitars, a keyboard, bass, and drums that are to be recorded. The singer's microphone, the output of the guitars and keys, and each individual drum in the kit can all be recorded separately using a multitrack recorder. This allows each track to be fine-tuned individually, such as increasing the voice or lowering the chimes, before combining them into the final product. Prior to the development of multitracking, the sound recording process required all of the singers, band instrumentalists, and/or orchestra accompanists to perform at the same time in the same space. Multitrack recording was a significant technical improvement as it allowed studio engineers to record all of the instruments and vocals for a piece of music separately. Multitracking allowed the engineer to adjust the levels and tone of each individual track, and if necessary, redo certain tracks or overdub parts of the track to correct errors or get a better "take". As well, different electronic effects such as reverb could be applied to specific tracks, such as the lead vocals, while not being applied to other tracks where this effect would not be desirable (e.g., on the electric bass).
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