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razor7music

Anyone Have to Put Limits on Track Numbers?

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Hey All--

I debated on whether this post would be better here or in the Coffee House. I get the impression the Coffee House is just for messing around (correct me if I'm wrong) and I am interested in  serious answers, so here it goes.

If you've got a fairly powerful DAW, chances are you don't have the limit your number of tracks due to your rig not be able to handle more. My question is, does having a powerful DAW/rig ever cause you to have to mentally stop yourself from over-producing your music as far as the number of tracks go?

I remember hearing an interview with Shirley Manson (Garbage) saying at one point when her band went over 100 tracks on one song, that she insisted (my word) to the band that the song was done and to stop!

Lately, like over the past year or so, I've been listening to contemporary songs I like on the radio and have noticed a more minimalist production approach. Sort of letting the song carry the listener. More "indie" sounding, I guess. So, I've started adding less tracks to my songs. It makes mixing a whole lot easier--especially finding EQ balance, but I wondered if the fact that I can add a ridiculous number of tracks made me add a ridiculous number of tracks in the past instead of just being more creative with fewer tracks that actually contribute to the work. I like minimalist songs when that works for the song--but I do get that urge to add layers to existing tracks to make them more compelling (or is that just the old me??)

What about you? Thoughts?

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If you read SOS mag and look at any session screenshots you will often see 100+ tracks

But often it's stuff layered , like 5 snares or 4 kicks ..25 b/g vox ..I think a lot of modern pop music is actually quite sparse in terms of parts but densely layered and lots of scatterings of one-shot ear candy type stuff.

I also think it depends what sort of music you are making. I just checked the piece I completed yesterday and it's 28 tracks - that's an instrumental that will hopefully get used on a TV show I have had other similar tracks used in.  It gets fairly full in the last section as that's the way they like them structured but you often find the less dense Alt mixes get used instead of the full thing. 

Whilst I would never limit myself I am also running an almost 10yr old PC so I can't go crazy anyway. Which probably helps !

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A lot of us old guys remember when it was a  big deal to have four tracks (tape) to work with. While I'd never go back to that, it helped you develop a certain mindset about arranging and recording. You really had to think about what was needed to get the song across as well as what you could do without. Now I try to remember to ask myself "do I really need five guitar tracks?" or whatever.

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Personal opinion, but...I find every track you add diminishes the importance of the remaining tracks. This isn't always a bad thing, of course, you don't want all tracks to be equally important.

A lot of my songs have only 8 parts, although some parts might be spread over more than one track (e.g., different processing on the guitar part in one section of the song, so it's on another track). I used to layer vocals a lot, but I'm getting away from that because it makes the lead vocal less intimate. Instead, I'm going for more harmony parts.

If you want to hear the kind of mileage I get out of eight tracks, check out my Simplicity album.

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Although I doubt if I'll play live again any time soon, I still can't help thinking of the "how would I reproduce this live?" scenario.

This helps me to limit the amount of tracks I use, by keeping it to a fairly standard band arrangement, which typically for me is vocals/guitar/keys/drums/bass + backing vocs.

This makes what Craig says about which tracks are important even more applicable... so while I'll be perfectly happy to add extra guitars to embellish whats already there, I want to make sure that if there is only one guitar playing, it doesn't sound like something is missing and the song still works.

Obviously this is hugely genre dependent.

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1 hour ago, msmcleod said:

Although I doubt if I'll play live again any time soon, I still can't help thinking of the "how would I reproduce this live?" scenario.

 

This is the way I thought when I was working with 4trk! Then I got this... and well, I find I still stick to pretty much one guitar, unless like Craig, I need to process the guitar differently for a certain section, that will go on a different trk. I tried to use like 4-5 guitar trks and it just never worked out.  It just didn't sound the same as the one good trk by itself. I guess too much processing takes aways something. Maybe it's smoothing the transients out more than they were, or making them stand out more than the original one trk. I just find it harder to work with lots of layers of trks. 

But by all means, the main reason I have always loved Rock-n-Roll was..... there's no rules!! Do what you feel you gotta do!

 

And trust your ears!

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2 hours ago, msmcleod said:

Although I doubt if I'll play live again any time soon, I still can't help thinking of the "how would I reproduce this live?" scenario.

That's also a very good point, because I've often said if I had to choose between only playing or only playing the studio, I'd choose live. I guess there's enough residual old school in me that I think live performance has a vitality that's hard to match in the studio, and following your ethos helps to give a more authentically "live" feel.

(At a seminar during Q&A, someone said he couldn't get much more than 120 tracks or so, and what would I recommend he do. I said he didn't need more tracks - he needed to take a course on arranging :).)

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PS - I was referring to additional tracks (instruments, layers of instruments) versus comping different song parts on different tracks. So, if my arrangement has 4 parts, say verses, pre-hooks, choruses, bridge, then other than the drums, more times than not I'm going to have 4 tracks of each instrument. I do that so if I need to tweak anything on an instrument for a certain part of the song, I can easily do that on that respective track.

Just clarifying--but I see most of you knew what I meant already.

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My biggest ever project had 303 tracks in total. There would have been even more if not for some bouncing and merging along the way. But this did include some unused takes, unused 3rd-party midi tracks, guide tracks and failed experiments, all of which were eventually archived, but not deleted. The project was very complex and took over 3 years to complete.

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7 hours ago, Kev said:

The project was very complex and took over 3 years to complete.

3 yrs ! ..Can we listen to this Magnum opus   ?

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Sergeant Pepper's lonely  heart club band was done in a Revox 4 tracks!!!

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1 hour ago, CosmicDolphin said:

3 yrs ! ..Can we listen to this Magnum opus   ?

You can, but it might take you a month to listen to it all! jk 😄

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48 minutes ago, lapasoa said:

Sergeant Pepper's lonely  heart club band was done in a Revox 4 tracks!!!

With a LOT of bouncing 

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2 hours ago, CosmicDolphin said:

With a LOT of bouncing 

Beatles used to like to put lead vocals on one channel. I remember as a youth driving in my friends beat up old Fiat where one of his speakers was completely out. There were many Beatles songs where  in parts you can't hear the lead vocal! I wonder if they did that because they had limited tracks or just a creative decision. Interesting stuff.

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1 hour ago, razor7music said:

Beatles used to like to put lead vocals on one channel. I remember as a youth driving in my friends beat up old Fiat where one of his speakers was completely out. There were many Beatles songs where  in parts you can't hear the lead vocal! I wonder if they did that because they had limited tracks or just a creative decision. Interesting stuff.

That's because a lot of folks only had mono back in the day

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6 hours ago, razor7music said:

Beatles used to like to put lead vocals on one channel. I remember as a youth driving in my friends beat up old Fiat where one of his speakers was completely out. There were many Beatles songs where  in parts you can't hear the lead vocal! I wonder if they did that because they had limited tracks or just a creative decision. Interesting stuff.

Most of The Beatles records the main mix was the mono mix.   At that time (say 1965 to 1970) stereo was far more popular in the US than the rest of the world but most popular albums and 45s were mono.  Most record companies believed stereo was for classical recordings and mono was okay for popular music since popular music was played mostly on AM radio or jukeboxes.

Read about the remastering Giles Martin did for the reissues.  He spent much more time on the mono mixes than the stereo mixes.  As you noted in most cases tracks were just panned hard left or hard right to create artificial stereo.

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15 hours ago, CosmicDolphin said:

3 yrs ! ..Can we listen to this Magnum opus   ?

 

14 hours ago, razor7music said:

You can, but it might take you a month to listen to it all! jk 😄

Take all the time you need, but 6¼ minutes should be sufficient.

It's a cover of Bowie's Space Oddity, but it also includes a load of scripted dialog representing mission control. I posted some details about it in the Songs forum a while back:
http://forum.cakewalk.com/m3775408.aspx

I was working on it alongside people with physical and mental disabilities. The purpose of the exercise was to involve as many people as possible who happened to be in the building at the time. Not everybody could sing or play an instrument, so spoken dialog seemed like a good way to include everyone.

It's on Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/slsoundpro/so7

 

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As an unreconstructed rock'n'roller I don't generally use more than a handful of tracks. NOTE: Back when I was recording on tape I never had the luxury of using a separate track for every piece of the drum kit, so I do that now, which bumps up the track count. I wouldn't set any kind of artificial limit on tracks, but I believe the song and the performance counts more than the engineering or the production, so if I can't get it done with a couple of guitars and a piano I feel like I need to go back and write a different song.

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