View Full Version : What are tracks?

08-14-2015, 12:17 PM
What do they mean, when they say that a recorder records four "tracks" simultaneously? I remember having an eight track player in my car back when I was in high school. I never even thought about that, but does that have any relevance to the four tracks that the recorder records. Also, I was reading a biography of Bruce Springsteen, and they kept talking about him and his band going to the recording studio and recording "tracks". Are those the same tacks as the four that the recorder is recording and the eight that my old eight track in my car was playing? There is just a lot of reference to tracks, and I don't know what a track even is.

08-14-2015, 04:18 PM
From this Wikipedia article on multitrack recording (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitrack_recording): Multitrack recording... is a method of sound recording that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking [is] simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same tape—a "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized.

When a tape is described as 2- or 4- or 8-track, that tells how many separate signal channels are recorded on that tape. The recorder-player's read/write heads shift physically to access the desired channels. See this Wikipedia article on 8-track tape (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8-track_tape) for all the gory details.

When musicians say they're "laying down tracks" it merely means they're recording various takes or pieces. Each musical element may be recorded separately from others. A session might start with percussion and bass players "laying down" rhythm tracks. Harmonic and background tracks may be recorded, then melodic instrument or voice tracks.

When the desired sounds are on tape, the engineer and producer "mix them down" with each track at the desired level (volume). What may have been recorded as 4 or 12 or 24 or 36 or 80 or 120 tracks must be mixed to the final audio format, whether 2-channel (stereo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereophonic_sound)) or 4-channel (quadraphonic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadraphonic_sound)) or 5.1 surround-sound (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surround_sound): left, right, center, left rear, right rear, bass. (Bass is much less directional than higher frequencies.)