Step 6 - Tracking
To track acoustic instruments (e.g. vocals, pianos, horns, strings,
acoustic guitar, etc…) you must have the following…
To track electronic instruments (e.g. electric bass, synthesizers,
drum machines, samplers, etc…) you must have the following…
You can add other components to this signal path, but additional
components are not required. For example…
You can plug an electric bass into a bass amplifier, converting it
into an acoustic sound that you will then capture with the upper
path. Notice that this analogy adds components to the path; a bass
amplifier, a mic (that will capture the amp and the room that the
amp sits in), a microphone cable, and a microphone preamp have
replaced the DI. This hypothetical analogy would not make sense
for someone that does not have a good sounding amp, and good
sounding room, and microphone, and preamp.
Here is another analogy…
You have a powered mixer that your band uses when they perform
live. Its old, with a couple spilt beer stains on the top, but you still
decide to use it for your recording because you need 12 channels
for your 12 drum microphones. Your path goes… drums, to drum
microphones, to powered mixer (mixed to 2channels/stereo) and
into your computer though an audio interface that has only two
input channels. The audio interface contains an a/d (or analog to
digital) converter. If you track the drums first and the bass guitar
second in this analogy, you do not need to plug the bass into the
Only add components to the above essentials for tracking if those
components will compliment your sound. All analog circuitry adds
noise, no matter how expensive or high end it is.
DI (direct input)
If there will be conflict in the recording process, this is when it typically occurs due to various recording ideologies. If you want
things to go smoothly, do not argue with the producer, just do what they say.
The producer should not delay getting the sound they want. Many people in this field prefer to track dry (as in no effects,
compression, etc.) so they have more flexibility in the later steps. The problem with this philosophy is that it focuses on the
activity rather than the results, which often leads independent recording artists to missed deadlines or no product at all. If you
can get the right sound in the tracking phase, that channel of audio will move easily though the steps of editing and mixing.
Many mixers, hard disk recorders, or audio interfaces for your computer will contain microphone preamps and a/d converters.
Research the quality of your device's components.
When producing acoustic instruments, you should examine the player, then the instrument, and then the room. These
characteristics are most important in developing your sound. Many independent recording artists struggle to find another piece of
gear to add to their recording setup, in an effort to improve the sound of their bedroom closet. They waist money on gear that
they believe will give them a professional sound, yet they keep going in the closet. They wonder why the sound doesn't improve.
Basically the producer should make adjustments to the tracking step in this order...
3. Room Tone
6. A/D Converter
7. Recording Format
The Recording Format
The recording format is the digital medium your recording will sit on. This could be your computer's hard drive, or the drive in a
harddisk recorder. DAW stands for digital audio workstation. It is the program used to write audio too, and reference audio from
the recording format. It is also used for editing the recording.