History of song recording!

It is very important that we talk a little about how things worked in the past in a recording studio.

This will help us in getting strong fundamentals of how things worked and what is required to create a song.

In the past (1930's to 1950's) First generation

In those days things like recording a song etc was a very expensive affair. Not only the equipment was expensive but also very basic and had its own limits.

Now please note that we will not get into nitty gritty of all the things that were used in those days. This is just to give you an overview of how things happened. We will cover only the part which is required for our understanding of the subject.

Here is a diagram showing how a song was recorded in a studio in those days....

  • As you can probably see, the sound coming from different sound sources like the singer, guitarist and drummer is recorded into a single tape using a mechanical device in the center.
  • This tape is similar to audio cassette tape that would store the information and could be played back
  • There was very little room for error in this method and recordings were very simple. Once recorded you cannot tweak individual sound source so it was very important to make sure that all volume settings and placement of the mic are correct to get usable results.
  • If you commit a mistake during the recording process you will have to re-record the whole part again.
  • The errors were sometimes fixed by cutting the magnetic tape joining it to other parts. But this was again very cumbersome, expensive and time consuming process.

A little ahead of time 1960's -1980's- Second generation
Things got a little better during this time....

  • More than a single track in the above diagram. 
  • Each sound source would be kept on individual magnetic tape.
  • In come cases more than one sound would be recorded on a single tape, for example the sound of singer and guitarist may be recorded on one tape and drum sound may be recorded on another tape.

Each "tape" would sometimes be also called as "track".

Benefits of having more than single tape (track)
Because these single tapes could be moved and edited it had following plus points:
  •     This created possibilities to mix the song and re-record only the part that has errors.
  •     There is no need to record all sounds at one time.
  •     Can remove or add new sound later on.
  •     Make adjustments related to sounds.

Let's revise what we learnt so far...

  • We noticed that recording songs in the past was not an easy task. It was very expensive and limiting.
  • However things got a little better when devices came which could record more than one tape at one point. But this was not enough.
  • On next page we will see how things got a lot better when the recording was done on digital format rather than anolog devices like the magnetic tape.

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