Overdubbing – A Stage in Recording Process

Hey this is Rashed again from the ASO Team, and today I will be teaching you a few things about overdubbing while Ken Lewis is Vacation in Antigua. After the main tracks have been set down, adding instruments and vocal parts is done by using the process of overdubbing. At this phase, the tracks that are added by screening the tape tracks recorded earlier (generally with the help of headphones) while concurrently recording new, modified or doubled instruments and/or vocals on to one or several tracks of a recorder or digital audio workstation (DAW).

At the process of overdub (OD), per part is added into a current project until the soundtrack or song is completed. If the artist commits a mistake, there’s no need to worry! All that’s needed is to re-cue the DAW or have the tape rewind to the point where the instrument starts playing and repeat the process until you are able to capture the best possible output. If the take is almost perfect except for a short bad line or some flubbed notes, it’s possible to return and re-record that unwanted part onto the same or new track. This is the process called punching in. if the musician has put down his part correctly and the engineer has did some drop ins and outs of the record at certain correct timings that will remain unnoticed to any listener.

Side Note: This is only attended for Layered Recording Sessions. This is not for Live Recording.

In an OD session, the same process is done for selecting mics, placement, EQ and level as they happened during the sessions of recording (this is when you’ll appreciate a good documentation). If there’s only one instrument to be overdubbed, the issue of having tracks of other instruments leaking into the latest track won’t exist. But, there should still be extra care to make sure that headphones are not too noisy and they are properly placed on the head of the artist because excessive outflow from the headphone mix can happen. You can learn alot more about this in my Mixing Lessons.

If the recorder in used is analog, it should be put in master sync mode to make sure that the tracks recorded earlier will be in sync and play back from the record head. The mode for master sync is set either at the recorder or the autolocator remote control can be used. In general, the tape machine can switch automatically from monitoring the source (which are signals fed to the console or recorder) to tape/sync (which are signals from playback). If recording is done to a tape or DAW, the control room monitor mix should significantly feature the recorded instruments so that if there are mistakes they can be easily heard. Throughout the initial repair, the cue mix of headphone can be altered to suit the personal taste of the musician.

Once done with OD, the next step is mastering which is mainly done by a master engineer. The goal here is to make fine-tuning modifications that can make the overall recording achieve the following:

  • Proper level balancing from one track to the next,
  • Achieve a dynamic level for all songs.
  • Equalization and
  • Overall level.

This phase depends on the mastering engineer and it is his task is to ensure that the soundtracks are smooth in all levels.

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