A few friends and fellow players came to a gig I was doing last week end and I was discussing some recent recording work our band was doing. I mentioned that I had purchased a new Tascam DP-24. I have used my original Tascam 2488 for the past 12 years and I just wanted to upgrade for a few new features. One of the other musicians asked if 24 tracks was enough for what I was doing and I assured him that using 24 tracks for the final mix worked well for me (The DP-24 has 8 virtual tracks per channel for a total of 192 possible recorded tracks but you can only play back 24 on the final mix. If I possibly need more I can either bounce a few premixed tracks or bring it into my computer but generally unless I'm being extravagant, 24 is usually much more than I need.

This musician told me that one of his recent recordings done in Pro Tools used 92 tracks. I asked if that was because he kept multiple tracks of the same instrument (like 15 guitar solos, 10 takes of a lead vocal etc.) and he said no. He said all 92 tracks were used on the final mix. I know this guys band well and there are four musicians and three of them sing (they are very good), but 92 tracks?

Maybe because I just have an old school recording mentality having used 4 track recorders for about 20 years before I got my first 8 track but I am curious. What is the most amount of usable tracks you have needed to get a final mix on a song?
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 2, 2016,
I have about 62 tracks on the tune I'm working on now. 16 of those are drum mics ( some of which I've muted), 2 are bass, the rest are simply broken up guitar parts which could technically be consolidated into much fewer tracks. Some are takes or parts that I'm having trouble deciding whether they should stay etc.

If you look at complex pop mixes etc where they have 100 + tracks ( check sound on sound and Mix magazine interviews etc.) , most of it is duplication ( like having 10 layered synths) or simply having a track for every single section and every instrument - so rather than have one bass track playing all the way through, they have 20 bass tracks, one track for each verse, chorus etc.
Thanks maybe that's what this band is doing. That's interesting. I never tried breaking up the songs into sections like that.
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In my case it's a symptom of how I ( sometimes) compose - which would be to track a basic idea to a click in my daw and then build an arrangement from there - this usually means having all kinds of takes and different layers.

The advantage to having things broken up like that is that you can rely less on automation and simply mix each section freely. It does create an incredible amount of visual clutter though.

I use Reaper and break up my tracks into grouped sections, so in the end I'll have maybe 10 master Group tracks ( 1 for drums, 1 for bass, 1 for electric guitar etc.) which is easy to manage.
That's pretty interesting. What I wondering is how anyone can mix 92 tracks without two huge screens (which I am pretty sure they don't have that) and keeping track of where everything is must be a challenge. I'm not being critical I'm just curious. I have Sonor in my computer and with two screens I can't see more than maybe 16 tracks per screen unless the display in very small.
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I remember recording a band that was pretty much an exact copy of early 80s Metallica, they usually clocked about 90 tracks or so but I was recording 3 mic track per guitar and one safety DI track.

If I had recorded that a few years ago on 24 track I would've submixed these 3 into 1 at the board and probably wouldn't have had the luxury of the safety DI.
Last edited by diabolical at Feb 2, 2016,
Some tracks I'm working on now have a lot of blending/layering. Probably end up with 50+ tracks, just depends really. Most of it is with vocals. The main vox track will be relatively dry with a few duplicates underneath that have fx on them.
I'm like you, I go with a more old school approach to recording - I also use a Tascam 2488, which is more than enough for my needs. Personally I've never gone above the basic 24 tracks.

Typically I use the following:
  • 2 tracks panned far left & far right for drums (created by a drum machine)
  • 1 track for bass
  • 1 track for lead vocals
  • Maybe a couple for backing vocals if necessary
  • Between 2 & 10 tracks for guitar dependent on the song complexity

Personally I've never needed more than that, but then my recordings are quite basic. When you start getting to 92 tracks for a single mix, you're probably talking about a separate track for each drum/cymbal, multiple vocal layers, orchestral sections & that sort of thing.

I guess it's one of those things where the correct answer is whatever works for you.
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So here's my take on it!

I have 16 tracks on my portastudio, and I've never run out of tracks. In my opinion you most often don't "need" to have many tracks for the same instrument (with one exception I'll write about further down), except when recording one part at the time and they overlap, then I use two though. Because let's say the song has three solos which don't overlap, I can just put them on the same track and then edit the parts separately. And then what I usually do when parts do overlap, is to use two tracks and alternate the parts between them.

But I guess it also depends what editing software you have, with older lower budget ones it might help with more tracks, I don't know because I've only used higher level ones with all the functions I need Also, I can see the point from a organizing point of view, that it's easier to label the tracks Solo 1 etc. But that's more of a luxury in my opinion.

Then to the exception, if I were to aim for a truly professional recording and I had a non-digital drumset, I agree with reverb66 about the drums. I would also put the different parts of the drum-set on a separate track with it's own optimized microphone.

But for using layers I usually just duplicate the tracks later, instead of doing two separate recordings or using two tracks simultaneously on one take.
I remember when 8 tracks were enough

In a real production you'd want DI tracks of bass and guitar for safety, plus the miked options. From what I read about Michael Wagener, he uses about 4 tracks for each guitar, so think about how fast he'd run out on the Tascam

At the same time - listen to the Doors, some of the stuff was cut on 4 track reel to reel, nost on 8 track machines, I think the most they ever had was 8 track
A recent project with clean guitar, DI's of guitar and bass, distorted guitar (2 amps per side, 2 mics per amp so 8 trax total) vocals, drums, and bass ended me up with 68 total.

This is counting the reverb and delay buses, parent folders for multi-channel/track instrument (a feature in Reaper), every drum mic, and the multitude of layer-tracks and take tracks for vocals.

Highest I've gone is 89 in a project with the same as above but add various synths.
As long as what you do is productive that's all that matters. I just have an "old school" history with recording so I tend to make quick decisions and move on or do it again till I get it what I perceive is correct and move on. I don't think that this way is the best way to work but it's just the way I do it. I find that when I was limited to fewer tracks I was forced to make decisions on the spot and move on. I worked quicker and got more done 4 and 8 track machine than I do now. More tracks give me an opportunity to delay making any decisions and in my case that's not good because projects go on and on and often never reach completion. That's my own personal issue and I struggle with it.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.