Tips & Techniques - January 1990

by Jerry Vigil

Bouncing Tracks

If you haven't figured out how to bounce tracks (also called ping-ponging) on your multi-track yet, it's worth knowing how to do. The basic premise of bouncing tracks is to free up used tracks to give you more tracks to work with. This is done by doing a mix at some point in the process of laying tracks and recording that mix to one or two free tracks on the multi-track (one if it's a mono mix -- two if stereo). The tracks that comprise the mix can then be erased for use again.

Different console/tape machine set-ups will use different steps than those described in this tip. For the sake of simplicity, we'll use a standard hookup of an 8-track recorder to an 8-buss console. Let's hook the outputs of each of the eight busses, or group outputs, directly to each of the eight inputs on the recorder. The eight outputs of the recorder are connected to TAPE inputs one through eight on the console. Each track of the multi-track then comes up on faders 1 through 8 of the console -- fader 1 is assigned to buss 1, fader 2 to buss 2, etc.

We'll start with our console in the TAPE monitor mode while we are laying down tracks. We put a stereo music bed on tracks 1 and 2, and on tracks 3 and 4, we add stereo sound effects. To bounce all four of these tracks to tracks 7 and 8, you would do the following: Take tracks 1 through 4 out of the TAPE monitor mode on the console. Bring up tracks 1 through 4 on the console faders and assign tracks 1 and 3 to buss 7, and tracks 2 and 4 to buss 8. This way, all left channel material will be recorded to track 7 and all right channel material to track 8. Now bring up faders 1 through 4 and set your mix levels. When you're happy with the mix, simply rewind, hit RECORD, and the mix will go to tracks 7 and 8. Be sure tracks 1 through 4 are in the "safe" mode so you don't erase them. When you've recorded the mix to tracks 7 and 8, you can erase tracks 1 through 4 and use them for something else.

In a 4-track studio, the same thing can be accomplished by mixing all four tracks to another 2-track machine, then recording the 2-track mix to tracks 1 and 2, thus freeing up tracks 3 and 4. Bear in mind that every time you bounce tracks, you're adding tape hiss to your mix. You'll notice a drop in the highs, as well. This generation loss can be reduced by recording your mix to RDAT before putting it back onto the 4-track. If your RDAT's in the shop, at least record your mix at 15ips, or 30ips if you have it. If you're going to do a lot of bouncing around, save tracks with a lot of highs for last. Record voice tracks and sound effects first, assuming your sound effects don't have a lot of highs in them. The stuff you want to sound really crisp in the end should be saved for last.

Those of you stuck in a 2-track studio can bounce around, too. You'll be stuck with mono mixes, but the process and the result are the same. Let's say you have a 2-voice spot, and you're both voices. Record voice 1 to the left channel, then voice 2 to the right channel while monitoring voice 1 on the left. Mix these in mono to another 2-track then record that mix to the left channel of the other 2-track. You now have a free track. This can go on forever, and if you keeping bouncing with a 2-track, you'll understand why this technique is also called "ping-ponging." If you're building a 2-voice spot with a lot of different sound effects, you can still get some stereo effects by mixing the "bounced" mono track "live" with your stereo music or whatever. 2-track bouncing will get you to tape hiss city faster than anything. Use the highest speed on your 2-track at all times. Be careful not to add too much high end EQ while you're recording tracks early on. Try to save high end boost for the end to avoid emphasizing tape hiss.

Using Pitch Shifters To Keep Things Musically Correct

Let's say you're building one of your dynamite promos. You've got this great music bed and you're adding some stagers and zaps. You whip out your Brown Bag CD full of goodies, find one you like, and lay it over the music bed; but it doesn't "sound" right. If you're the least bit musically inclined, you might realize that the bed and the synthesizer effect don't fit because they're not in the same musical key. Patch that CD player into your pitch shifter!

It'll take some playing around with unless you know what keys the bed and the effect are in, but, eventually, you'll find a setting that puts both elements in the same musical key. If you get good at this, it'll be difficult to tell that the added effect wasn't part of the music to begin with

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