Tips & Techniques - March 1990

8-Track Production From Your 4-Track

by Jerry Vigil

An analysis of current RAP subscribers reveals that nearly one-third of you are working in a 4-track studio. This is probably because you haven't convinced the right people at your station that you need eight tracks. Why eight tracks? It's been said before: "Eight tracks are only four stereo tracks." One immediate advantage of using an 8-track is stereo production. A few years ago, a 4-track machine provided some decent stereo production using two tracks for music, one for voice, and the other for sound effects. Today, however, sound effects libraries are providing stereo effects that truly deserve to be used in stereo. Inexpensive digital effects processors can now provide fantastic stereo effects for voice tracks such as ping-pong delay, stereo pitch shifting, stereo echo, stereo flange, and on and on. Unfortunately, these great effects can't be used to the fullest extent if one stereo sound effect and one stereo music bed fill up your four tracks! While there are still some limitations and sacrifices, a 4-track machine can be used to turn out production that sounds like it's done on an 8-track.

A typical spot or promo produced on an 8-track might use three pieces of music: a music change in the middle and another change towards the end. On an 8-track, tracks 1 and 2 would be used for the first music bed, tracks 3 and 4 for the second piece of music, then back to tracks 1 and 2 for the third piece of music. With a 4-track, that consumes all your tracks and leaves nothing for a voice track. One way to get the three music segments on two tracks is to produce the bed on 2-track first, editing the three segments together, then transferring this back to 4-track and finally laying the voice track. This adds an unnecessary generation to your work and takes time. A quicker, cleaner way to accomplish this is to produce the spot on your 4-track in three separate segments, one for each piece of music. Now, mix those three separate pieces to your 2-track and perform two simple edits to bring the three segments together.

If you wanted stereo effects on your voice in one of the segments mentioned above, you would have your music on tracks 1 and 2 and the stereo voice track on tracks 3 and 4. You could have three different types of stereo effects on your voice in the entire spot by using a different effect on each segment of the spot. Do the mixes, do the edits, and you'll have a spot with three different pieces of stereo music, each with different stereo effects on the accompanying voice track.

Let's say you wanted the stereo sound effect of a jet fly-by under your voice track and over the stereo music bed in one of the segments. Put the music bed on tracks 1 and 2, then assign your mike to tracks 3 and 4. Also on tracks 3 and 4 you would assign the CD player or turntable providing the stereo fly-by effect. Take a minute to mix the levels of your voice with the fly-by because once they're on tracks 3 and 4, you can't alter that mix. Now, mix this segment down and do your edits with the other segments. Again, you have stereo music, stereo SFX, and the voice track which could have easily been passed through an effects processor for more stereo effects.

This tip is just a thought starter. The main idea is to think of your spot or promo in terms of segments that you'll edit together after the mix. (Whatever you do, don't let your GM read this -- He'll never OK the budget for an 8-track!) Seriously though, if time is of the essence at your station, a 4-track machine will never provide the efficiency of an 8-track. Also, if you have a donut jingle that requires six voice overs, an 8-track is a dream. The advantages of eight tracks over four are numerous, but four tracks are seldom so limiting that it will squelch a creative mind!

Matt Shafer Powell of WLAV-FM in Grand Rapids writes:

An excellent tip from Dave Oliwa in last month's issue regarding the use of reverb to give your spots that all important cold ending. Here's an addendum to that which I use often:

Find a song which ends with a drum sting (Joe Walsh's "I Can Play that Rock 'n Roll" is a perfect example.) Take that drum sting and either sample it off or record it onto a cart or reel. Now, take your original song (the one which you would like to end cold) and, at the last second, mix this drum sting into it and quickly pot down your original song. TAH-DAH! Now you've got a nice cold ending to your song. It's very simple and works like a charm!

Bob Kilpatrick of Baltimore's easy listening WLIF-FM makes 4-track users feel honored and responds to our "mini-tip" (January '90) about emptying 5-inch reels:

Looking through the January issue, I noticed the "Tips & Techniques" column discussing "Ping-Ponging" on multi-tracks. I am one of the great unwashed who has never worked with and rarely even seen a multi-track machine (even though my production room was wired for one months ago). For special effects I use one cart per effect and make one mix. So I feel like a husband wondering if the sexy single lady next door really would be better than what I've got in the room. One of these days I hope to try her out.

By the way, for stripping 5-inch reels: Call a friend at an easy listening station in town and see if they have any spare large metal reels (the kind you can take apart with a screwdriver). Run all the tape from your 5-inch reels onto that big one, then take it apart and push the tape off the hub. It works like a charm.

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