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To Bounce or Not to Bounce :-)

Let's discuss "bouncing" a bit. Assuming you're recording on a 4 or 6 track TAPE machine, you will find early on that you are limited in your creativity by the quantity of tracks available to you.

Ever been in THIS position?: You have drums on track one and two (for that stereo effect), and you add a guitar on track 3. Now your're thinking to yourself..."Ok, I will add bass guitar on track 4, but then I will be out of tracks...Bummer !"

Don't worry...along comes the BOUNCE ! Bouncing is a simple technique where you are able to set the stereo spectrum setup and tone setup for your previously completed tracks 1,2 and 3, and bounce them to your last remaining track, track 4. After you do that, you will be able to re-record over your original tracks 1 and 2. Then, you can bounce tracks 1 and 2 to track 3, and have tracks 1 and 2 again available. So, from a 4 track machine, you can actually have 7 tracks available to you. Keep in mind though that when you bounce your tracks, say tracks 1,2 and 3 to track 4, that what ends up on track 4 is a keeper...you can't get in there to change anything once you've bounced. So make SURE you get it the way you want it bounce to track 4 a few times, vary the stereo and ths tone and see how it sounds), BEFORE you record over the tracks that made your bounced track 4.


The actual instructions on HOW to bounce on YOUR machine will be included in your documentation...remember the documentation?? It's the book that came with the tape deck that you've never opened...I didn't either until I wanted to learn how to bounce :-)

The new digital 4, 6 and 8 track machines, they say, will allow you to bounce as much as you want WITHOUT any loss of fidelity...but too much of a good thing can turn out not so good...use bouncing as sparingly as possible...think out your tracks ahead of time if you can, and plan ahead a bit. You'll get the hang of it.

Personally, I hate bouncing...it never really comes out as clear as I would have liked, and I seem to loose the definition I like to hear, so like many other people, I learned to "bounce" a different way.

If in the situation where you are running out of tracks, or wish to create a composite track, what to do is to make a stereo mix of the music, and send the output to another deck, recording it in stereo.: I call this "mixing down".

A 4 Track scenerio:

Tracks 1 AND 2 are percussion...track 3 is bass guitar, track 4 is rhythm guitar...and I am out of tracks with no track to bounce to right? WRONG ! I send those 4 clear tracks out mixed the way I want them to another deck or a CD burner and record them in that way on THAT machine. I treat this initial "mixdown" recording just like I would any mix for a finished product. I use an equalizer to tailor the frequencies, I compress the tracks I want (through a compressor in the effects loop in my deck), and I get the stereo JUST the way I want it.

Then after I have verified that the mixdown came out the way I want it, I turn right around and record my stereo mix BACK into my 4 track tape deck on tracks 1 and 2. REMEMBER...once your do this, your initial tracks 1 and 2 ARE gone...make sure you're happy with the mixdown 1st.

Gibson Les Paul

What comes back into my 4 track deck now is crystal clear, mixed and sounding the way I want it to, and I have two tracks available now (3 and 4) to use anyway I want.

If I add a lead guitar and a keyboard, this recording is the equivalent of 6 tracks now, and I can mix THAT down and send it out to my other deck or CD burner again, create a mix, and bring THAT back into my 4 track and repeat the process in order to add 2 MORE tracks. There is ALMOST no real loss of signal as long as you start with strong tracks and record OUT into the other machine as loud as you can without clipping. I said ALMOST :-)) Please note..everytime you record out and back, you WILL generate some hiss, and loose a bit of fidelity...but if you're paitient, you will learn how to minimize this and be able to get a whole bunch of tracks that sound good.

Where were we...Oh..ok...so..I bring in the last mix, and have now stereo percussion, lead-guitar, rhythm guitar bass guitar, and keys.

But I want VOCALS !! and 4 of them right?

No problem...I now have all the music I want recorded, and have 2 tracks available right?

I take a very cheap 4 channel mixer that I have had for years, and get the vocal people together, and we record up to 4 vocal parts at the same time. The mixer is stereo, and I can pan the individual mics anywhere I want in the stereo spectrum, and record them on tracks 3 and 4.

If there is vocal OVER TRACKING required (like if there is only one vocalist who wants to do 3-4 parts), I would have initiated the "mixdown" techniques.

So you see...it's possible to really get a LOT of music onto tape from your old 4 or 6 track machine. I also have an 8 Track cassette multi-track recorder that alleviates much of the bouncing required as I can record a full 8 tracks without having to bounce at all...but you know what?...I kind of like to go through the "mixdown-send-it-out-to-another-deck-and-bring-it-back-in" process...there's something about making the most of what you have work for you that way. It's kind of like re-inventing the wheel to an extent sometimes...there's no REAL rules, and you can be as creative with your components as possible, and see what works and what doesn't work. It's all up to you...the keepers will be used again, and the ones that DIDN'T work...who says that they were wrong? Maybe they will be JUST the thing you need on your next recording !

There's really no difference in the sound quality that I can percieve after a few bounces to another deck and back, or recording 8 tracks in a row. As a matter of fact, sometimes it sounds better to mixdown and go back and forth between my 4 track...the tape heads are wider on the 4 track then the 8, and offer a bit more fidelity then the 8 track does, and less hiss...

Oh, one word on tape HISS...learn to back off the treble on each and every track as much as possible while recording...you will be suprised that lots of treble for that "fuzz" sound really only makes your track sound worse...boost some midrange, and back off the treble...you'll be very glad you did !


Coming next:
"...so how DO you record a screaming guitar without waking up the family !
Or "How to get really good tone using parts found around the home !"


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