Live vs Multitrack Recording

Patch Bay 1Live Recording vs Multitrack Recording
A live recording is like a photograph on film, it captures every detail exactly as it occurred.
Multitrack recording is like a painting, where you can add as many colors (sounds) as you like to create anything you can imagine.
A live recording is capturing all of the sounds from a single live performance, without overdubbing.
A multitrack recording is the combination of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole.
Overdubbing is the combining a new performances with existing recorded performances.

Patch Bay 1

Benefits of Live Recording:
When everyone is playing together live in the same room it is easier to communicate nonverbally.
Preforming live can ignite a spark between the musicians that can add energy to the music. This can add a great feel or “groove” to the recording.
Some people feel that live recordings are more honest or organic due to the lack of overdubbing.
If you are an incredible performer live recordings can add show off your abilities.

Patch Bay 1Disadvantages of Live Recording:
Any playing mistakes will be recorded so the musicians need to be well prepared.
Getting flawless performances from all band members simultaneously may significantly increase the time of recording sessions.
If the band lacks a good live chemistry the recording may be flat and lifeless.
All of the members of the band must be present when doing a live recording.
You will need to listen critically to each performance and choose the best overall version of the song
This may mean sacrificing a great improvised guitar solo from one performance in favor of a another performance that has all of the correct lyrics, but has a less exciting guitar solo.
Live band recordings may limit the microphone choices available to use. Many of the best sounding microphones available in the studio are extremely sensitive condenser microphones. These mics will record not only the desired sound but also any other sounds that are happening in the room at the time. For example if a drum kit and a loud guitar amp are being recorded at the same time the drum sound will be picked up by the guitar microphone and the drum mics will pick up the guitar amp sound. This is known as “mic bleed” or “bleed over.”
Mic bleed can make it more difficult to get the correct balance of instruments in the final mix.
Mic bleed significantly limits what the recording engineer can do with EQ and other processing.
The more instruments that are playing at once the more difficult it is to preserve the purity of tone of each individual instrument.
Recording a full live band requires a much more complex and well thought out setup (more microphones, preamps, cables, etc.) which will can add time to the recording sessions.

Patch Bay 1Advantages of Multitrack Recording:
If a performer makes a mistake during a recording you can re-record (overdub) a new part to fix any errors. This is especially helpful if the vocalist accidentally mixes up a lyric.
You can keep all of the best performances from each band member, so you never have to throw out a great individual performance because another member made a mistake.
You can focus on recording individual sections of a song without the need to play the entire song perfectly every time.
Individuals can record independently from the rest of the band which may help with scheduling.
It's faster and easier to edit individual performances than an entire live band recording.
When you record with a metronome it is easy to copy and paste entire sections of music which can save time.
You have more microphone choices available since you don't need to worry about mic bleed over.
You have much more control over EQ and processing of every instrument.
You have more freedom to experiment and create unique sounds.

Patch Bay 1Disadvantages of Multitrack Recording:
It can be hard to duplicate the live energy that happens when good musicians play together.
Striving for perfection can rob recordings of genuine human emotion and could result in sterile robotic sounding music.
Exploring endless sonic possibilities can become a time consuming distraction.
The temptation to overuse effects and processing which may not be necessary or musical.
Some people feel that multitrack recordings are less organic or honest due to overdubbing.

Patch Bay 1Conclusions:
Multitrack recordings give you more recording options and the flexability of adding overdubs and deliver the highest quality audio possible; but they can lack the vitality of a live preformance.
Live recordings can be more complicated and require excellent preformances from all band members; but they have the potential to be emotional, powerful, and engaging and sound great.
What if you want to capture some of the energy of live performance and do overdubbing?
The solution is to record the band live to a click track. While focusing on capturing a great live preformance of the rhythm section to use as a foundation for later overdubs.
This means DI-ing the guitars, bass, etc and monitoring the recording through headphones.
This allows everyone to play together and capture a great sounding rhythm section (drums and bass) without any offending mic bleed over.
Once there is a great live rhythm section recorded to a click track the rest of the band has the opportunity to re-record or overdub their parts along with the live tracks.

Additional Resources
Recording Guitar Amps | Tony Platt: Engineer

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