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stereo sound


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ey... i've been paying attention to the way bands use stereo sound recently [basically all the music i listen to is rock and metal]...

from what i can pick up, it seems that there's almost always two guitar tracks, one on each side, and the drums have certain drums right or left, or somewhere in between.

but im interested more in the bass... is the bass usually just one track, and smack bang in the centre with the vocals??


oh and when recording all these different tracks, do most bands play each instrument/track seperately, or simultaneously??


- roses on your breath but graveyards on your soul -
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i always liked putting my bass a little to left -- it makes it stand out without having to turn up the volume.


there are no rules when it comes to recording and using the stereo space, although almost everyone, almost always puts vocals in the center, along with the snare and the kick drum.


there are also no rules about live v. overdub in the studio. most often, i think, the basic tracks are recorded live, together, to establish a feel for the song (although i've never had the luxury of recording that way). then overdub tracks are recorded, touching up the bass, actually doing the vocal take (instead of a "scratch" vocal), and adding whatever guitars, sounds, and anything else the song might need.


next time you're listening to an album, try to pick out all the different layers of guitar parts in it and where they are in the stereo spectrum. it's very fun stuff, and a whole new level to the music to which you're listening.



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OK, sticking strictly to bass and where it is in a stereo recording... MOST of the time the bass is mixed dead center, so each side has an equal amount of the signal. However, a lot of bands in the 60's and 70's mixed the bass hard to one side, the guitar hard to the other side. The first few Van Halen albums were mixed with bass one side and the guitar the other from what I recall, it's been a while since I listened to them. When recording the bass/git-box panned hard right and left, often the vocals wound up in the middle. The drums would be either center or a combination of center and panned left/right; by this, usually the snare and bass drum were center and the toms/hihat were more stereo right/left based on where the drum was located on the kit.. the other thing with drums is 99% of the time you have overhead mics that are left/right to catch cymbals and information from the whole kit as it's being played.


There are really a number of options when mixing a recording on how you want everything panned left/right/center; a lot of the decisions get made during mix-down as to how stuff is situated stereo-wise.


With regards to when everything is recorded.. well, that varies a lot too. In 95% of the studio projects I've ever done, everything is recorded to tape seperately. A lot of the time, I'll wind up recording a "scratch" bass track with the drummer while he's recording his actual parts; just so the drummer has something to play along with. This isn't by any means the "norm", as there probably isn't a norm in this area. I'm sure some drummers prefer to have guitar playing with them and some play to nothing at all. It's more a matter of preference I'd imagine. Some bands do record bed tracks live, meaning the drums, rhythm guitar and bass are all recorded at once and they will keep the whole take. Later vocals and more guitar or other instruments are added. Of course, this is also very subjective to what style of music it is.. with a jazz band, I would assume that most of the time things are still recorded all at once and they take several passes at each song and keep what they like... it really depends on how much the music relys on the intimate interaction between all the players. When there is little to no improvisation happening in the recording, it's less likely that the band will be tracked all at once; thus more likely that they will track a single instrument at a time.


So, I hope this addresses your question to some extent.. really it's ultimately up to the band that's doing the recording, the music that they are playing, and how good the musicians are at playing it "right" every time.


I feel like I'm rambling, and I probably am. Time to enjoy another refreshing beverage.

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