Digitalgypsy66 wrote:The Beatles (and George Marin specifically) were pioneers in multi-tracking. The predominant method of recording (and only way for the first several years of the Beatles) was the 4 track tape recorder. I hope I'm explaining this right, but how I understand it is that each track contains a discrete instrument or set of instruments. So, you'd have drums on a track, vocals on track 2, guitars on 3, and bass on track 4. This made for a restrictive method of recording...so the Beatles began multi-tracking, essentially expanding 4 tracks into 16 or more tracks.
They would record on a 4 track and then mix those 4 tracks down to one track of a new 4 (or 8) track tape, opening up three or more tracks (which could in turn be multi-tracked). Obviously, this opened up the amount of sound that could be put on a sound recording.
That's a good way to explain it. It's called 'bouncing'; you record your first four tracks, mix them, and 'bounce' them down to one track on a new master tape. The story of "Bohemian Rhapsody" was that Freddie Mercury was getting the other guys to sing all these parts sort of without knowing what the final product was supposed to be, and he'd get them to triple- and in some cases quadruple-track their voices.* Then he'd mix that take with others and bounce them down to a new master. On one bounce down the engineer noticed that the tape they were using as a scratch pad had passed through the machine so many times that it was becoming translucent.... which is not a good thing. So they quickly had to re-stripe a new tape from that and effectively restart the bouncing process from the middle. But if that engineer hadn't said anything, it's entirely possible that the tape could have snapped and gotten fouled in the machine, which would have meant that hundreds of hours of labor would have been lost, and possibly meant that the song would have died with it, as the other members were not entirely excited about singing all those parts without knowing what was going on.
To quote Prof Snape, recording like this is really a subtle science and exact art. Much more difficult than simply multi-track recording.... which is part of what makes those older albums so remarkable.
* Iirc, Queen recorded on 8-track machines. But the magic of Queen's vocals was that they'd typically have all four members of the band sing each harmony part around the main melody. So every chorus bit would sound like it was being sung by 16 people. Think the opening to "Princes Of The Universe"....... 'Heeeere we are.....' sounds like an entire vocal ensemble, not just four dudes in a room.