Multitrack recording is far more sophisticated than it may appear on the surface. If a song is not thought out well enough in the demo stage, the music production can easily turn into a big mess of overdubs in an attempt to find a magical part. This is the mud against the wall approach. The engineer is then left to sort out all of this junk in an attempt to make it sound professional.
In a professional music production, the overdubbing process must be very directed. If it is, there will always be room for experimentation with the overdubs when called for. Many music productions come to life in the overdubbing stage where key hooks in the song can be created and developed. If the overdubs are created upon a foundation of quality work from the tracking session, then a song can really take shape quickly. If not, the overdub stage is relegated to a rescue mission in an attempt to save the song. Every part must be layered on with a measured goal or what you will be left with, at best, is a good sounding demo instead of a quality recording.
There are many stumbling blocks in the overdubbing process. Here is a list of the most common ones encountered:
- Easy to make everything too perfect. Performances can lack a vitality and freshness.
- Layering too many parts usually makes everything sound smaller, not bigger and creates a lot of extra work.
- You can wear out a performer by having them repeat their performances too often.
- Easy to lose perspective on the whole production. (forest through the trees syndrome)
- Quality of sounds can become more important that the performance.
- Easy to over complicate the process in an attempt to make a part sound unique.
- The production can easily take on a “paint by numbers” feel.
- Easy to accept average performances thinking they can be fixed with editing.