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How to preserve your recordings for musical history

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday February 23, 2011
If you don't save your multitrack recording as WAV files, it will be lost to musical history. No remixes, no retrospectives, no appearances on 'Classic Albums' for you matey.
How to preserve your recordings for musical history

Point number one...

You MUST save your multitrack recordings as WAV files. If you don't, you might as well throw them in the trash. Go on, throw them in the trash right now... clearly you don't care about your work.

Your multitrack masters are your own original creations. Your own works of art. Your investment in time and creative energy.

Who knows what opportunities will come to you in the future that will require access to your original multitracks? Money-making and career-building opportunities perhaps.

You can take it as a certainty that at some point in the future, your session file simply will not play as you intended it to, or perhaps not play at all, due to software changes and updates. I had an example of that where a track I recorded two years previously on a 'compatible' system just won't play.

OK, you are still not going to save? You're a lost soul and you will come to regret it.

Now, if you have realized the importance of saving your multitrack master recordings, the question arises of how to do it.

There are several ways you can save your multitrack masters, and you have to decide which to choose.

Firstly, you have to save your work as WAV files. WAV is the most common audio file format and probably the most future-proof.

Secondly, your recording very likely has edits. You have to save each track as a single continuous WAV file right from the beginning to the end. This eliminates the edits, which are contained in the session file, not the audio files themselves.

Next you have to choose. Here are the options...

  1. Save each audio track in its raw form, without inserts, bus effects or automation.
  2. Save each track with insert effects and automation.
  3. Save each track as a stereo output file with insert effects, automation and bus effects.

Now, the reasons why you would choose each option...

Option 1 is the best for future remixing. It contains your original recordings in unadulterated form - no EQ, no compression, no effects. It is the safest and most versatile method of saving.

Option 2 preserves your decisions on how each individual track should sound. This would limit the options on how the tracks could be used in the future, but it would make 'quick' remixes much easier.

Option 3 preserves everything in individual track form. If a record label suddenly demanded a version with the vocal louder, you could most easily do that with this saved version.

You could save all three versions if you really want to be sure. Don't forget to include your software instrument tracks - these are the most vulnerable of all.

The problem with doing this is that it is long-winded and arduous, in some software more so than in others.

But what if...

What if the software had an 'Export Multitrack' function? With options.

Imagine that - you could set in the options that you wanted all three versions to be saved. Then select 'Export Multitrack' from the menu, click 'OK' and just wait a few minutes while the whole thing happens.

Shall we lobby the software developers to provide this function?

Just imagine - you could export your track and send it to anyone, anywhere in the world (and even in the future) and they will be able to open it up, play it and perhaps even remix it.

Your work would be fully preserved for posterity (and future money-making opportunities!).

What do you say?

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday February 23, 2011 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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