Tech Tip:Keeping Track
By Dennis Kambury
I recently refurbished my old four-track reel-to-reel recorder, and thought it would be fun to listen to some old tapes made when the recorder was new. I dug out an old cardboard box with dozens of reels carefully packaged, and prepared to take a trip down memory lane. My enthusiasm was quickly dampened as I opened reel after reel that noted only titles - no track info, no instrumentation, no dates, nothing that would help me recall how I had created some of that old work. It was a frustration I could easily have avoided by creating a track sheet describing each recording session as it happened.
All the right notes
Keeping track of your sessions may take a little getting used to - in the heat of the moment the last thing on your mind is taking notes. But it will pay off in the long run, especially as your track count grows. With four tracks, you may have a fighting chance of recalling your old mixes. But today's workstations boast virtually unlimited track count, and committing that much information to memory could be difficult!
I've found that keeping a notebook by the mixer at all times makes it easy for me to handle the bookkeeping chores. As I replay a take, I note date and time, string gauges, patch numbers, and anything else that hits me at the moment. This works well for my personal projects, but for paid gigs I like more structure. When I need to recall specific settings for levels, EQ, effects, and more, I just refer to the track sheet. Clients (especially bands) often like to have the track sheets both as a record of what's on the master tape or CD, and as a memento of their time in the studio.
While the information you track will vary from project to project, there are some useful data to note for you and your clients. Logging the date, time, engineer, producer, client, and track information covers the basics. Don't forget to record sample rate, bit depth, time code info, MIDI information, sample library disc/track info, and the easily-overlooked virtual track info.
Click here for a PDF document that will give you a starting point. Print a bunch of these out, use them, and then archive them in a loose-leaf binder. You'll never have to guess about those old sessions again!