We have already had a brief look at editing audio using Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) in Chapter 4. The pre-production period is the time when you will be using this type of software extensively in order to get all the required sound elements assembled, edited & ordered in time for the technical rehearsal.

The sound design for a show can be as simple or as complex as the director requires. The one thing that is true though, is that as technology has evovlved, the complexity of live theatre sound has increased greatly. It used to be a time consuming job to make a simple edit involving razor blades, editing blocks & sticky tape. Digital audio has made editing quick & easy. Directors are aware of this & their expectations of what a sound designer/editor can offer them has risen proportionately.

The sound requirements for a show may be as simple as a piece of pre-recorded music at the start & the end of the show. If this is the case, your job could not be simpler, however nowadays this is rarely the case.

So far we have looked at:

  • Naming audio
  • Erasing tracks & discs on the minidisc recorder
  • Dividing tracks
  • Combining tracks together
  • A - B erase. (removing a section from within a track.)
  • Moving tracks, to arrange the playing order of tracks
  • Undo-ing previous edits, if they have not gone as you wished!

With all the editing techniques above we were working on a single stereo track but very often we need to work on several mono or stereo tracks simultaneously. This is called MULTI-TRACK RECORDING.


Multi-track recording is a technique that allows different pieces of audio to be recorded onto their own tracks. Let's see how this can be useful to us. Imagine you are recording some musicians who are providing music for an upcoming theatre show. There are 4 musicians:

  • An acoustic guitarist
  • A flute player
  • A percussionist
  • A double bass player

You decide to record the musicians onto a stereo minidisc recorder but there are problems. It becomes apparent that the flute player has not learnt their music & they keep making mistakes. This means that you have to stop the recording & start again in the hope that the flute player will eventually get it right. Beacause it is a stereo recording there are 4 instruments being recorded together onto 1 stereo track & there is no way you can isolate just the flute & remove it from the recording.

To solve the problem you decide to use a multi-track recorder. In this case an 8 track recorder which as the name suggests has 8 independent tracks. So now:

  • The acoustic guitar is recorded onto track 1
  • The flute is recorded onto track 2
  • The percussion - a tambourine - is recorded onto track 3
  • The double bass player is recorded onto track 4
  • (At the moment tracks 5, 6, 7 & 8 remain unused)

You record the musicians again & true to form the flute player makes mistakes while all the other musicians play their pieces correctly. This time insead of re-recording everyone, you can send the other musicians home & re-record the flute player onto their track 2, replacing their previous recording with errors in it. This is called over-dubbing.

Later that day the director comes to have a listen to what you have recorded. He is generally happy with the recording but says: "Is it possible to have a clarinet & some cymbals on the recording as well?" Because we have recorded on a multi-track recorder this is possible. We call a clarinet player & the percussionist & they are able to overdub their music onto track 5 & 6 while playing along to the music that was recorded previously on tracks 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Multi-track recording revolutionised the recording process & now that each instrument is recorded on its own track it is possible to "mix" music. Initially 4 track recorders were invented, followed by 8, 16, 24 & 48 track recorders. (The Beatles recorded Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on two 4 track recorders connected together in 1967.)


Mixing at its most simple involves adjusting the volume of all the recorded instruments so that they blend pleasantly & none are too loud or too quiet. Now if the guitar is too loud that is no problem, you can just turn down the track it is recorded on. You can adjust the volume of an instrument at any point in a track. So for instance, if your guitar player has recorded a solo in the middle eight of a song, you can now turn the volume of that bit up so it can more clearly be heard. You can pan the flute to the right speaker & the clarinet to the left. You can add reverb to the tambourine etc, etc. Mixing also involves eq-ing sounds. You might want to boost the bass frequencies of the double bass to make it sound more "weighty" or add some high frequency boost to the cymbals to make them "sparkle" more.

Modern day Digital Audio Workstations are able to record hundreds of tracks. The only limitaion being the power of your computer's processor. Like video editing, audio recording & editing requires a powerful, modern computer.