History of Multi Track Recording

Updated November 21, 2016

Multitrack recording devices have enhanced a great amount in the last 50 years. From a basic 2-track machine to an unlimited digital multitrack recorder, multitrack devices have become the primary recorders that the music industry uses. The machines started off in the hands of artists like The Beatles, and are now the lone tool for nearly every recording artist.


Multitrack recording was started and developed by Les Paul, an American jazz and country guitarist in the 1940s. With financial support and advice from American vocalist Bing Crosby, and the Ampex Corporation (an American audio company), Paul produced the first 8-track machine that used and recorded on 1-inch tape. Paul, along with other popular recording artists such as Mary Ford and Patti Page, continued to use the new technology to enhance their vocals and instrumentation through out the 1950s.


The Ampex Corporation created and released the first commercial multitrack recording devices in 1955. The process of these recorders were titled "Sel-Sync," which was short for Selective Synchronus Recording. According to, "the earliest multitrack recorders (from Ampex) were analogue magnetic tape recorders with just two or three tracks.

Mainstream Multitrack Recording

By the 1960s, mainstream artists such as the The Beach Boys and The Beatles started tracking their music using multitrack recording. In 1963, when The Beatles kicked off their career, they recorded in mono on 2-track machines. Two years later they recorded in 4-track (compact audio cassette tape or just "cassette") "to create pop music of unprecedented complexity," and on their final studio album, "Abbey Road," they recorded in 8-track. One of the first 16-track recordings featured Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats."

Digital Multitrack Recording

Based on recording sounds on a computer hard drive, minidiscs, and a digital tape format, cheap digital multitrack recorders emerged around 1995. While time passed by, the prices of the digital recorders steadily dropped, as the power of the personal computer increased. Multitrack software became easily compatible with the household computer. The computer was basically a complete multitrack recorder.

Analogue and Digital

Currently, the recording industry mainly features multitrack recorders as analogue or digital, and are offered with several more tracks. Analogue machines can hold up to 24 tracks on 2-inch-wide tape, while 3-inch-wide tape can contain 32 tracks. Digital multitrack machines can have an unlimited amount of simultaneous tracks and are enabled to record and play back from numerous media and formats such as hard disk, optical disc and digital tape.

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