When it comes to recording music, there are some basic techniques that have been around since the early days of analog tape.

One of the most important is called overdubbing. It’s used in almost every type of music production workflow.

But what is overdubbing exactly? Why is it done and when should you use it while creating music?

In this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about overdubbing to get the best takes of your songs.

Let’s get started.

What is overdubbing in music production?

Overdubbing means recording multiple passes of a musical performance in order to fix mistakes, thicken the sound, or add additional layers.

The term comes from the practice of recording over sections of analog tape, but it’s often used to refer to any situation where you record on top of existing material—even without replacing it.

Sometimes a great take is nearly perfect, but still needs a light touch-up in a few spots.

Why record overdubs?

Overdubs serve several important purposes in the recording process. Here are the most common ones:

Fixing mistakes

Sometimes a great take is nearly perfect, but still needs a light touch-up in a few spots.

In these cases, many musicians prefer to create a short overdub by punching in rather than recording a whole new take.

This is especially helpful when tracking vocals since singers can easily get tired from recording too many takes.

Thickening the sound

Another classic technique in recording is called double tracking. It’s a type of overdubbing where the musicians layer additional takes of the same part on top of each other.

The resulting sound is thicker and has a natural modulation effect from the small differences in pitch and timing.

Adding additional layers

Recorded music generally has more small details and stylistic flourishes than a live performance.

When overdubbing, the musicians are free to record additional passes with new ideas or more intricate parts.

When overdubbing, the musicians are free to record additional passes with new ideas or more intricate parts.

For example, It’s common to add additional vocal harmonies, instrumental solos and auxiliary percussion during overdubs.

How to overdub in your DAW

Luckily for modern producers, overdubbing is easier than it’s ever been thanks to non-destructive DAW editing.

In this section, I’ll show you how it’s done.

Here are four basic ways to accomplish overdubbing for different situations:

1. Record on a new track

The simplest way to overdub is to create a new track in your DAW and record alongside tracks you’ve laid down already.

This is basic multi-tracking, but it’s also a form of overdubbing.

In many cases a single instrument part requires more than one simultaneous track to get the right sound.

I’m talking about situations where the instrument changes timbre mid-song or needs to fade out naturally over the entrance of the next line.

Don’t hesitate to create new tracks and overdub if the need arises—even for a single part or element.

2. Record over an existing track

You can also record over an existing track just as easily.

In this situation you simply choose the spot you want to overwrite and begin recording on the fly.

Hot tip: In some DAWs you might need to enable “Quick Punch” or other punch-in features to start recording while the playhead is running.

Because DAW recording is non-destructive, you can go back and extend the new take or the old one in either direction.

If you do it correctly you’ll have a seamless overdub!

3. Punch in and out

Punching in and out is a variation on the previous technique that’s especially good for fixing small errors in the middle of a take.

In this situation you set up boundaries and only re-record material that falls in the area you specify.

This way you can play specific parts over and over until you get them right—it’s a key part of modern vocal production!

4. Loop record

Finally, if you want to make multiple attempts of the same passage one after the other, you can use the loop record function.

If you want to make multiple attempts of the same passage one after the other, you can use the loop record function.

Like punching in and out, this method requires you to set a boundary where the overdubbing will take place.

With loop record engaged, the selected area will play over and over again, creating a new take each time.

Hot tip: Using the loop record feature usually results in the creation of a takes folder or playlist. You can use the loops you recorded to create a composite take, or “comp” of all the best moments in your performance.

This way you can try several takes in a row, or just practice the section intensively to get it right.

Learn basic recording techniques

Recording with a DAW might seem like advanced technology, but many of the core techniques go back to the earliest days of recording.

Overdubbing is one recording method that’s here to stay. It helps you get better takes and be more creative with music production.

Now that you know how it works, get back to your DAW and keep creating.

Audio LANDR