Ping-pong recording

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The Ping Pong recording technique (also called ping-ponging or "bouncing" tracks, and reduction mixing) is used in sound recording, to condense program material by dubbing multiple parts to just one or two tracks, allowing more room for overdubbing or to simplify mixdowns.

The two most common methods consist of

  • Dubbing tracks between two tape recorders (or tracks on a multitrack recorder) connected through a mixing console
  • Dubbing tracks internally, through the onboard mixer of many machines, including Portastudios and similar multitrackers.

In both cases, a new instrument, voice, or other material may be added with each bounce, depending on the setup's mixing capabilities.

In analog recording, the audio quality normally decreases with each generation, while in digital recording, the quality is usually preserved. In either case, the most leeway comes with having the best possible source material.

Recording artists who employed such techniques include Herb Alpert (who made many of his Tijuana Brass recordings playing multiple horn parts, overdubbed and grouped together on tape), Harry Nilsson and The Carpenters (who did similar with their voices, building what sounded like a large chorus), future Electric Light Orchestra leader and producer Jeff Lynne (who overlaid guitar parts on a home machine, before graduating to studio work), and The Beatles (who frequently used pairs of four-track recorders linked together).

Ping pong is also a term of derision, in particular applied to early commercial stereo recordings of the late 1950s to mid-1960s which do not have a convincing stereo image or sound-stage. Such recordings were often made in two-track form for mixing in mono, but released as authentic stereo recordings.