What Is A Track In Music?

There are so many interesting words that are thrown around in the music industry. As you continue to learn more about this unique and beautiful world, you’ll find that knowing them is incredibly important. One word that is pretty versatile, but incredibly common is the word ‘Track’. So let’s learn a little bit more about this interesting and important word in the music industry.

What Is A Track In Music?

How Do We Define ‘Track’?

Track:  “A single stream of recorded sound with no location in a sound field” (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative)

Now that we have the definition, let’s expand on it. This one is pretty technical, so why not break it down. The definition uses the statement “single stream of recorded sound”, which if you don’t know much about music yet, may need a little bit of explaining. We can follow that by discussing the nuances of location. 

Single Stream Of Recorded Sound?

Something really important to know about music is that, unless labeled as a ‘live recording’, it probably wasn’t made with a whole band in the studio. Instead, it was recorded piece by piece. This is done so each separate entity can be perfected and lined up with the other pieces to make a song that is as close to perfect as possible. 

The recordings of these pieces, unconnected to the rest of the song, would be tracks. This is a way we can contextualize what a track is, but in reality, a track can be any piece of recorded sound. It might be a single guitar line for a song, a laugh track for a sitcom, or really any background sound you hear in your favorite podcast. 

It doesn’t matter what the sound is or where it is going to end up. If you record it, you can label that recording as a track. 

What Is A Sound Field?

What Is A Sound Field?

Now that we have the concept of what a track technically is, let’s define what a sound field is and what the importance of the location, or lack thereof, is in a track. 

A sound field is a space where different sounds are being dispersed together. (Merriam Webster) An easy way to visualize this would be a multitrack platform like Adobe Audition or Audacity. 

A track in itself does not particularly belong in a soundfield. It is its own thing, and can exist without having those other things around it. A multitrack, however, sounds like it is, and does actually need multiple different tracks layered together in order to be really utilized.

Other Ways We Define ‘Track’

Now that we have the actual and technical definition of “track”, let’s talk about the sort of ‘music industry slang’ ways that we use it. 

A common way that people use the word “Track” is to describe a multitrack recording session, what would actually be a collection of tracks. (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative) This wording, of course, comes from the fact that it is a collection of singular tracks, making up something that we would consider to be an entire song, or maybe the start of one. 

Going further from that, you can also hear people label entire songs or even just the instrumental lines of a song as a track. You’ve probably heard people say things like “There are 12 tracks on the album” or “The beat on this track is great”. It’s not the technical way to use the word, but no one is going to correct them. 

Essentially, people in different areas of the music industry utilize the word “track” with a different level of specificity. You are likely to hear the word used in reference to everything from its technical definition of a singular sound recording all the way up to a totally mastered song. For the most part, however, this word will be used to define audio recordings of some kind.

So we’ve covered what a track is from both a technical sense and a more social one. Knowing the difference is something that might take a little time, but using context clues and knowing who it is that you’re talking to will be a big help. 

Hopefully having a deeper knowledge of this word can help you as you move further into a career within the music industry, no matter what area of this creative universe that it may lead you to. Just remember that it is important to know about the terminology that gets thrown around in the spaces you work, do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help. 

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