Until 1949 Bing's recording sessions were captured on master wax disks, from which metal plates were made to produce the 78rpm shellac disks that were sold to the public. These recording techniques made editing a performance nearly impossible. If Bing or a band member hit a sour note, the recording was ruined. Often Bing recorded a song more than once at a session, sometimes using slightly different arrangements. The best performance was released unedited on record. Occasionally Bing made some hilarious 'snafu' during a recording session, and these mixups often got 'bootlegged' into the hands of Bing's fans. One such screw-up, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," was included in the MCA anthology, Bing: His Legendary Years.
Tape recording came to America following World War II, and Bing was the first major star to make use of the new medium. He began recording his radio show on tape in 1947, and his recording sessions for Decca were first captured on 30ips open-reel tape masters beginning in mid-1949.
Tape made stereo recording practical, and permitted the mixing of the best of different performances, remixing instruments with vocals, and recording with pre-recorded accompaniment. For the most part, though, Bing's recording sessions continued unchanged in the age of tape. He recorded his first stereo album, "High Society," in January 1956 and in 1960 made an entire album to pre-recorded tracks.
Nevertheless, Crosby detested singing to pre-recorded music, but had to do so on several occasions. Not only did Crosby prefer recording with live accompaniment, he preferred to record with the band, not isolated in a vocal booth with the orchestra fed in through headphones. Bing's preferences created a problem when he prepared to record his first album, "That's What Life is All About," with Ken Barnes and Pete Moore in London in 1975. Ken Barnes tells the story:
I invited Bing to take a look at the studio where he would be recording the next day. Our engineer, John Timperley, was there to meet us and he showed Bing where he would be placing the strings, brass, rhythm etc. Then he pointed to the vocal booth where Bing would be singing. The cheerful expression on Crosby's face faded and he began to look rather severe.
"I don't want to work in a booth," he said. "That's like working to a track. I want to be with the band. I didn't come seven thousand miles to sing to a pane of glass."
"But it's a very large orchestra, Mr. Crosby," said John. "We'll have a serious separation problem if you insist on singing in the same area as the orchestra."
"I don't see how," replied Bing blandly. "If it was possible for me to record in the same room as an orchestra forty years ago, why should it be any different today? Technology has improved since then -- surely it should be easier today!"
John went on to explain that first-rate stereo recording is dependent on the minimum of overspill between each section of the orchestra and almost total isolation of the soloist.
Bing remained unconvinced and stated that the most important factor as far as he was concerned was the performance.
"But Mr. Crosby," protested John, "the brass can get awfully loud."
On his way out of the studio, Bing turned and looked at John Timperley and said simply: "Then I'll get louder."
He overcame the problems of recording in front of a full orchestra and even John Timperley had to admit that Bing gave more voice level than any of us had anticipated. Indeed, his voice turned out to be far more powerful than his records had suggested. (Barnes, The Crosby Years, p43-44)
Bing died before digital recording technology became widely used. He did, however, continue to 'record' after his death. Bing had recorded some 225 songs with the Buddy Cole trio for his 1950s CBS radio shows. Following Bing's death Ken Barnes reviewed every one of these songs on tape, and selected 73 to add a modern orchestral accompaniment for commercial release. Pete Moore produced the orchestrations, and the resulting commercial product filled 3 compact discs.