Yesterday I gave you three reasons to edit your tracks. Today I want to play devil’s advocate and give you a few scenarios for when it doesn’t make sense to edit your tracks.

1. The Artist Doesn’t Approve

Everything you do in the studio should be done with the artist/client in mind. Whether he/she is paying you or not, you’ve been hired to take their songs and turn them into great-sounding recordings.

Sometimes artists don’t want you to mess with their performances. They have strong opinions that they want the final recording to sound exactly like what they performed. This is understandable, and you should respect their wishes.

However, take into account what genre of music they’re performing. If it’s a straight-forward country album, you may want to remind them that most country albums have been edited/pocketed pretty heavily, and that it might be in their best interest to do the same in order to compete.

On the other hand, if you’re recording somebody like Jack White who doesn’t really conform to any genre or style, you’re better off leaving his stuff alone. That rough, seemingly disorganized sound IS what he’s going for.

As with most things, it all boils down to good communication. Do what’s best for the client.

2. The Song Sounds Amazing As Is

Sometimes things just magically gel in the studio, and the tracks sound absolutely fantastic. Even fantastic tracks can sometimes benefit from a little editing, but if you listen through the entire song and don’t hear any spots where things could be tighter, good for you! You can skip editing and go straight for mixing.

It might be a good idea to try editing a small section of the song just to be sure, but if your editing is hurting rather than helping, forget about it.

3. The Song Isn’t Finished

I’ve seen SO many people jump in and start editing recorded parts before they’ve recorded everything. For example, they’ll heavily pocket the drums and bass before the guitars have been recorded. This can be a big waste of time for two reasons:

1. Without all the instruments, you can’t really hear the “groove.” If you can’t hear the groove, then you probably can’t hear exactly where and how to pocket the bass and drums. Wait until the guitars, etc. are recorded, THEN determine if pocketing is necessary.

2. Once everything’s recorded, you may not NEED to pocket anything. This happened to me recently. I recorded acoustic guitar and drums, and it wasn’t super tight, but I went ahead and recorded all the other parts, keyboards, bass, lots of guitars. Once the mix was really full, those subtle timing issues between the acoustic guitar and drums were masked by all the other instruments. I didn’t need to do much editing at all.

Your thoughts?

Now you’ve heard both sides of the story. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment. (Remember I need 10 comments before the next post.)

Also, make sure you’ve signed up to the HSC Newsletter. I’m releasing something new next week. πŸ™‚

  • While I understand and mostly agree with what you said in just letting the groove carry on in a song. I’ve had issues with trying to do that because the artist will be playing against an imperfect bass or drum recording. If you continue recording and everything is playing against something that wasnt pocketed.. by the end you will have 30 tracks of audio that is NOT lined up. Good luck fixing or pocketing that mess. πŸ˜‰

  • LargerLife

    I think, when dealing with not so “in the pocket” musician, is a must to edit or tighten the rythmic foundation of the track, before adding any instruments. I’m not speaking of changing the groove, feel or intention simply tighten up the performance to guide other musicians in the right way. And with my experience on post editing after all parts in place, if the foundation is sloppy way more pocketing work is needed, than the drum and bass editing. Sometimes harmonic and also rythmic instruments f.e. electric, accoustic, keyboard need to be lay down to a safe foundation for other intruments.

  • carlisle

    this is a good topic for me I’m dealing with the same thing. I’m editing drums, trying to get my overheads to match the rest of the kit. There are a few lick that needs to be move. to tighting up the preformance.

  • Marc

    I really agree with point number 3; however I often find myself editing tracks before all of the instruments/vocals are recorded. Also, I do not understand what is meant by “Pocketing”. Can you please explain?

    Thanks

  • Jason G.

    As a complete amateur, with not a lot of hobby-time, I often wonder about editing into the pocket on-the-fly, and how it can effect the groove of the song.

    I wonder if, since I haven’t say…recorded the guitars yet, and I edit some of the bass, if it feels better or sounds right, wouldn’t that indeed change the groove for the better?

    Perhaps in my noob-ness, I’m just not used to trying it both ways (pre-editing vs. post-editing) to see which groove I prefer (if there is a difference).

    …I’m babbling again, aren’t I?

    • Hey Jason, 9 times out of 10, whenever I’m editing something, I’m trying to NOT change the groove. My goal is to simply tighten up the performance. Usually the performer could be sitting right next to me and say, “yeah, I played that note a little late.”

      My goal is to simply take the performance and make it match up to what the artist intended to play. A delicate balance, for sure.

    • ThomasN

      Like Jason G. I,m a pretty new to digital recording and I’ll edit the bass (all my own material play all the instruments myself, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be anyone’s A-list of musicians) so adding the guitar, keyboards,ect. tracks seem easier and tighter, much easier to get a “good” take.
      I think the wonder of elastic audio and the like is that it lets us of the middle field of talent be as creative as we can and sound pretty O.K. And ain’t that a neat and wonderful thing.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    the problem is which outweighs the other, for example the artist may feel strongly about not editing the tracks but you know there is a slight latency issue with the recording equipment… its about finding the right balance and making decisions for the good of the song.

  • Carlos Diaz

    sure!!….

    about point #1 , well, I still have not found any band that has given me any objections at the time of editing the material.

    but there is always a first time for everything. I would not mind to meet with one of those bands because that way the work would not be so hard.

    point #2 has never happened to me πŸ˜‰
    point number two has never happened to me, except for my own songs in which I play everything and I try to record multiple takes until I find the best and therefore, there’s no need to edit it.

    I usually edit drums before recording anything else, so I’ll remember point #3 next time.

  • Hi
    I recorded a singer once who was going to use the tracks to gain entry into the next round of a singing competition. I applied some EQ, compression, reverb as I normally would, but refused to adjust her timing or pitch – and both were terrible! I felt she needed to be honest with herself as to where she was at. She was very angry that I didn’t doctor her voice, but so be it.
    That is an unusual example, but I try and capture the feel of the musician over perfection. Sometimes that sounds better anyway.
    Scott

    • That’s a really interesting example, Scotty.

      It reminds me of those awful contestants on American Idol…none of their friends or family members had the nerve to tell them they’re just not that good. More people should be honest like you. πŸ™‚

      (Of course, you have to balance between brutal honesty and keeping a paying client happy…catch 22.)

      • You are right there Joe – she tool some time to pay me. I actually had a Mackie desk of hers that she had wanted me to test for her; so I kept that with me until she had paid for everything.
        Otherwise I suspect she may have never bothered to pay me for my time!

    • John Pinion

      What did you care if she wanted to give a false impression of her
      singing ability? She would falter down the road if that was the case,
      and apparantly it was the path she wished to take, so you probably
      should have pitch- and time-corrected, and let it go at that. But I do agree – if we could perfect every twig and tree, what kind of world would that be?

  • Cush

    Welcome home, hope you didn’t get any bad seafood when you were away πŸ™‚

    Some good points here as per usual, but I actually edit the timing on things as they are recorded. Seeing as how I record pretty much everything to a click (unless a musician simply can’t do it), I really dial the drums in to that. From that point on the drums will be my pocket, so to speak. I find that if the drums are a consistent groove, I’m pretty safe with editing everything with them as the parts are recorded.

    Of course, there are those moments that don’t seem to jump out at you until everything is recorded and you have tweak some stuff.

    But yeah, thats just how I do things…and learn a lot of what I do in my studio from you. So there ya have it.

  • avi

    Well I don’t remmember the last time I didn’t edited my recordings…
    I do it on regular basiss…

    P.S Joe
    Great articles…

  • Ed

    Joe,
    I am going to encompass the whole editing issue in this comment, even though I read all three.
    It is very important to edit and it doesn’t only come in the fifth stage.

    It is my opinion that when recording the rhythm track (bass,drums, guitar/keyboard) there should be a editing review to set the foundation and make a pocket as you mention.
    Then when the singing is over the editing of the voice to make sure it too is in the pocket along with any double parts that need to match up to the main vocals. (harmonies can be loose or tight as the artist/produces feels)
    Then, and most importantly, I feel the final edit is necessary. When I record, I am in the recording mode. This means anything and everything is open and fair game. When I am in the mixing/producing mode then I edit. Perhaps I made a recording and put in a keyboard, a guitar and stings; and I have them all playing from start to finish. When I am final editing I may cut the strings and keyboard and have the keyboard come in on the chorus or second verse and the stings on the final verse and chorus out. This adds depth to the song and keeps the listener as the song builds.

    Hope you had a good vacation and watch out for the shrimp…they are cholesterol zombies!

    best to you,
    Ed