Editing really isn’t a super complex tax. It simply requires patience and practice, and the payoff can be huge.

There are times when editing is necessary, and there are times when it’s not. Today I’ll give you three reasons why you should edit your tracks, and tomorrow I’ll give you three reasons why you shouldn’t edit your tracks. Sound good? Okay, let’s jump in.

1. Fix Noticeable Timing Issues

This is probably the most obvious reason to edit, but it’s worth mentioning again. There will come times when you’re recording (either yourself or someone else) where there will be those trouble spots, places where the guitar just got REALLY out of time with the drums, or the bass came in a half-second early.

These things happen. Sometimes you miss them during tracking. Sometimes this is just the best your going to get out of the musician. (Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of recording A-list musicians.)

In these cases, the timing issues are obvious, and most people are going to notice them. It’s in your best interest to fix them.

It shouldn’t take long. These types of timing issues can usually be fixed with just a minute or two of editing without negatively affecting the quality of the audio.

2. Tighten Up a Good Performance

Once you’ve fixed the major timing issues, is there any room for MORE pocketing? Or lets say you are recording extremely talented musicians, is it still possible that you’ll want to pocket those tracks as well? A lot of times the answer is yes.

Whether you agree with it or not, a lot of musicians and their fans are expecting a very polished, tight recording. Even if the musicians NAIL their parts in tracking, there may be small, subtle timing difference between the various instruments. While the tracks may sound fine without any editing, a few hours of pocketing can push them over the top in terms of tightness and a (perceived) “professional” sound.

Don’t believe me? Nearly every professionally-produced album that comes out of Nashville (particularly in the country music industry) has gone through this pocketing process. These session musicians are insanely talented, but their tracks still get pocketed.

Something to think about.

3. Get Rid of Unwanted Noise

It’s very possible to produce a recording out of your home studio that sounds like it was done in a professional facility. One of the tell-tale signs of an “unprofessional” home recording is the unnecessary noises that somehow don’t get removed somewhere along the way.

Things like lip noise from the vocalist, the sound of the musicians moving around between sections of the song, pops and clicks in the audio from edits without crossfades, can distract the listener and make them question the quality of the recording.

You may not think this is an issue, but those little noises get amplified quite heavily once you compress and master your final mix. Suddenly a little annoying noise becomes a lot more noticeable…and therefore distracting.

Your Turn

Okay, time to hear from you. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a suggestion? Leave a comment. I need 10 comments before I’ll post tomorrow’s post on when you SHOULDN’T edit your tracks.

  • Pocketing is simply “fixing” the timing of a particular track…making it sit more “in the pocket.”

  • Pocketing is simply “fixing” the timing of a particular track…making it sit more “in the pocket.”

  • Depending on the genre, I edit almost everything.

  • Canadian Guy

    Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I would separate this issue into two clear categories: “editing” (that is, changing a recorded performance) and “cleaning up” (removing unwanted noise, etc.). I have no problem with cleaning up a track but I don’t like messing with the performance whether it’s a vocal or instrument part. If it’s not good enough, do it over. If it has small imperfections (as my stuff does all the time), then I tend to leave it. Let me emphasize that it’s the small stuff that I leave – a finger squeak on the acoustic guitar, a little vocal tail-off at the end of a line, and so on. As long as it’s not a mess that ruins the song, then I leave it alone.

  • Kato

    Joe,
    Are all live pop/rock DVDs “pocketed” the same way?
    I was watching a coldplay show and wondering if they edited the performances…
    I have a Maroon 5 DVD that is autotuned to death. John Mayer Where the Light is (I love this DVD) has some bad autotune too; do you think the performances (bass/guitars/drums) are also corrected/pocketed?
    In my opinion pocketing a cd is ok – sometimes part of the sound. But live shows… I don’t know. It feels like cheating to me. What do you think?

    • Good question. I can’t speak to every DVD out there, but I know that it’s not uncommon to put a live recording through its paces in the studio (editing, overdubs, etc.) before releasing it.

      You could argue it’s cheating.

      You could also argue it’s just improving the quality of the final product.

      I think to me it depends on what you’re going for. If the singer was fairly out of tune at one show, I’d be more inclined to just ditch the footage and record another concert. If he’s always out of tune at every show…then…well………. 🙂

  • Carlos Diaz

    completely agree!!

    point three is very important. I do it all the time, even with my own material!!

    point 1 & 2 are essential for me too. I’ve done it in all projects I’ve worked since I started recording bands.

  • avi

    Well usually editing for me is more of cleaning unwated noise in the recording.

    I usually not fixing time issue that are minor and not noticeable….

    I am sure a lot of you people here using midi and writing using the piano roll of the sequancer….
    and as you know the hard thing using midi protokoll is to pursue the natural feeling of a real humanbieng playing the instrument with the right velosity etc.
    so I pushing the artist that I am recording , sometime’s its me … to performe the best he can … and the key to a good recording is the same as for good live performance…
    practice practice practice…

  • Bob Sorace

    I do alot of editing, bringing the kick and the bass together really makes a big difference and also editing vocals. Sometimes with vocals I will take a few tracks and slide them a bit to give the impression of more people instead of just one doubled or tripled. I agree with Mike about being too perfect, Listen to Pink Floyds “Wish you were here” and you can hear David moving in his chair or the string squeek in between licks. I love that! But if you could here stuff like that in every song it would get old, so editing is very important, I mean who wants to hear Roger Waters licking his lips in between lines?

    • CAMBAM

      In Kiss Off by the Violent Femmes, I heard the lead singer take a surprise breath (breathing in really quickly). I laughed a little, but it made the performance seem more genuine. If it doesn’t majorly take away from the performance, don’t edit it.

      • John Pinion

        Right. The joy of a recording (which, after all is just an impression left by a human being) is that it reminds us of the human presence.

  • Describe better the term “Pocketing”.
    Thanks

    • I believe the term applies to timing, in general. As a musician (usually drummers, but can apply to other performers too) to “play in the pocket…” mean’s you’re in time with all the other players (even if the other “players” are a single person tracking all the parts, you generally want to be in-time or not have anything jump out-of-time w/ other tracks in the mix).
      Because we’re all human, timing issues can happen here and there. Sometimes not enough of an issue to require re-tracking (or maybe the musician isn’t available) and so pocketing (editing for timing) comes into play. One example is that I’ve been known a time or two (or three) to stray from the click-track, and I might want to pocket my performance to correct the timing issue.
      I think that’s what the term means, someone please correct me if I’m “off” here (no pun intended). Cheers…

      • Yeah, it comes from the concept of the band playing “in the pocket,” i.e. having a really tight groove.

  • Mike

    Hey Joe, I couldn’t agree more with editing
    and tightening things up. On the flip side
    i’m a little tired of hearing perfect sounding recordings, especially with rock bands. I’m 45 years old so my ears tend to favor a bit more of the old school vibe.
    It’s hard to rap my brain around someone like a “Greenday” for example sounding so over produced. Most pop music on the other hand I don’t have a problem with it sounding
    a bit over polished. There is that fine line
    that we all walk, but I realize different strokes.

    • As with all things, it’s really easy to have too much of a good thing. Just like using too much EQ or using the AutoTune effect on every song, you need to edit in moderation (which means sometimes not editing at all).

    • CAMBAM

      I heard a few song by the Eels and it just had so much static that it was good. It had that sound of when you turn up your speakers all the way when nothing is playing.

  • Anything I was gonna say about why you shouldn’t edit your tracks, you’ll probably say tomorrow so I’ll wait until then.

    Good points though. The tricky one is when it comes to vocals, especially with regards to tuning and distortion (for metal screaming vocals).

    I myself use Melodyne a lot, only because I’m simply not a strong singer. Its quite transparent most of the time, but if you listen in you can hear it being tuned. Controversial topic though, so I’ll leave it there.

    It surprises me how many people don’t know how much editing goes on in a lot of music. My mate who also does metal screaming vocals seemed appalled at the idea of using distortion in the studio, until I pointed out to him that, like compression/level automation on clean vocals, its just something thats generally done to help it cut in the mix.

  • well, this post couldn’t have come at a better time…

    i’m just listening to the first song of mine EVER to be recorded at a real studio with under a producer.
    (thx to HSC for the motivation!!) 😀

    it’s a raw mix of a live performance that could benefit from some editing, especially on points 1 and 2. there’s a few licks here and there that aren’t quite on time. some pocketing would really hit the spot.

  • Cush

    The first two are the big ones. I didn’t start doing it for my own tracks until I started interning at a professional studio and I learned a TON about editing. Now I do a lot of pocketing. It’s huge especially when you’re recording a musician that gets their best take in the first couple and they are just not going to get better. It’s a lot easier (and less hard on the ego) to tighten up the performance later, than to have them play the same thing over and over again without any improvement.

    Unwanted noise is pretty prevalent since I don’t have the greatest acoustic treatment in my home studio so I spend a fair amount on that as well. For my upcoming EP, I’m actually going to record the drums and vocals at the studio I mentioned before, so it’ll be less of an issue than it usually is.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    I don’t count it as editing per say but I always try to get rid of unnecessary noise. when an instrument stops playing (and making noise) I cut the track so no background noise, for example player breathing, gets through the mix… even when it seems hardly noticeable and gets covered up with other instrument tracks it still seems to just make my mix that little more “professional”.