What’s your process for recording a song?

Mine usually goes something like this:

  1. Write a song.
  2. Record a quick demo. (Usually just guitar and vocals.)
  3. Pre-Production – Plan out what I want to do with the song (basic structure, arrangement, instrumentation, etc.). I leave room for creativity, but having a rough plan can be really helpful.
  4. Recording (including any MIDI parts)
  5. Editing
  6. Mixing
  7. Mastering

Pretty simple stuff. But what about number 5? How many of you actually dedicated a part of the production process to editing? (Seriously, I’m curious. Leave a comment and let me know if you do or not.)

I think a lot of people don’t put a lot of emphasis on editing. I’ll be honest, it’s not the most exciting process, but it can make such a big difference, particularly when it comes to pocketing the audio (i.e. tightening up the timing of each performance).

Do I go through the editing process with every song I record? No, sometimes the track doesn’t need it. But the majority of the time a couple hours of editing can make a HUGE impact on the sound of the

What’s the deal with editing? Well, I actually posted on this a few months back, so I’m going to have you check those posts out again in case you missed them. I’m making this week unofficially Editing Week here on HSC. I’ll be posting some articles and a video later this week, and I’ll even post the pros AND cons of editing.

Here are those two articles. But before you read them, leave a quick comment here and tell me if editing is a part of your production process.

Now that I’m back from vacation, it’s time for us to jump back into the conversation, so leave me at least 10 comments before tomorrow. I’ve got a video coming down the pipe. Thanks! 🙂

[Photo by kev_hickey_uk]

  • Declan

    hi Joe-yes i edit mostly vocals-crossfades after comping and a bit of midi editing-thats it!

  • Chasejoseph

    I guess I am a gung-ho newbie but the grunt work of pocketing, clipping bad entrances and lengthening bad cut offs is still fun to me.

    I record almost all a Capella music. So entrances, cut offs and killing big breathing noises is really important. I also consider tuning a part of editing. Compiling takes and such means even more editing.

  • Gsale

    I usually edit as I go. Ill trim up regions, fix random pops or clicks, crossfade, etc. Im not sure what i would do if i dedicated a few hours to editing.
    This is off topic but is it bad to semi mix as i record? such as adding small amounts of reverb or compression just to get things flowing?

    • I mix as I go all the time. It’s no fun to record overdubs, etc. if the mix doesn’t sound somewhat decent.

  • Whitehousestudio

    Hi there Joe! YESsss! I do edit my tracks because some times there are artifacts recorded like breaths (long, abrupt or very strong), artist movement & clearing of the throat, phrase timing, instrument noises ( hums, hisses, etc) & any background noises that ruins an otherwise great performance.

  • Editing is your best friend! My personal opinion: editing can quite possible be the most important part of producing a song. I edit 100% of my tracks. I pocket and strongly edit about 80% of my tracks. My personal style of production is that of “pop type production”. I think nearly everything should be perfectly pocketed, faded, crossed, etc. Hurray for editing!

  • Gry Rnlds

    I feel that the editing capabilities of digital recording are one of it’s strongest assets. I use my DAW as much for writing/arranging as for just recording music so, in addition to cleaning up and/or comping parts, I can experiment with and tweak arrangements until I’m happy with the song or I’ve run out of ideas…haha. Editing, to me, is an essential tool.

  • When giving a quote for a project to an artist or band during the planning phase, I always refer to ‘mixing’ as ‘Editing, processing, and mixing,’ simply because there is always so much editing. I record bedtracks, and then multiple takes for each part overtop. Sorting out those takes and mixing and matching to get the best version is one part, then (I really hate any hiss showing through on a tracks), I get rid of the silences. Then I can start moving the audio fragments within each part around to make those punches and transitions extra-tight.
    I’m always thinking “I can’t wait to finish the kick drum and move on to the snare!” or “I’m almost done the guitar, so it’s almost time to edit the Moog!” It’s hard work and a lot of attention to detail, but it’s blended nicely with anticipation and reward.

  • I use to edit, edit & edit. I don’t find it boring, to me it’s
    very exciting to work a track at that degree of detail. It’s
    worth because you can listen clearly how everything is
    improving.

  • Franco

    I do some editing when is needed but i would love to have a bigger edition knowledge. It can really help sometimes.

  • Carlos Diaz

    I find it essential, really!

    obviously only if the song requires it

    When I track my own stuff, I do multiple takes until I find the best one for me, so there’s no need to edit anything. I’m talking only about guitars, vocals and bass mostly.

    But on the other hand, I do drums with Superior Drummer (and I’m not drummer), so I always have to quantize things. The same thing happens with any “keyboard” thing I could record.

    when I’m tracking other bands stuff, then I always always edit things to get a tight song. I’m still waiting for a band that wants my services and I can say they play tight enough so I do not have to edit anything.

  • avi

    Well I’ve gotta say ….
    If your recording skills are good enough …
    and you’ve done the recording good and considered the other parts and the frequancies involved in each instrument …
    so your editing would be minor….
    for example:
    you recording bass line and a drum kit…
    lets say – your bass low end and punch are around 40hz to 100hz ….(just for the example).
    your base drum low end and punch are around 60hz to 250hz…
    now you can record it with subkick (like Yamaha’s subkick type of mic for bass drum)
    and you can record it with other mics include condensor….
    now if you will consider that the two instruments are interacting with each other and collide one with the other you could record your bass drum or your bass instrument with a mic that capture the low end less…. than you would save a lot of editing and EQ process….
    I hope you know what I mean….

    P.S
    if we taking this to the professional old school way of music recording & creation:
    there is a guy that is an recording assistent, that his job is to put the mics in the propper position according to the recording engineer instructions.., and make coffee… 😉
    after recording the recorded tracks goes to the pre production stage – this is the editing stage that the sound engineer is working on ….
    and than mixing engineer bland all the channels twogather , and than the finel touch the mastering process made by the mastering engineer…

    whan one(1) person doing all the rolles by himself he already know by heart all the parts and can easilly confuse or don’t pay attention to the small things that make a huge difference ….

    • Thanks Avi. I believe most of your examples, though, have to do with mixing (EQ, etc.), not necessarily editing. When I say editing I’m referring to moving pieces of information (audio or MIDI) around in time to affect the performance.

  • Editing is a big part of the process for me, however, most of my editing comes in the MIDI realm.

    I’ll quantize things if needed, but usually will apply it with strength, swing and other parameters adjusted to keep a lot of the “live” aspects in a performance.

    A lot of the times, I’ll go in and manually adjust note on / off parameters as well as velocity, but most of the editing I do is relegated to other controller and sysex information.

    In the end, it’s all going to the same end – adjusting a recorded performance after the fact.

  • While I make an experimental electronic music, I have no order in my production whatsoever. It is not very practical and it hurts quite often, but I can’t imagine any perfect order for this as I jam and improvise a lot. Of course, mixing and mastering has some borders, but I often find myself composing while mastering so… 😀

  • Manuel

    I usually do this with back up voices or guitars, but I have to admit I dont dedicate that much time to editing.

  • Cush

    Yeah, editing is a must for me. I, for the most part, hate when I hear mistakes in timing or pitch in other peoples music. Especially when it’s a so – called “professional recording” that somebody paid good money for. There is such a thing as sounding robotic, but it’s also the job of the engineer to make things sound ‘right’ so to speak.

  • Lukas

    I will always edit tracks that need to be edited… Just to clean them up, remove unwanted noises and such. I consider pocketing a must for drums and bass. Sometimes I would pocket other instruments and vocals too, but there is always a risk of making it sound all too perfect and almost robotic, which may kill the recording. Nevertheless, if editing is done properly and tastefuly (which takes some practice), it can make a huge difference.
    If only it could be less time-consuming…

  • Frank Adrian

    Of course you edit. It’s not like you’re splicing tape anymore.

    I usually comp vocal takes, tune “bad” notes (most of which would have been good enough thirty-five years ago, but…), fix minor timing errors, and lower volume on or remove distracting breath sounds. I’m a bit more lax on instrumental tracks. I don’t shift everything to the grid (they’re usually close enough), but I’ll punch in where necessary. Once all that’s done, you’re finally ready to mix.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    I usually do editing if it sounds noticeable but tend to spend more time on other things (like making it right in the first place).

    although saying that I always edit my MIDI tracks (which is happening more often now I got a AKAI LPK25, its a great little thing I just got from my birthday)

  • Sometimes I’m lazy and I edit whilst I mix.

    But yeah, I edit everything to make it flow, definitely an important part of the process. Its integral to doing a lot of the arranging and rearranging I do to, so I personally can’t have one without the other.

  • All I can say is thank you for Elastic Audio. There are so many tracks that I’ve done that were great performances except for one little moment, or maybe something that I can’t retrack such as drums done in an amazing studio many hours away. 🙂 Enter elastic audio and I can quickly get things back in the groove.

  • i do resort to editing on the “live” instruments i have, which are guitars and vocals, since i program drums and bass. usually, i’ll do three takes, and then comp the best bits and mute out unwanted noise.

    i go into deeper editing for guitar solos, because i do a lot more takes of them, being the frustrated shredder that i am. sometimes i’ll use a phrase of each to build the whole thing, just like david gilmour did on those classic albums.

    as usual, it all depends on what the song needs. sometimes a “loose, leave mistakes in for attitude” vibe works fine. on other occasions, it’s all about being faithful to the grid mode. just go with the flow! 😀

  • Phil Harmon

    Before joining the Production Club, I would make a cut and piece two bits together. Usually only on parts where I made a small mistake or timing was way off. I didn’t even know what a crossfade was!

    After the Production Club, I consider editing to be just as important as other steps in the whole process.

  • Yes, I edit. No, I don’t spend much time pocketing tracks, even if the take was cut to a click.

    This is because:
    1) Music that’s subjected to pocketing sounds like it’s been pocketed. By definition it all sounds similar. (I refer to modern country music as “gridtwang”)
    2) I don’t see the point in “correcting” the performance of competent musicians who have spent thousands of hours honing their craft.
    3) The majority of my favorite music wasn’t subjected to the process, leading me to question the necessity.

    Most of my edits consist of phase alignment of multiple mics recording the same source, removing extraneous audio to increase phase coherency, and occasionally fixing an anomalous mistake in a otherwise good take.

    No judgement of those who disagree is implied (and I’m really only referring to engineers that pocket everything after only a cursory listen). But if I learned anything from Jurassic Park, it’s that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

    • Matt Meola

      I’m with you man. I comp takes together and other basic stuff. When it comes to pocketing I only worry about the stuff that is noticeably off. The most I’ll do is pocket the bass so it hits with the kick drum on down beats.

      I understand that pocketing everything is necessary for some types of music, but those solo-ed track videos that have been coming out were pretty eye opening. Some of those parts were so sloppy (the who comes to mind) but it only adds to the vibe in the mix.

    • “gridtwang” I love it!

      I agree if a track has been pocketed & quantized & sliced/diced it loses something. I guess it’s a judgment call for the producer/engineer/artist to make. A lot of home studio folks may get session time from a talented musician playing on their songs, and if a timing is discovered later the pocketing angle definitely becomes tempting…and useful if used wisely.

      Speaking purely for myself, I’m not an “accomplished” musician (competent enough, I guess maybe) and so I’ve heard timing mistakes I made and more often I just re-record it. But if it’s like one small tiny glaring part stands out to any casual listener, and is otherwise a great performance, I’ll probably pocket it. But we agree, the modern pocketing of everything inside entire songs by professional engineers these days is harming a lot of music.

    • Dave Johnson

      Yep, I agree. Music can sound so sterile if it’s “too perfect.” I’ve been doing a ton of midi work lately, and I’m not much of a keyboard player, so I’m constantly struggling to achieve something that sounds competent and human, without going too far in either direction. I often start by using mild quantization, then backing some parts off a bit, to make sure there’s a little variation. My first pieces using midi were overly quantized, and I can’t stand hearing them now. They remind me off a bad rip-off of Kraftwerk…

  • No, I’ve got this brother-in-law who LOVES editing, so if I need it done I give it to him….

    Seriously: Just on bass, electric guitar, and vocals, and only sometimes.

  • Josh D

    yep, I used to pretty often…just for fun, I did a lot of recording on small live events, mostly worship teams, so I’d have to to a lot of post-processing. I would either record one mic in the back of the room, or run a mixed aux channel off the board straight to the computer, haha. So there was lots of noise filtering, compression, and tons of EQ just to get the sound balanced.