I released a tutorial video series last month called Understanding Editing. On the order page, I basically talk about how cool I think editing is, and what a big difference it makes on my projects.

I even included a before-and-after audio sample right there on the page.

A few days after launching UE, I got an email from a reader who basically posted a parody of my order page on his website.

He was essentially making fun of the idea that editing is a valuable part of the recording process, emphasizing instead that the musicians should simply practice more.

I completely agree that musicians should practice their craft. If you’re a musician, you really shouldn’t walk into a recording session unless you have properly rehearsed the material you’re about to record.

To me, that’s a given.

As I’ve said a bajillion times, you need to get it right at the source. No amount of editing, EQ, compression, effects, etc. can rescue a bad recording.

If the musician is horrible…the edited tracks will also sound horrible.

If the guitarist’s tone is wretched…the EQ’d and compressed tone will be wretched.

Garbage in. Garbage out. Right?

That said, editing still plays a huge roll in the production process. It’s where you take a great performance and polish it. You tighten up those little spots where the player came in a bit early or late. You’re essentially removing any distracting components to the recording.

You’r not altering the performance, you’re enhancing it. It still sounds like the musician. In fact, if you edit the tracks properly, the musician won’t even know that you changed anything. He’ll just be really impressed with how tight everything sounds.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

Also, tomorrow night at midnight Eastern time, I’m raising the price of Understanding Editing from the introductory price of $37 to $47. Either way, it’s a good value for 3+ hours of videos and practice tracks. You can grab a copy here:


[Photo by jaydesphotos]

16 Responses to “Is Editing Cheating?”

  1. Free Recording Software

    Editing is not cheating. Not giving your best is and trying take shortcuts and we all know that editing is no where near a shortcut. It can be very time consumming at times. But sometimes it can speed things up (ie comping a repeated chorus) and get that project out the door on time. Editing is an evolution to the recording process – not cheating. That line of thinking would have to believe that multitracking is cheating.
    Right. LOL!

  2. Will

    Years ago I owned a Tascam PortaStudio four-track, and would record songs with my nylon-string guitar, using a cheap dynamic mic which I would sit on the floor between my feet because I couldn’t afford any accessories (not even a mic stand). Editing was basically out of the question 🙂

    After years of me trying to justify spending the money to myself, my wife has intervened and is getting me Logic Express 9 for my birthday (in a couple of weeks), and the head of music at our local church has given me free reign to head in after-hours and use all the gear there (mics, interface, all the instruments – and, at last, mic stands!). So I am pretty darn excited about finally being able to record my songs properly.

    My view on editing – well, I’ll be doing a lot of it, if I was going to be a purist and insist on only live takes then I could go back to the four-track (and only use the first track). I’ll always agree that nothing can beat the experience of a live music performance (warts and all), but that’s not what I’m trying to achieve with a recording. So I’ll be tweaking my songs to get them ‘perfect’ 🙂

    I’ve learned a lot from reading through this site – I searched for “recording acoustic guitar” on YouTube, waded through too many terrible videos which told me nothing then found your channel (and this site) which is exactly what I was looking for.


  3. Joe R.

    My view is this:
    Listening to a CD is different then listening to a live band. If a mistake in timing or a bad note is played live, who cares, the moment is gone never to be heard again. If a mistake in timing or a off note on a recording is noticeable then your ear will be drawn to the off note/part. the more you listen to the song the more you will anticipate the off part, it will draw the listeners ear away from the song and onto the off part.

    • Lio

      Not much to add about that, this is clear, short, and… totally true!
      Very good description Joe R.

  4. Don

    My point is who cares! I create for the listener not the producer or recording engineer (or critic). Should musicians practice their parts? sure! but I will record a part 4 bars at a time with multiple punches if it allows me to bring my vision to fruition. The final product is not the main thing it’s the only thing!

  5. TakeAwayTracks.Com

    If someone says editing is cheating, maybe he never listened music: ALL, from Beatles to Miles Davis, from classical orchestras to rock idols did some editing on their recording.

    If a musician is a real pro, he knows when he played a really good take, but he knows also when, in that take there is some little imperfections: he could re-record the take, but – for sure – he’ll play a take more perfect but… lifeless… so for me editing is just a normal part of the recording process!

    The video is very very good: I reccomend you all to buy it! The way Joe explains the editing process is very simple and powerfull and you can apply his tricks with EVERY d.a.w., no beat detective needed!

    Ciao 🙂

  6. Kim Lajoie

    This is an interesting topic. I’ve been recently having debates with one of my artists about what is ‘genuine’ and what is ‘fake’ in recordings.

    My view is that it’s all fake – knowingly so, but it doesn’t matter. Theatre and movies are fake, but that doesn’t detract from our enjoyment of them. We’re storytelling, and sometimes they are fantastic stories!

    The discussion was around my use of Melodyne, and whether that somehow makes the recording less genuine… and I replied that *all* the tools I use make the recording less genuine. EQ changes the tone of the voice. Compression changes the dynamics of the performance. Comping multiple takes and extra harmonies and vocal layers take it to another level again.


  7. Vinnie

    In my opinion, there is no such thing as “Cheating” to make music. If the end result is good music then its good music.

    Most perceived “cheats” make horrible music anyway so they’re not really “cheating” since it doesn’t put them ahead in any way.

    So yes, I don’t think editing is cheating and I agree with the entire post, Mr Gilder 😉

  8. christopher [chrisw92]

    editing is not cheating, stuff like auto-tune is “cheating”. if a musician sounds terrible no amount of editing will make him sound brilliant, sure it will make him sound tighter but it will still have the same feel and texture.

  9. Jamboni

    Ditto to all who have commented above. The idea that practice will remove the need to edit ones work is ridiculous. Without exception, all experts in there field have to make corrections. Heck even Tiger woods has a golf coach who makes changes to his swing and he is considered the best (at least was) in his field. No different….

  10. Ryan C Smith

    If you want to produce your own music and have people buy it, you better learn how to edit. If you want to help others produce radio/cd quality products you better learn to edit. I bet there has not been one record released in the past ten years that has not been edited.

  11. Craig

    Is editing music any different than a writer having another person proof their work?

    It’s a different form of art, but the process is the same. Besides, if you edit someone bad to sound good, they still have to go out and try to play it live. 😛

  12. Dierock Pozo

    well, i think that editing is not cheating; it’s simply about showing the best version of yourself. you’re putting out these few minutes you managed to string together, and you want it to be heard a lot of times. wouldn’t you want it to sound awesome?

    it’s like a writer sending out his original manuscript, which may miss a few punctuation signs here and there, because the writer was too busy with inspiration. the book would still be the same; it just wouldn’t be taken seriously.


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