I occasionally get some flack from people when I talk about audio editing.

First, there’s a group of people who believe that editing is cheating. They say that using audio editing tools to change the performance in ANY way makes it less musical, less real, less awesome.

Then there’s the other group of people who say I’m too “old school” in the way I do editing. My approach is super-simple, and it just requires basic editing tools. (Heck, I don’t even currently own any tuning software.) I just use the features in my DAW to get the job done.

But I personally think editing is an awesome tool, just like EQ and compression. It helps me ENHANCE the recordings, to polish them and make them ready to be mixed.

One of my readers left this comment on the site a while back:

Editing reminds me of pre-computer animation, in a way, because you’re zeroing in on brief events that will whiz by a listener’s ears… but you know and understand that the cumulative result of fine-tuning all these brief moments is a more satisfying song to listen to.

(Thanks Keith! I’m imagining that old Mickey Mouse “Steamboat Willie” cartoon.)

This is an AWESOME analogy for editing audio. You’re making small timing changes here and there. A little nudge here, a little cleaning up there, and suddenly you’ve got a bunch of audio tracks that don’t sound “edited.” They just sound good.

If you’ve done your job editing, you won’t hear the edits. The audio will “whiz by,” undetected by the listener. All they’ll know is that things sound tight and clean.

THAT’s what editing does.

And in my opinion, editing is a HUGE part of the recording process.

If you want to see how I go about editing drums, bass, guitars, vocals, and more (all using the “free” tools included with Pro Tools or any recording software) go here:


  • Dead right Joe..! πŸ™‚

    That cheating thing: If we follow that logically down the line, then overdubbing, multitracking etc is all cheating. Hell, the only legit recording must be a live mic-in- the room recording to capture the whole performance warts & all..! haha

  • I think editing is one of those things most people leave alone because they feel
    It’s to complicated to get it sounding natural, but even simple edits like tidying up noise and fading breaths etc can make a huge difference. You can then progress onto more advanced stuff when you are a little more experienced.

    Great analogy by the way Keith


    James – Mkai Audio

    • I agree, James. Start small, get good at that, and move on to the bigger stuff, I’m always amazed at how even more dramatic edits can sound completely seamless.

      • Yea, when it’s done right, edits don’t appear at all and that’s how you can tell if they are right. The first time you do edit a track, it’s nearly guarenteed to sound wrong, but its like everything else in recording and mixing. Don’t give up, keep trying it and you will eventually get it right. And when you do, it will be so much more satisfying.

  • Dan Alber

    Joe, how do you tune then? Or do you not tune at all?

    • I use basic pitch-shift algorithms usually…and some editing/crossfading tricks.

  • Being the guy who left that comment, I wholeheartedly approve. πŸ™‚

    • Ha! Thanks Keith. Awesome quote indeed.

      • Consider how long it takes to draw and paint a cel that only appears on screen for one twelfth of a second. Taking a minute to fix a note lasting much longer than that doesn’t seem so fussy by comparison.