Yesterday I spent the day shooting videos on drum and bass editing for my Production Club members.

With all the advances in editing technology, especially in the last 5 years, you’d probably assume I’m all about using time-stretching algorithms and beat detective to help me “quantize” my audio tracks, right?


Call me old-fashioned, but I’m all about SIMPLICITY when it comes to editing. (Come to think of it, I like simplicity with most things.)

That’s why I choose to manually chop up my tracks and edit them “by hand.” It’s something that’s simple, clean, and applies to all recording software.

I don’t care if you’re using Garageband or Audacity or Logic or Studio One — the basics of editing and pocketing are the same. Whenever I try to use these fancier editing tools, I end up feeling like I’m losing control of the track.

Rather than intentionally pocketing the downbeat of the first bar of the chorus, I’m trying to tell a piece of software to do that for me, all in the name of “efficiency” or the super catchy catchphrase “workflow.”

Inevitably the automagical software will try to “fix” things that don’t need fixing. Or it will stretch the audio and leave noticeable, audible artifacts.

I don’t want to spend hours getting the recordings to sound amazing, only to allow some time-stretching algorithm to come along and degrade the sound.

The way I edit doesn’t allow for any degradation in sound. It’s smooth. It’s seamless, and you can do it on any DAW.

If you want to see my exact process for editing everything from drums and bass to acoustic and electric guitars or vocals, you need to check out Understanding Editing.

You’ll learn my method and then practice on the practice tracks I provide. You’ll be a better editor by the end of the weekend.

Here’s the link:

Have a great weekend, and happy editing!

  • Reid Howland

    I didn’t even bother learning Beat Detective or Elastic Audio until this latest record I’m working on. One song was in the “recut the drums” file–we were tired when we tracked and just let things go that we normally wouldn’t. If I were to edit it by hand, I’d be moving literally almost every beat–it was that bad. On a lark, I thought I’d see if BD or EA could salvage the track. At first, I was amazed, and so was our drummer. It took maybe 20 minutes instead of a whole damn day! Lovely! Reality didn’t set in until a few weeks later when we reconvened to do some overdubs. What were we thinking?! There was no life left in the track at all, and what the computer did to the cymbals was criminal. I laugh when I think about how we were so knocked out by the ease with which it locked a poorly-played track up tighter’n’a tick we didn’t notice that it both felt and sounded like garbage!

  • Josh

    Like anything else these are tools. If used improperly or excessively they will produce poor results. Beat detective has been really a great tool when working with a band that is talented but perhaps has some areas that are not super tight and don’t have a big enough budget to spend weeks nailing the perfect track in the studio. But for the most part I agree with you Joe. It is sooo much better to get it right at the source and to rely on your ears, not on the software. However, like it or not, time is money and Beat Detective has been a time and money saver for me in a pinch. Again when used properly and not overused it can help a slightly less than perfect take become one that makes it to final mix. (If a take sucks, Beat Detective will just make it suck in perfect time)

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  • wow! and i thought i was the only one that chopped up drum tracks. learning how to use all that elastic audio stuff felt too cumbersome, so i just do what Joe does. just cut up the segment and line it up with the right place in the grid, then crossfade it between the other segments.

    tracks performed by a good drummer will greatly benefit from this. a not-so-good drummer, however, will wear out your mouse by the second song of the EP.

    • Mandavel

      Doing studio work on a project right now. I’m a good drummer and fairly tight, and I’ve been BD’d twice now. I was against the corrective tools thing for a while, but understand that corrective tools like compression, eq, auto tune, bd, etc should not be used in lue of poor tracks. They should only be used to tighten up the screws, not drill the pilot holes per se. Beat detective, in this case, is used lightly to tighten up the seams. As someone previously said, beat detective won’t polish crap, it just puts your crap in perfect time. The tighter you play your track, the more transparent BD is.

  • Muller

    I think you make a good point about feeling like you are “loosing control” of the track. I also think you make a good point about using your ears to find the “pocket” of the edit manually.
    That being said, I really like Beat Detective for a couple of things.
    1. I like using it to slice the regions by detecting the transients. I then nudge the regions by hand to find the “pocket”

    2. I love the “crossfade and smooth” feature. I use it on regular edits of drums and bass and guitar. It has a neat algorithm to create more decay on a region pre-edit. This comes in really handy by polishing up the edit crossfades when you are done.

    I like reading your articles on recording. It’s hard to get a point across (speaking from an engineers perspective) to someone and hope they use the fundamental knowledge to build their own flavor of whatever instead of taking things as black and white. What we do is so much about pushing, and even breaking, rules/boundaries set forth by the word of others. It’s nice to watch you toe the line. 😉


    • Great points, Muller. That “crossfade and smooth” feature IS pretty handy. At this point, I’m still uncomfortable with letting Beat Detective chop up my entire track. When I’m editing drums, for example, it’s not uncommon for me to go several bars without needing to edit anything. In those cases, having Beat Detective chop it up wouldn’t really make sense, and would probably make me more likely to move things that don’t really need to be moved.

      Toe-ing the line…. 🙂