Welcome to Day 20 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

On Days 1-10 we talked about gear. On Days 11-19 we looked into recording techniques. For the remainder of 31 Days to Better Recordings, we’re going to look at what do to with those tracks once they’ve been recorded, things like editing, mixing, and mastering.

Today, let’s take a look at editing.

What is Editing?

That’s a fair question. You may be new to recording, or maybe you’ve just never bothered to think about editing. Either way, I think it’s worth your while to give it some thought. It might be a key factor in making better recordings.

So, what exactly IS editing? I’ve talked about it a lot here on Home Studio Corner (see Intro to Editing), but let’s review.

Have you ever read a book and found a typo? (For some reason it always makes me happy.) The reason these typos stand out in our minds is because they rarely happen.

Do you think an author writes his book, emails the text to the publisher, and then they promptly print thousands of copies and start selling them? Wrong. In the book publishing world, editors are hugely important. They’re responsible for finding errors and typos, even rearranging (or possibly removing) sections of the book in order to make it flow more smoothly.

We’ve come to accept the editing process when we read books. If you were to buy a book that has tons of errors in it, you’d probably feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth, right? There’s something about a polished, finished product that just seem right.

Well, if you expect your books to be professionally “polished,” wouldn’t it makes sense to expect the same quality from your recordings as well? I think so.

So…what is editing? Editing is simply using the tools in your DAW to alter the recorded signal, to change it for the better. This can involve any of the following:

  • Pocketing – Moving out-of-time sections of a performance to make them sound more “in time” with the rest of the song. (This is probably what most people are referring to when they say they’re “editing” a song.)
  • Noise Removal – Recording in a home studio lends itself to lots of noise. Whether it’s simply the singer smacking his lips between phrases, or some random spikes in the audio due to a glitch in your converter. These all can be fixed with editing.
  • Comping – Copying and pasting from several different takes to make one final “comp track” of a performance.

Is editing cheating? Some think it is. They think that if you dare to touch the audio after it’s recorded, you’re hurting the music and killing the performance. I disagree.

First things first, you can ALWAYS have too much of a good thing. Editing, just like EQ, compression, reverb, delay, etc., can easily be taken too far. But just because you can go overboard with editing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t edit.

A lot of mixes I hear from beginner engineers have tons of reverb…we’re talking TONS. Does that mean reverb is a bad thing and they shouldn’t use it? Not at all. Like all things, it needs to be used in moderation.

Another Part of the Creative Process

I approach editing just like I would playing a guitar part or singing a lead vocal. In my opinion, editing is just another key part of the creative process. There is a musical way to edit things. If you edit a track properly, you won’t be able to HEAR the edit, you’ll simply be impressed with such a great-sounding track.

That’s the point. We’re not fixing a crappy performance. We’re enhancing a good performance. Want to hear the difference? Check out this post: Audio Editing: Hear it for Yourself.

Just like a good author utilizes an editor to put the final polish on his book, we as audio engineers should use editing to put the finishing touch on the songs we’re working on.

If you want in-depth training on editing (including practice tracks), check out Understanding Editing. There’s a lot of good info there.

Day 20 Challenge

If you’re a fan of editing, leave a comment and tell us why you edit. What difference does it make?

If you’re skeptical of editing, or if you’ve never done it before, leave a comment and tell us why. Your challenge is to give it a shot, and report back here.