rippedflesh89

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I'm pretty new to recording (I've done a fair amount of home recording but have never worked with a professional) and was wondering what process others use to track guitar. My main goal is to pick up speed through the tracking and editing process.

My current approach is to record riff by riff. I'll start with the first riff and record a bunch of takes (way more than I need so I don't need to come back to the part later). I'll work through the entire song to make sure I have plenty of material to work with during the editing process. When I have the time and feel like it, I'll play back all the tracks, keep my favorites and align them to complete the track. I also make sure I get all the takes I need for the track that day (left guitar finished in one day, right guitar on another day etc).

Some questions I have are:

- Do I have to finish tracking a part in the same day or can I take a few days to track the left guitar?

- I've been thinking about recording the entire song say 10x to have 10 takes instead of recording each riff 10x; is this a more common approach? I was thinking it may improve the quality of my takes since I won't be getting bored of playing the same part over and over again.

- Is it generally faster to edit while tracking instead of doing all the tracking and then editing later on? I haven't run into the issue yet where I don't have enough quality takes to finish a track but I can see that happening eventually.

- What are some other ways to speed this process up?

Thanks in advanced and I apologize for the n00b questions!
 

DudeManBrother

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Sounds like a lot of clutter to have to wade through. If you know you got it right on the second take, then takes three through ten are a waste of time and clog up the session. Editing during tracking is fine as long as you can switch back and forth to a performance mindset when it’s time to.

Different studios take different approaches so there’s no right or wrong way to track. If you’re mic’ing a cab in a room then it’s usually better to finish the tracking in the same day because amps will sound slightly different once they cool down/different humidity etc., and it could be noticeable. If the mic gets bumped at all it can drastically change the tone. If you use modeling/amp sim plugins then it doesn’t matter how many days to finish tracking.

The focus should always be on getting a good clean performance. If you can do it in one take: great. If you need to do it riff by riff: great. If you can play through the first 4 riffs without mistakes but want to take a break and punch in for the 5th: great. The goal should be one clean and complete track that’s ready for mixing.

There’s nothing I hate more (as a mixer not involved in tracking) than getting a confusing mess of multiple takes of the same parts, as if I am familiar enough with a bands new material to know what it’s supposed to sound like. When I track a band, or for myself, I get one comped track put together and delete the bad takes as I hear them. I’m left with no questions or confusion as to what the track is. You need to be disciplined enough to know when something isn’t right, and not have a “good enough/I’ll fix it in the mix” attitude.
 

bostjan

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- Do I have to finish tracking a part in the same day or can I take a few days to track the left guitar?
You can take as long as you like, at least until you run out of time. There will be a law of diminishing returns and exponential growth in complexity as you continue. That is, the 2nd take gains you something, but the 3rd take gains you less than the second, on average, then each subsequent take gains you less and less until you eventually are just wasting time. As you record more takes, you are also taxing your system more and more by eating up more memory.

- I've been thinking about recording the entire song say 10x to have 10 takes instead of recording each riff 10x; is this a more common approach? I was thinking it may improve the quality of my takes since I won't be getting bored of playing the same part over and over again.

I'd say no. I don't know how many takes other people do. Ten takes is probably not uncommon for a particularly troublesome part of a song or whatever, but for an entire song, I'd say that sounds insane. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take that approach, but I would say that what you describe is a peculiar approach.

- Is it generally faster to edit while tracking instead of doing all the tracking and then editing later on? I haven't run into the issue yet where I don't have enough quality takes to finish a track but I can see that happening eventually.

Again, it depends. My stuff is never complicated enough to demand that sort of micromanagement, but if that's the way you want to approach it, I see nothing wrong with that.

- What are some other ways to speed this process up?

I guess I'm "that guy" for saying this, but oh well... rehearse your material before recording it. Simple as that. If you can't play your songs serviceably all the way through, then you aren't really recording songs, you're recording noises and editing them into songs. That's cool, but if you are part of the trend these days of recording something you can't play out of 1000 takes, speeding up parts, punching in note-by-note, and then you get popular, a la The HAARP Machine or Rings of Saturn, people are going to shit all over you if you can't demonstrate the ability to play your songs live. I'm not suggesting that's where you are at, but, speaking in broad strokes, if you have to do this many takes and this much editing, it sounds like you are at least dangerously close to that same path. Maybe not, ...and even if this is what you are doing, there's nothing wrong with it- maybe you love the controversy or you are upfront about how your songs are made or else maybe you are recording three chord pop country songs and just being extremely particular about every little detail that no one will consciously notice. No judgement from me either way, but be careful otherwise.
 

rippedflesh89

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If you use modeling/amp sim plugins then it doesn’t matter how many days to finish tracking.

Awesome, thanks for answering this question, I've been wondering about this for a while now. I only work with DI tracks from my Axe-FX since I don't have the space for a proper studio. This is more for a side project where I jam for a couple hours and piece parts together later on. It's great to know that if I come up with something a few days down the road, I can just record it and not have to worry about things sounding too different between the sessions. I always make sure my strings are fresh so that should help minimize the differences in tone between sessions.

I don't know how many takes other people do. Ten takes is probably not uncommon for a particularly troublesome part of a song or whatever, but for an entire song, I'd say that sounds insane. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take that approach, but I would say that what you describe is a peculiar approach. Again, it depends. My stuff is never complicated enough to demand that sort of micromanagement, but if that's the way you want to approach it, I see nothing wrong with that.

What's interesting about this is as I comb through all these parts I recorded, I keep finding that the first three takes are (almost) always the best. Everything after that sounds like I lost my excitement for the riff.

I guess I'm "that guy" for saying this, but oh well... rehearse your material before recording it. Simple as that. If you can't play your songs serviceably all the way through, then you aren't really recording songs, you're recording noises and editing them into songs. That's cool, but if you are part of the trend these days of recording something you can't play out of 1000 takes, speeding up parts, punching in note-by-note, and then you get popular, a la The HAARP Machine or Rings of Saturn, people are going to shit all over you if you can't demonstrate the ability to play your songs live. I'm not suggesting that's where you are at, but, speaking in broad strokes, if you have to do this many takes and this much editing, it sounds like you are at least dangerously close to that same path. Maybe not, ...and even if this is what you are doing, there's nothing wrong with it- maybe you love the controversy or you are upfront about how your songs are made or else maybe you are recording three chord pop country songs and just being extremely particular about every little detail that no one will consciously notice. No judgement from me either way, but be careful otherwise.

Thanks for saying it, no offense taken whatsoever! The music I play is challenging but I can play everything all the way through cleanly. I'm actually planning on doing minimally edited playthrough videos of most of the songs I put out. I've spent a few months practicing every riff at 50% speed and slowly bumping it up to 110% (if you're used to 110%, 100% is a piece of cake). I'm just also a bit of perfectionist and it's something I'm always working on. I just want every part to sound as tight and clear as possible with the absolute minimum amount of editing required.

Thanks for the responses, you both have been very helpful! The main reason for this post was to see how others record and edit guitar tracks since I'm a total n00b and am figuring things out as I go.
 

Drew

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I've spent a few months practicing every riff at 50% speed and slowly bumping it up to 110% (if you're used to 110%, 100% is a piece of cake). I'm just also a bit of perfectionist and it's something I'm always working on. I just want every part to sound as tight and clear as possible with the absolute minimum amount of editing required.
If you've been doing this, then you should be able to track the performance pretty quickly, no?

I suppose there ARE a few wrong ways (I think guys basically step-editing a performance note by note are insane) to do this, but there's also a whole bunch of right ways, so whatever works.

Speaking personally -

I start with bass and drum tracks and get my bass performance as tight as possible before I even pick up a guitar. Really tight bass playing, really locked into the drums, does a TON to keep the low end of a mix "tight," and I don't care enough about bass left to my own devices to really nail it unless I'm listening to it solo'd without any guitar in the way.
I generally try to record, at a minimum, entire sections of rhythm guitar at once, if not the entire song. I.e. - if I'm doing a part with clean verses and distorted choruses, then I'll try to record the clean sections each as a single take, and then the distorted sections each as a single take. If I want, say, the distorted chords to fade out as the clean guitars come back in (which I usually would) then you kind of need them to be separate parts for this to work.
I try to do minimal punching, and try to record each section as a single take... but, honestly, if you have a performance where 99% of it is great, but you kinda miff one of the chord changes, it's a lot faster to just punch in that one section than do a couple more takes until you get it.
I'm old school, but I record live amps through mics, to disc, rather than DIs. I like to commit to tones early on in the process, so I'm not second guessing EQ or gain settings later on. "Fit" parts together in the mix as you track - this is another reason to start with bass, so you know that your bass and rhythm tracks are going to gel pretty well. This is a reason for me, personally, to try to finish every "part" of one recording - the rhythm guitars, or the lead - in a single session, so I don't have to worry about a mic being jostled or an amp setting changing.
As far as editing... I write instrumental guitar music. I may comp a solo together out of a few takes, but the album I did (long enough ago that I really need to get another one going, lol), I think I slip-edited one single note out of every solo on the record, where a slight timing delay on a resolution didn't bug me at the time, but as I was mixing it it began to get to me. Even that I feel weird enough about that I feel compelled to bring it up here. :lol: For te most part, I think embracing the fact that the electric guitar is played by a real, live human being, and that accordingly there are going to be little artifacts that may make a performance "imperfect," is a big part of what makes a part "real" and "exciting" and have "attitude."

But, yeah. Basically, learn your parts cold, record them in as few takes (or as many) as you need to get it right (if nothing else, strings DO wear out pretty quickly while tracking), embrace the little things that make a part human, and then move on. If you don't need to record in 15-second snippets, and can bang out a whole part in a single take, then do it.
 


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