Recording: cleaning up performance (without cheating)

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by HungryGuitarStudent, May 19, 2019.

  1. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    Thanks again guys. In particular, thanks a lot @Lorcan Ward for taking the time to compile a list of comprehensive examples. I'm definitely ok with dampeners; now I better understand how guys like Paul Wardingham have perfect sweeps and tapping arpeggios on their recordings. That being said, they're definitely incredibly skillful players, but it's nice to know that they're human. It'll help me get a better flow in my recording process to not do a trillion takes and sometimes punch in notes.
     
  2. trem licking

    trem licking SS.org Regular

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    call me weird, but I'd much prefer an album that isn't edited to death. occasional timing fluctuations, ringing notes and squeaks bother me not. sure, if the drummer gets very obviously off in a few spots, align those and punch in sloppily played parts here and there but man, i do appreciate an honest album. this is assuming the band is on a professional level, mind you. modern sound lies more in tonal choices and compression/EQ tricks than in editing the living hell out of everything. but ya know, just my opinion.
     
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  3. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    One word: Rehearsal.
     
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  4. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    Nope. With musical choices like that it's impossible to sound like that without making lots of editing a production choice. It's a sound you want to achieve in a recording, which is otherwise impossible. Still it doesn't mean that you shouldn't practice your instrument, or have rehearsals.
     
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  5. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    I was being a bit facetious, but rehearsal goes a long way.
    Other things like, sound design, gain structure, pre-production also go a long way.
     
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  6. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    My original post assumed enough rehearsal was done prior to recording. In other words, I think everyone agrees rehearsing like a madman is a pre-requisite.

    My 2 cents: that being said, no amount of rehearsing will yield the absolutely clean technique we hear on current tech death and shred albums. I don't mean to diminish the otherworldly skills of those players (gained through practice), but no amount of practicing tapping arpeggios or sweeps will produce notes all ringing at the same level, without minimal bleeding and micro-tonal changes due to the imperfect physical nature of a guitar and of the musician with respect to the precision of the human ear, i.e. strings don't vibrate to exactly the correct frequencies and the human hands aren't exactly applying the correct amount of pressure on strings every time so as to make differences absolutely imperceptible to the human ear.

    Keep in mind I'm not a pro (my videos are a testament to that) and that my mindset has mostly been (until now) to do a zillion takes while using as my only "trick" a string dampener. Since I don't have infinite time to record takes and since my medium term goal is sharing music (while my long term goal is to become a monster performer), I'm seriously considering some of the tricks suggested by posters here: doing more cut/paste editing of my tracks in order to capture best takes, using (very rarely) pitch correction on a small amount of notes.

    At the end of the day, to each his own. I don't really have a problem with purists or people who want to record guitar like a midi instrument.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
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  7. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd has left the building

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    Muting and learning alternate fingers to your songs can be really helpful.

    There are a lot of songs I used to play one way until I tried to record them and realized how much extra string noise I get from a particular fingering because it's harder to mute.
     
  8. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    In my experience, edit the drums first. In fact, I've sometimes found they need editing more after guitars are recorded too. I've edited drum tracks, thought they were tight enough, and then when recording guitar to be tight with them, a swung note on a series of chugs or something stands out too much once the guitar is there.
     
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  9. R34CH

    R34CH Counter Culture Bullet Vulture

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    My whole world just got turned upside down. :eek:
     
  10. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    Excellent point, I found that out not too long ago through experimentation.

    Aside: I always practice without a dampener, with headphones and with higher gain than usual. All this to amplify note bleeds and string noises in order to increase my muting skills. I'm no Stephen Taranto, but I'd like to be 60% as clean a player as him one day.
     
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  11. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd has left the building

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    That's a good idea. I should try that on my practice amp.

    It drives me so crazy in recording probably because I'm not listening for it as intently during regular practice.

    Probably explains why I feel like I get so much better at pretty much all my songs faster by trying to record them than just by jamming in my room. :lol:
     
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  12. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    This is a fantastically informative post. My question is, for some of those examples how do you know that those techniques were used?

    Maybe my ears are shit. I can tell something sounds too perfect, or MIDI-like. But how do you know it's sampling, or recording at slower speeds etc?

    Seems like this is a dirty "secret", because you never see this in any of the documentaries about albums being made, haha
     
  13. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    The flip side of heavy editing as a production choice, of course, is that some people HATE the sound of artificially clean, inhuman, overly polished guitar performances in mixes. It may be something that's required for modern djent recordings (though Meshuggah's The Violent Sleep of Reason would suggest otherwise), but for me that's just one more reason not to play or record djent. :lol:
     
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  14. Konfyouzd

    Konfyouzd has left the building

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    What are we defining as "cheating" again? :scratch:

    Also, no matter what my signature says, I agree with Drew. :lol:
     
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  15. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Good editing makes you think there was less than there was.
     
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  16. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I mean, to be fair, I probably shouldn't be so flippant, because it's super easy just to sit back and take cheap pot-shots at a genre just because you don't like it.

    For ME, writing and recording instrumental rock, authenticity of performance is definitely something that matters. I also for artistic reasons have always been drawn to some of the more human "artifacts" of the physical act of playing guitar, the hum, little scratching noises as you move over the strings, unpredictable feedback or odd resonances, etc, and think a lot of that stuff can be pretty cool - I've even gone as far as overdubbing that stuff panned off to the side in the background with delay here and there to add ambience. I think a lot of character comes across in the phyiscal act of playing, and I want to try to capture that as much as I can in a recording. So, for ME, the idea of heavily editing a performance to remove all of that stuff and make it exaggeratedly even just feels like cutting out something important.

    On the flip side, I edit the fuck out of my bass lines. I'm not a bassist, I only play bass on my recordings becase I don't have someone else to do it, and I want to make sure the bass/drums interaction is rock-solid. I do a ton of cutting and slip-edit aligning to try to not have the results feeling quantized, and I definitely don't build a bassline punching in note after note, but I DO edit the bass to really lock in with the drums. If I was a better bassist maybe that wouldn't be the case and maybe I'd feel more invested in a more "human" performance, though, who knows.
     
  17. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    I do a lot of transcribing and I've done a moderate amount of recording and DAW work with sampled instruments so my ears are very tuned in for this kind of thing. With Necrophagist its obvious cause every note is flawless and surgically tight on the grid. When you sample an instrument the notes don't bleed into one another. For example if you tremolo pick an open string, every note will be slightly different because of the change in pick direction and the vibration of the string when its picked again. A better example would be hitting a drum, if you hit it 4 times the echo from the last hit is still carrying on into the next note. This is what's called note bleed. When you cope paste that note 4 times its just the single note and won't ring out in the next. In otherwise MIDI and what people describe as MIDI sounding.

    The main giveaway is guitars just don't sound like that. If something doesn't sound right then it isn't.

    Speeding up a track means the note bleed is retained as well as the more natural flow of the music. The downside is this also speeds up the vibration of the string , the pick attack, sustain etc which gives it an artificial sound. The Haarp Machine isolated guitar track video is a clear example. You can lose this more in a mix.

    For other examples a studio engineer who worked on it or similar sounding records explained it on one of the various recording forums or a video. Al Mumin pointed out a bunch of bands did it and from there I listened to all the other bands in those genres noticing they did the exact same thing too.

    It's a dirty secret I guess because nobody wants to admit they do it as if it makes them less of a player and if they are called out they deny it to the ground. Joey Sturgis's has some videos going more in-depth with it which made it more common knowledge to the recording community.
     
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  18. Erin Hayden

    Erin Hayden Professional Amateur

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    I mean, even Meshuggah does it. Their latest album "The Violent Sleep of Reason" was special, because the band said that they didn't edit the hell out of their takes and recorded everything live in the studio for it, which obviously means that they, too, edit a lot of what they write. To be fair, Meshuggah can play squeaky clean, even live, but it just goes to show that even some of the best sometimes rely on a little post-editing.

    Another band, where it's rather obvious, is Thy Art Is Murder. Their song "Reign of Darkness", for example, has some pretty tight mutes and chugs all over, there is literally not a single unwanted noise in the official music video/studio release. Not even an accidental pick scrape. Hear them play the same song live, and everything sounds a lot more "loose". You can clearly hear that, while their guitarists might be able to play the song itself in a decent manner, they can't even get close to the super tight muting you get in post-editing by cutting individual mutes/chugs so they don't ring out for too long. It's not an extreme difference, but definitely audible.

    I think the amount of post-editing you do afterwards always depends on your artistic vision for the song/track you write, and how you want it to sound. Most prog metal/djenty bands rely on this "perfect timing", to achieve this machine-like accuracy. You can obviously hear that it's just been cut together, but if done correctly, and depending on the style of music you're after, this is certainly a valid set of techniques to use. Make your music sound the best. ("Sashko -Ostium" is a good example. Wild shreds all over the fretboard, sudden tight chugging and a lot more. It sounds robotic, but it's supposed to)

    Oh and the part about being able to perform your music: That entirely depends on who you are as an artist. There are pure studio artists/bands out there whose music sounds pretty neat, and obviously they don't have a need for live performances, but if you're a performance artist above all else, cleaning your playing is probably the best option to go for at first.

    Of course, some people might think it's lazy to just practice enough so that you can record and cut/edit the bits you need, but hey, if it helps you put your ideas into sound, go for it.


    edit: sorry for necro, didn't want to open another topic to just add my 2 cents lol
     
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  19. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Interesting thread. I HATE the sound of overly edited music. I would probably like tech-death if it weren’t for the fake sound they go for on albums. I’m aware that some of those bands can actually play their songs live. I’d much rather hear it that way.

    My process does use editing though, but as a rule, if it’s getting heavy-handed, it needs to be re-recorded. Basically the tone I hear in the room is perfect, but getting it to sound that way on a recording is a battle. My goal is always to replicate that sound as close as possible— and that involves close-mic’ing and multi-tracking.

    I basically play a scratch track of the whole song to preliminary drums, and then spend a lot of time getting the drums perfect. Then I go back and re-record the guitars for real. One of those tracks is honest and as close to perfect as possible, with no splices or punching in. But the multi-tracks are there just for tone. I quad-tracked rhythms on my first album; man, what a pain in the ass! I edited some of the extra tracks of guitars, otherwise I would have had to play them hundreds of times to get them perfectly in sync with the master track (my monitoring system leaves a lot to be desired— half the time I can barely hear the backing tracks as I record). Anyway, the end result sounds honest and real.

    It depends a lot on the genre, and what production level is the norm. I pity anyone trying to create tech-death or djent — the amount of editing would take all the fun out of it, IMO.
     
  20. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    agreed.

    guitar/bass/vocals;
    I just did a black-gaze record for some friends. I told them from the beginning that we'll be doing a couple riffs at a time to keep the energy and 'consistency' up throughout the song. They were on board and happy to do that. if they felt like they wanted to keep going on a riff, then I'd just let it go, ask them how they felt about it, and go from there.
    I like stopping at the riff change (verse > chorus) and starting a fresh take there, then there are no issues with riff transitions.
    I have copied and pasted riffs (sparingly) for time or if the take is 'perfect' and I want the same thing later.
    I don't use DI tracks, I record from amp>captor>ir and we get the sound we want before we go on.
    i do cut out noise and other garbage, unless they want that ;)
    Vocals is much more of a stop and go... letting the vocalist breath, take breaks, etc to get the best performance.

    drums;
    i surprised myself and mixed the drums with 0 samples. very little drum editing as well. this was a huge departure from the first records i did a few years ago... heavy editing to cover sloppy playing and samples to cover shitty mixing !
    in this case, the drummer nailed the takes, so that helped a lot!!
    if there was a pause in the song, we'd stop, and get pumped for the next part.
    if the drummer fucked up, we did the take again.

    i say 100% whatever works.
    I like what necrophagist has done, and i also like more raw records. For me, its just partial laziness, I want the recording to sound 'good' coming in so i have less work to do... :) I have not tried to record tech death... so we'll see...
     
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