The Project
Tracking with a Click
Tricks of the trade
Advice from the pros
Getting Great sounds
Home Recording
Home Vocal Session
The Session


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Inexperienced engineers will often argue for hours over which mic to use where and nearly always they argue pointlessly over how to mic up a drum kit. As I have pointed out in the text, it is perfectly possible to get a killer drum sound for every part of the kit with a cheap mic. But it is during the editing process that a commercial sound is created. In the past, producers got round the problem of poor musicianship, by hiring in session musicians. That is still partly true today, but a great deal of the professional polish is added during the editing process.

Editing has become so important that many commercial recordings devote the lion`s share of their budgets to editing. The modern and tight sound of a professional recording has more to do with editing than any magic effect or pliugin.

Imagine - You have recorded a set of drums and the drummer sucked big time. He lost the beat when coming out of the breaks and his drum-hits were weak, flabby and uneven. The bass player is constantly off the beat and even manages to play the wrong note here and there. The lead guitarist cannot put a solo together without a fluff in every second bar and the rhythm player just has not got rhythm. But the producer (or more likely the band themselves!) refuse to do the logical thing and have these parts replaced by competent musicians.

All these problems can be solved in the editing process. Indeed, in rock and pop music, you can solve just about any problem like that (except a poor vocal performance!) during editing.

But when dealing with many amateur bands, some very important (and in some cases, insurmountable) problems present themselves.

1. The band assume that somehow there is a magic `fix-it` button. After a crap recording (as described above) all you have to do is press that button and your local, screaming thrash band will sound like Queen.

2. They refuse to record to a click, claiming that it cramps their style and effects the `feel` of the music. But the editor needs a click as a reference point for all his edit positions. Without a click, editing can be like knitting fog.

3. They do not understand that there is very little one can do with poorly performed vocals. They have heard about such tools as Harmonizers and Autotune and assume that the engineer can produce fantastic vocals from someone who sounds like a frog. You can harmonize a frog croaking, you can re-tune a frog croaking, you can compress a frog croaking and you can double track a frog croaking. But it will remain the sound of a frog croaking.

4. The amateur seldom, if ever, budgets for the editing process. Unaware of the amount of time editing can take (and, of course, the more that needs fixing, the longer it takes) they assume that some Joe with a computer can give them a really professional sound over an entire 12-song CD in a couple of days.   Editing takes time and good editors cost money!

5.  Most inexperienced musicians insist on every little piece that they played being in the mix. If a guitar part is missing, they assume that the editor somehow `forgot` it and not that it just did not fit. The drummer often assumes that his wild thrashing about in what he calls a solo, has to be included in the final mix, no matter what.

6.  The more you edit, the less it sounds like a performance.  People like the sound of a performance.  So do not be suprised, if you create a 'perfect' recording in editing, that you also create something nobody wants to hear!

For these reasons, if you get a job to edit a set of tracks, make sure that you have the ground rules laid out. Editing is just one of those tasks that cannot be done well and done quickly. Sure, an experienced editor can bang out a standard job in a short time, but to edit creatively, adding all those little musical gimmicks that make the listener sit up and pay attention requires the editor to listen again and again to the music and just think quietly what the music needs.

In some cases, the editing process is more creative than the recording.


The Byre Recording Studio