Welcome back to another FAQ Friday! I hope you are all staying safe and healthy out there!
Today’s featured question is: What is the best way to keep the overall feel and the play between musicians while working on a track?
This is a great question! It is so important that you make sure you are not taking all the character out of a track when you are editing it.
Many years ago, when I was still learning, I made the mistake of editing a live recording I was working on far too much and ended up with a small, tight sounding recording. I took the recording, and completely straightened out the drums, then did the same with the guitar, the bass, and so on! In the end, I ended up with a track that had absolutely no groove left in it!
So, how do you avoid doing this? The most simple way is this: Do less.
What I mean by this is instead of editing the entire track to be “perfect”, simply listen to a few bars at a time and see where there are small moments that are out of time or where there are errors, and just edit those small pieces. Maybe there is one note that is slightly ahead of out of time, so just take that one note and nudge it back! That will keep the groove and the intentions of the musicians, and you won’t end up removing the character of the music!
Over the years, I began to develop an ear for this, as you will too as you continue to learn and develop your skills!
One instance where I really put this into practice was when I was working on the Mixing Classic Rock Course for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
I was working with an incredible group of musicians including vocalists Trini Lopez and Mark Farner, Danny Seraphine (Chicago) on Drums, Leland Sklar (TOTO, Phil Collins) on Bass, Elliot Easton (The Cars) & Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson) on E-guitar, Fred Mandel (Queen, Pink Floyd, Elton John) on Piano, and Ray Colcord (Aerosmith, Lou Reed) on strings.
We were in Sunset Sound, Studio 3, and we had just recorded the whole song, and Leland came up to me and asked to hear a certain bar, because he was pretty sure he was out of time. Sure enough, he was a fraction of a note ahead of the kick, and so we worked to adjust just that one piece of the song.
Another instance where we had to work to maintain the groove of a song was while recording The Irish Keep Gate Crashing by The Thrills. In this song the bass and the drums had a very distinct swing about them, but they were not playing the exact same groove at the same time. However, when you listened to them both together, the two parts fit perfectly together, with each one supporting the other. So, it is also important that you listen to the song as a whole, because what may sound out of time when played independently may actually fit very well with the other pieces of the track!
Watch the full video below for the whole answer, and the answers to other great FAQ Friday questions!