The past 20 years has yielded a revolution in the methods we use to capture music. Now were finally passing the honeymoon stage. The toys, whips and costumes that were once thrilling are now everyday props. The newness and excitement over the unlimited editing options is passing.
I started on Pro Tools and Logic. In a lot of ways the digital world is my home base. It was a bit of a surprise to discover that I started to prefer tracking “out of the box” using real physical compressors, eq’s and tape. Anyone remember these things?
The unlimited options that recording into a computer allows is mind numbing. When does on have too many options though? When does the ease and availability of editing change the way you perform? Why are we so weary to commit to performances these days?
My mind was starting to question these things about a year ago when I was producing a song for Jenna Torres. We we’re recording some fiddle with Eleanor Whitmore. I was creating a new playlist for every run through “just because I could”. Eleanor at one moment pointed out that I didn’t need to save all those takes. Instead she would simply play it intact when we decided what we liked. I knew there wasn’t a need to fix her takes. She’s a fantastic musician, but I was saving them anyway out of habit.
That comment caused a giant bell to ring in my head. I started thinking about how much I don’t like to edit takes together. Do you really need 25 variations on a tambourine track? Maybe, just maybe take 11 was slightly better than take 18 that was almost as good as take 9 but none of them beat take 25. I mean your first problem might just be you actually cut 25 takes of tambourine!! I will save that for future discussions with your therapist.
Here is food for thought, if your cutting and pasting all over you’re forgetting important things like dynamic build in a song. Think about how you really perform a song all the way through. Do you really play the last chorus the same as the first without even some subtle change?
I was recently back in the studio with Jenna to record a new song named “My Kiss”. The song has a gradual build of dynamics. It’s one big crescendo. I was interested in getting full takes of all the fundamental tracks such as drums, acoustic guitars and bass from start to finish to capture the consistent climb.
The drums were tracked to 2” tape so it made the urge not to save 1,000 takes easier. I kept two takes in the event there was something I was really un-happy with. Moving back to digital I kept that same philosophy with the rest of the overdubs treating Pro Tools as a virtual “tape machine” rather than a chaotic box of decision-making madness. I likes me some crazy, but editing does not get you any badass street cred.
In the end I really felt that it made a difference. When it came time to mix all the decisions had already been made. It was more a matter of balancing levels than sorting and housekeeping.