An often inevitable part of the production process is editing.
The editing phase encompasses several things. This is where we comp together all of our takes, maybe move some audio segments around if needed, and try to fix up some mistakes in the recording.
But a big part of editing is what I call “tightening”. This involves adjusting the timing and tuning of key tracks so that they are brought closer to the correct time and pitch.
Technology is fantastic, and the ability to edit and tighten recorded audio is very helpful. It can help you bring your recordings to the next level.
But there are some big problems with editing. If overdone, it can make your music sound robotic, and less human. Some people even consider it to be cheating. And although it’s helpful, it’s not often a very fun or creative process.
Luckily, there are a few simple ways to avoid editing. Or at least minimize the amount you have to do. This way, you can spend more time on the fun, creative process of making music. A few of these methods are described in the remainder of this article.
But there is a caveat. Just because it’s simple, that doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it can be very challenging. The last method below is particularly tough for us DIY folks.
But avoiding editing improves efficiency, and has other desirable side effects as well.
Maybe this is obvious, but it needs to be said.
The best way to avoid editing is to perform the part really, really well.
We seem to get into the mindset that we can capture something quickly, and then fix it in the mix later. We record a quick, sloppy performance, and then spend a bunch of time trying to deal with it afterward.
But if you spend the time practicing and honing your skills, then you won’t need to spend as much time “practicing” your use of Elastic Audio and Melodyne. Personally, I’d rather practice the music.
I’ve found that the most effective way is to record yourself practicing. If you’re working on your timing skills, record yourself playing to a click, and listen back. It will immediately become painfully obvious how good (or bad) your timing is. At least, it was painfully obvious to me when I start doing it!
As you do this, you’ll start to find that you seem to be spending more effort playing to the click (or singing on pitch) than you’d like. It will feel constraining, and not that much fun.
But stick with it. Once you’re able to effortlessly “lock in” to the click or pitch, it will actually give you more expressive freedom. Like any skill, once it comes naturally to you, it will become automatic. And your recordings will automatically improve.
Don’t Edit Everything
This is another important time saver.
Once you “get in the groove” of editing, it’s tempting to edit all of your tracks to make sure everything is nice and tight.
This is a mistake.
Not only does it mean you’ll be spending a lot of time on editing, but it actually reaches a point where it does more harm than good.
Not everything should be locked in to the grid. I, for instance, typically edit the timing on the drums and some other rhythm instruments, and I usually touch up the vocals. That’s it.
Lead tracks? Electric guitars? Usually not important. If there is a mistake that is bugging you, then go ahead and fix it. But you really don’t need to edit everything. In fact, if you do, things will start to sound unnatural and less “human”.
I ignored a lot of tracks on my EP that I produced last summer. I edited the important ones, and moved on. It saved me a ton of time, and the songs still sound great and tight.
(If you’re interested in learning more about how I produced my EP, stay tuned for the release next week. I’ll be announcing a way that you can get some background info on my production process)
And finally, here’s the kicker…
Only Record Things You’re Good At
This one is hard to swallow.
If you’re anything like me, you’re used to doing everything yourself. Maybe you even enjoy doing everything yourself. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.
But you can’t be great at everything. If you want to get great recordings (that don’t need to be edited later), you need to play to your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Record the things that you’re good at, and the things you enjoy. And then, if you can, let someone else handle some of the things you’re not so good at.
Personally, I know that this is a great example of where I talk the talk, but struggle to walk the walk. I was planning to get other people involved in my production process for my EP. And then I just started working on it and before I knew it, it was done. And I had done everything myself. Again.
But my EP does still hold a great example of my point:
I used to play violin when I was younger. I still can, but I’m way out of practice.
I wanted to record some strings for a couple songs on the EP. I could have gotten out the old violin and squeaked out a few parts, and then tried to make them sound good later while editing and mixing.
But I didn’t. Instead, I used sampled strings. And they sound great.
This is a good example of me sticking with what I’m good at, and staying away from the things that I technically could do, but shouldn’t.
So there you go. Some great ways to avoid editing.
Editing is a wonderful tool. But you should always make it your goal to play and record well enough that editing becomes unnecessary (tweet this). Or at least reduce the need for it.
This is what I do. And as a bonus, it makes me a better musician, because I force myself to practice and improve. I think you’ll find that the same happens for you.
What do you think? Do you want to reduce the amount of editing you do? Leave a comment below!
6 thoughts on “How To Avoid Editing”
Great advice, as usual. Thanks! Agreed that editing should only be done when absolutely necessary, and practicing is the best way to make editing unnecessary. I’ll have to try recording myself practicing – great idea!
Yeah. When I first started with recording, I was totally of the mindset that “I don’t need to be that good, because I can fix everything in my computer”.
Guess how long that lasted?
I think the problem is that the next step is we start blaming our gear, plugins, whatever. We try to avoid the fact that great music is made by great musicians. Practicing and getting better at music is much more productive than trying to get better at autotune 🙂
Have a good one!
True…unfortunately Logic X Flex Pitch is pretty darn easy to use and works really well…not helping me get motivated to practice singing! 🙂
Haha! Yeah I know what you mean. Melodyne is great too. But even so, I find that when I sing really off, I still can’t fix it that easily. It’s better to get a good take, and then tweak, rather than fix a big problem with it. That’s my experience anyway 🙂
Absolutely! Nothing better than the real thing.