The Recording Process, Part 3: Editing
As work on Year of The Nightingale continues, I wanted to share with you the next stage of our journey through the recording process.
In the last update, we looked at Tracking - the stage when all the instruments and voices are recorded. In tracking, several takes of each instrument and voice are captured, the result of which is that, by the end of the Tracking Stage, there may be a dozen takes of every instrument and every voice on every song - a lot of material!... Which leads us to the Editing Stage.
In the Editing Stage, we need to go through all the material captured during the Tracking Stage and find the best moments of each instrument and voice. Then, in a process called ‘Comping’ (short for compiling), all the best moments of each instrument/voice are knitted together into one seamless take. In the past, sound engineers would physically cut the tape with a special ‘splicing’ machine, and then stick the tape back together in a different way in order to gain the desired outcome. The final 'tape' of a recording would actually be made up of many different pieces of tape cut apart and stuck together in different ways. Nowadays, this process is usually done digitally - the sound waves of each instrument are 'spliced' and woven together on a computer, forming a patchwork quilt of sound, as you can see in the photos of Kelly's colorful editing work below.
Some other elements of the Editing Stage include:
Timing: During the Tracking Stage, there may be tiny discrepancies in the way the musicians played - perhaps the guitar rushed ahead of the beat at one moment or the bass landed a little bit after the beat at another. While these discrepancies often add character to a song, an excess of discrepancy in timing between instruments can make a recording uncomfortable to listen to. This is where a Click Track comes in very useful. The Click Track creates a ‘grid’ to which the instruments can be aligned. The aim is to align the instruments enough so that they feel ’tight’ together, but not so much as to sound robotic or inhuman. It's a matter of splicing each sound wave, moving it a nudge forward or a nudge backward, and then listening to it to see if it feels right in context with everything else. My dad always put it very simply, ‘If it sounds good, it’s right.'
Cleaning Up Noise: Another aspect of editing is removing any unwanted noises from the recordings. During the Tracking Stage, all sorts of non-musical sounds end up on a raw recording - studio chatter, the shuffle of clothes, a mouth noise while singing or, as in the case of the video below, a weed-whacker!! During The Editing Stage, Kelly and I go through each piece of tracking with a fine comb to pinpoint and remove any unwanted noises. Often, little noises in a recording can hardly be noticed consciously, but they have a subconscious effect, causing slight displeasure to the brain even though we may not consciously know why. A major goal of our editing process is to remove anything that might cause displeasure to the listener’s ear, or distract them from their experience of the words and music.
In the next update, we'll look at an extremely important stage of the recording process - Mixing
With my deepest thanks always,