How often to you turn to emergency track surgery in your recording process?
Emergency track surgery is any time – absolutely any time – where you say to yourself after a subpar performance, “I can edit that.”
The problem is that we use it so often, we forget that those tools are best used for emergencies only. Stop false calling 911 on your productions and do this instead.
Start with better tracks.
Don’t allow yourself to “edit” your way to greatness. If that long vocal note was flat, do it again until it isn’t. If that guitar solo just wasn’t working, don’t comp two or three mediocre performances together, expecting to hear greatness.
It just doesn’t work that way. If you want to hear something great in the final product, then you need to make it great piece by piece. Editing your way there can only make things sound unrealistic.
Editing can sound “realistic” when used artistically or as a part of the process.
I’m not saying that you can’t edit anymore. But don’t use it as a crutch.
For example, if you’re doing a huge Katy Perry-esque vocal, you’re definitely going to need to tune it (and tune all of the 50+ background vocals.) That’s an artistic decision to get that sound.
But if you’re going for a John Legend type ballad, don’t rely as heavily on your tuning capabilities for the vocal. Try to get as close as you can before turning to the edit.
Try this exercise and see how you do.
Record an entire verse and chorus of a song without doing a single edit. That’s right – no crossfades, splices, copy and paste, etc. Just you and a tape-machine style recorder.
It’s surprisingly hard, especially if you rely on editing to get great recordings. This forces you to get it right by recording it right and will show you what it takes to get a great performance.
Then, when you go back to recording normally, use your edits sparingly. Don’t overdo it just because you can – and never use it as a crutch.