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Timing Explained and How to Use It Effectively In Your Productions

How effectively are you using one of the most important musical elements in your production?

Even though most of us know that timing is important when playing music, we seem to forget about how to use it to get great productions when we are working in the studio.

But if you can make these intelligent decisions about musical timing in your productions, you’ll be making even better and more interesting music.

Not everything needs to come right on the beat. If you’ve ever heard an over-quantized performance, you know what I’m talking about. The “life” gets sucked right out of the performance as soon as you snap everything to the grid. That’s why the first step is to hold back from quantizing to 100%. Start around 50% and work your way up until everything sits how you would like it to.

A lot of times, people use quantization as a tool to fix a poor performance. But this is the wrong use of this tool. It should be used to tighten up an already good performance to make it great. Most of the time, I quantize to about 65%, which still leaves the variations in timing that sound natural.

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Good question. One of the easiest ways to get a cool time feel is to just play all of the instruments in and not quantize them. But what if you’re working with a vocal that you want to sit perfectly with the groove of a song, but it needs some work before it gets there?

There are basically three choices you have when pocketing any instrument – especially a vocal. You can put it ahead of the beat, directly on the beat, or behind the beat.

Ahead of the beat sounds great if you’re trying to get an aggressive, up-tempo vocal performance. Be careful, however, we’re talking about milliseconds, not seconds. Don’t overdo it, or it will just sound “off.”

Directly on the beat often sounds “perfect,” but can actually be kind of lifeless if it never varies. It’s good to put some notes directly on the beat, but keep in mind that it is also a good idea to fluctuate.

Behind the beat can often sound “relaxed” or “in the pocket.” If it’s too far back, of course, it will sound “off.” However, this is actually one of the more desirable ways to pocket a vocal. Nudging it just slightly behind the beat can give it much more musical feel.

Go back and listen to your favorite recordings. Listen to the way the vocal is nudged ahead, directly on, or behind the beat. You’ll be amazed at what you find!

Then check out the tools you’ll want to use if you’re editing your vocals to this detail. Become a member to stream all of our videos, including Vocal Tuners, an in depth look at the major tuning and timing tools on the market today!

One thought on “Timing Explained and How to Use It Effectively In Your Productions”

  1. One trick I learned a long time ago was to time larger sections….in other words working with 4,8, or even 16 bars at a time. When you snap these larger chunks you can correct the problems, but keep the “feel” of the tracks. I have had good results doing this for both instruments and vocals.

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