The Power of Digital Audio
June 28, 2006
So, my band has been recording an E.P. and we did all the tracking ourselves. Before taking things into a studio for mixing, I went through and did all the editing. I guess in the old days of actual tape, things would be done differently while tracking, because editing tape involves razors, scotch tape and rulers. With something like Pro Tools, a lot of things can just be handled after the fact. I dunno, maybe that makes us crappy musicians, but in my mind, it's just something that enables us to get our musical ideas recorded with a minima of hassle.
I had figured that editing the vocals together would be the biggest task. Basically taking the best phrase from multiple vocal takes and creating a final "comped" take for the vocals. It turns out that a much trickier part involved the drums. We didn't use a click track or metronome, as Michelle keeps reasonably steady time and we just didn't have time to rehearse to the click. The tricky part about this is that anywhere in a song where she's not playing, she has to click her sticks so we have a time reference. See, Tony, Devon and I would be recording our tracks later when she wasn't there, so we need a beat at all times during the song.
We've got a couple songs with some multiple-measure stops in them, where Michelle hits a big cymbal crash, the band plays and then she comes back in. The first thing I noticed was that her stick clicks are in the middle of the decay of the cymal crash, like so:
Now, I could just fade out right before the first click, but that would be highly awkward sounding. I could simply remove the click, but then there would be a noticable gap in the cymbal decay. So, Time Expansion to the rescue! First step, cut out the portion with the click sound:
Next step, select an area of the cymbal decay adjacent and previous to the area I just removed, and use the time expansion/compression plug in to stretch it to fill the remaining space, without modifying the pitch:
Note that I had to calculate the amount of space to fill via samples, and ensure that the "Sound vs. Rhythm" slider was all the way on Sound, or you get a noticable flanging effect. Once that's done, we get this:
which works OK, but there's noticeable clicks when we pass from the edited audio to the unedited audio. A quick crossfade of both sections gives us
and then we do it about 11 more times. The result
is a smooth cymbal decay without any sound of stick clicks!
I guess if we'd been doing this with tape, we would either have had to use a click track or have someone else click the missing rhythm in Michelle's headphones. Either way, I didn't even think about this problem at the time and thank God I was able to fix it. Go Pro Tools!