The Power of Digital Audio

June 28, 2006

Join my mailing list…

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!