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Geoffrey Taucer

Post-recording manipulation of "live" parts

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What are your thoughts on this? Is cheating? Is it just another tool for an artist to achieve his/her artistic vision?

To give an example: suppose an instrumentalist released a track with some really cool solos, but achieved the solos by splicing clips together, adding tremolo to sustained notes, correcting the timing so each note was right on beat (or off-beat by just the right amount), artificially speeding up the playing, and so on? To the point where what you hear in the finished product is something that the instrumentalist has never actually played and would not be able to play live?

Here's why I ask: on all my older tracks (up to about 2011), whenever I needed to record a guitar or whistle part, I'd practice it until I could play it the way I wanted it to sound. This typically took days, weeks, sometimes a month or more. And sometimes I'd just give up and end up not finishing the track.

Two things have changed since then: 1) I have a 40 hour/week job, and 2) I have a roommate who's an excellent producer. So for any flashy guitar part I want to have in my tracks, I can either spend a month or more practicing the part, or I can spend half an hour recording multiple takes at slower speeds and be done with it.

Lately (ie for the last year or so) I've been doing the latter.

But I'm sort of torn about the whole idea of manipulating my recordings like this. On the one hand, it's really great to be able to get some of these ideas to work that I've never been able to actually play. On the other hand, based on feedback I've gotten, a lot of the people who like my tracks particularly like my guitar playing, and this sort of feels like I'm being dishonest to anybody who is a fan of my guitar playing.

What think you all?

Edited by Geoffrey Taucer

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I think if it realizes your artistic vision, and it doesn't sound artificial, then it's fine (speeding up parts can literally distort the timbre in an odd way, but that aside, it may sound impossible in the extremes, of course). If you definitely don't plan to actually play it live, I wouldn't place any real obligation to learn it precisely or well enough to play it live (unless you want to randomly sit down and jam to it for fun every now and then, but that's your choice). Honestly, I don't even play guitar well enough to play half of what I sequence in electric rhythm and lead guitar, but I can imagine someone of average or intermediate skill playing it and it tends to be feasible. I'm not ashamed of just knowing how to theoretically play it well but literally play it slowly.

As long as it sounds feasible and realistic, I would be okay with it. But I also think you shouldn't have it so there's so much splicing that it's not even really an effort anymore. If you find yourself splicing more than you're playing, maybe then it'll help to learn the part for a longer time so that at least you can feel accomplished in what you've learned to play. Whatever happens, if you feel like you accomplished something worthwhile, I'd say it's worth keeping up the work on what you're writing. After all, the 'supreme rule' of art is to make yourself happy through your work.

Edited by timaeus222

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Damn, there are a lot of people with hangups about what's "cheating" in music in the forums today :lol:

I don't think it's cheating, but it's really not worth it. I tried it on a couple tracks once because I wrote it with MIDI beforehand and came up with this flashy part that sounded awesome, but it was absurdly fast. Yeah, long story short - I regret doing so. It sounds lame.

I reminded myself that I never set out to be a great guitar player, I just want to compose cool tunes. So I could A) Spend hours and hours with a metronome building up speed so I can sweep it like a janitor. B) Waste time editing and speeding it up. Or C) Just play something simpler that sounds great. I'd rather listen to a guitar solo that sounds like a realized melody than a scale exercise.

EDIT: Also, doing things in studio that you can't necessarily play live is fairly common. A while back, I heard that on one of Annihilator's songs, Jeff Waters has only ever played the solo perfectly live once - it was all recorded in individual takes spliced together. Blind Guardian doesn't have the massive vocal layering live and Faster Pussycat never performed "Babylon" live for several years after it was written.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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I don't think it's cheating, but it's really not worth it. I tried it on a couple tracks once because I wrote it with MIDI beforehand and came up with this flashy part that sounded awesome, but it was absurdly fast. Yeah, long story short - I regret doing so. It sounds lame.

Well, to give an example, listen to this mix. There are two rhythm guitars: a low one panned to the left and a high one panned to the right.

Listen to the high one. Most of that was recorded one chord at a time, meaning each bar is a separate take (and more than one take in a few spots). The lead, which sounds more-or-less continuous, is actually about twelve separate takes spliced together. Mild quantization on just about everything (though the quantization isn't super-strict). The hand percussion, while "played" by me on my acoustic guitar, is thoroughly chopped and spliced and quantized, and bears little resemblence to anything I actually played during recording.

But it all came out sounding EXACTLY the way it sounded in my head. Down to the smallest detail.

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Well, to give an example, listen to this mix. There are two rhythm guitars: a low one panned to the left and a high one panned to the right.

Listen to the high one. Most of that was recorded one chord at a time, meaning each bar is a separate take (and more than one take in a few spots). The lead, which sounds more-or-less continuous, is actually about twelve separate takes spliced together. Mild quantization on just about everything (though the quantization isn't super-strict). The hand percussion, while "played" by me on my acoustic guitar, is thoroughly chopped and spliced and quantized, and bears little resemblence to anything I actually played during recording.

But it all came out sounding EXACTLY the way it sounded in my head. Down to the smallest detail.

That was done REALLY well, then. I honestly can't tell it's spliced, and I'm VERY picky. :)

What you said about the hand percussion just sounds like a set of samples could have been recorded and spliced for sequencing like regular downloadable drum samples, and it would have been pretty similar. I'd call that like creating your own drum sample pack for immediate use, and I think that's actually a good skill to have for any do-it-yourself kind of person (chopping and editing samples for personal use). :-P

Edited by timaeus222

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That was done REALLY well, then. I honestly can't tell it's spliced, and I'm VERY picky. :)

I KNOW RIGHT? The splicing is Haroon's work, and it blew my mind that he could get it to come out sounding so clean.

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Well, to give an example, listen to this mix. There are two rhythm guitars: a low one panned to the left and a high one panned to the right.

Listen to the high one. Most of that was recorded one chord at a time, meaning each bar is a separate take (and more than one take in a few spots). The lead, which sounds more-or-less continuous, is actually about twelve separate takes spliced together. Mild quantization on just about everything (though the quantization isn't super-strict). The hand percussion, while "played" by me on my acoustic guitar, is thoroughly chopped and spliced and quantized, and bears little resemblence to anything I actually played during recording.

But it all came out sounding EXACTLY the way it sounded in my head. Down to the smallest detail.

Well, the part of my post that you quoted I was referring to artificially speeding tracks up, not splicing them.

Honestly, it'd be a little weird to be against splicing leads and chords together given that's how many people with no notation/tab knowledge, but have recording software compose with their guitar. Hell, even Andy Sneap copies and pastes sections most of the time. Klayton (Celldweller) as he explains in his electronic rock production videos on YouTube, half the time his guitar riffs on the recording aren't the way he actually played them because he chopped them up, switched some of the notes around etc.

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To give an example: suppose an instrumentalist released a track with some really cool solos, but achieved the solos by splicing clips together, adding tremolo to sustained notes, correcting the timing so each note was right on beat (or off-beat by just the right amount), artificially speeding up the playing, and so on? To the point where what you hear in the finished product is something that the instrumentalist has never actually played and would not be able to play live?

like dragonforce, you mean?

i think it's cool until they try to play their stuff live and fail miserably.

idk tho, i just watched some recent live stuff by them on yt and they seem to be getting better! they probably were all too aware of the studio/live discrepancy.

Edited by Nase

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This has been the norm since tape made editing records possible. It's always been happening to a much greater degree than people really think about. Orchestral recordings are some of the most heavily edited out there and that's typically one people bring up as "authentic" performances.

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But I'm sort of torn about the whole idea of manipulating my recordings like this. On the one hand, it's really great to be able to get some of these ideas to work that I've never been able to actually play. On the other hand, based on feedback I've gotten, a lot of the people who like my tracks particularly like my guitar playing, and this sort of feels like I'm being dishonest to anybody who is a fan of my guitar playing.

i wouldn't say dishonest, but i'd say you're running danger of losing some of the spontaenous quality that may be present in an undoctored take. it really just depends on what you wanna express. no extremely polished or super rough track automatically loses its impact by being that way. it's all context sensitive. sometimes you want precision, sometimes it's gotta be loose, with little flubs and all.

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I do it all the time. Not ashamed to say so. I don't really consider myself a great guitarist, and my work requires... a strong emphasis on timings and clean playing. There isn't much room for being sloppy, which is something my early guitar mixes were continuously plagued by.

My album Monarchy - https://willrock1.bandcamp.com/album/monarchy - Its edited so much (not just my own playing either, but others as well) that if I gave you all the original files without my edits... I reckon it would sound rather bad in comparison.

Now... why do I do it? I believe that any means are justifiable to a good end. As for playing live gigs - different medium of entertainment. Therefore it requires a different approach.

Now for my last point - we all sequence our music to an extent. Many of us have the tools to play everything live but we don't. I bet we could learn to play "keyboard drums" but I don't think many of us bother. How is this any different? Is it cheating to sequence what you could give an attempt at playing live? Is it cheating to sequence at all? What about using rhythmic patches? Or Arps? If we can do it manually, is it cheating to take the easier option? I don't believe so. We now have the tools available to create a product that WE enjoy. If you want to play your things live and you like a sloppier sound then more power to you. However if you're a perfectionist, and you need everything perfect... that is YOUR right. We all have the tools to create music how we want. We aren't breaking any rules imho because the end result is our vision and if we don't use everything at our disposable to put across our vision, that is false.

We have the skills and tools to create music thats out of this world. Sometimes that requires more than a simple live performance and there is NOTHING wrong with that :)

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As long as you're not directly claiming that it was a continuous, unedited take, then I've got nothing against it, haha. Studios exist for a reason, yo! They don't call it "studio magic" for nothing. :-P

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A lot of stuff I do is recorded in multiple takes then spliced together. I never saw anything wrong with it and still don't.

The only drawback I feel one could claim is that sometimes it MIGHT take out some of the human element, like quantizing a midi track. But if done right, it's not noticeable.

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I do it all the time. Not ashamed to say so. I don't really consider myself a great guitarist, and my work requires... a strong emphasis on timings and clean playing. There isn't much room for being sloppy, which is something my early guitar mixes were continuously plagued by.

My album Monarchy - https://willrock1.bandcamp.com/album/monarchy - Its edited so much (not just my own playing either, but others as well) that if I gave you all the original files without my edits... I reckon it would sound rather bad in comparison.

Now... why do I do it? I believe that any means are justifiable to a good end. As for playing live gigs - different medium of entertainment. Therefore it requires a different approach.

Now for my last point - we all sequence our music to an extent. Many of us have the tools to play everything live but we don't. I bet we could learn to play "keyboard drums" but I don't think many of us bother. How is this any different? Is it cheating to sequence what you could give an attempt at playing live? Is it cheating to sequence at all? What about using rhythmic patches? Or Arps? If we can do it manually, is it cheating to take the easier option? I don't believe so. We now have the tools available to create a product that WE enjoy. If you want to play your things live and you like a sloppier sound then more power to you. However if you're a perfectionist, and you need everything perfect... that is YOUR right. We all have the tools to create music how we want. We aren't breaking any rules imho because the end result is our vision and if we don't use everything at our disposable to put across our vision, that is false.

We have the skills and tools to create music thats out of this world. Sometimes that requires more than a simple live performance and there is NOTHING wrong with that :)

Somehow the overall perception is that good music is, or should be, inherently tied to a good live performance. It's a problematic and outdated attitude that just needlessly stigmatizes things. "Authenticity" is fetishized in music to a degree you don't really see in other mediums.

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i believe what you are referring to is "punching in" and there is utterly no shame in it. in fact, i'm a little surprised there's extensive talk on this

granted, i'm the sort of guitarist that doesn't punch in and relies on "realism" to explain sketch, sloppy guitar parts but punching in for guitar (and other instruments) in the studio setting is about as accepted a practice as there is and it takes nothing from the artist in terms of composition and when the time comes for live performance, is typically a non issue as the parts are exercised, learned and all good.

is it an issue when someone records guitar parts that are insanely complex and then live, can't play past a bar because they are exposed for being a bum? sure, i can see how that is a problem but if that is your problem then you have more pressing issues than whether or not you should be punching in.

no need to question the studio practice. it is entirely routine, common place and nonindicative of your chops or composition skills. (lesson here: don't be a zyko and arrogantly insist on every take being a live, full take or you will always sound like a bum. unless of course you're god. then by all means, be a pretentious guitar playist and all that)

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