Jack, a podcast listener, commented the following on one of our episodes:
"A problem i've been having lately isn't so much with getting good sounds or mixing as it has been with having a good process for tracking.
Having a great rhythm track can sometimes be 80% of having a great recording, especially when recording on my own (tracking a band makes things more obvious for me).
Getting a tightly played and edited rhythm track is so time consuming for me that I usually sub-consciously rush it just to carry on with recording the song, to speed up the process to get to mixing it and fun stuff quicker. The result is me having to go back and do a lot of this in mixing and editing tracks that are played to other tracks poorly."
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This is why it's bothering him (it's not just time, but the end result):
"When tracking, I can play super tight eventually with a warm up but I sometimes cant get the feel totally right, even if it's tight, without editing and I'm not entirely sure how to do this properly sometimes. This is more strictly talking about recording demos.
When I try do a more serious recording of a fleshed out tracking I will usually spend way too long on this and edit it within an inch of its life or rerecord too many things that could be perceived as great characterful mistakes. The end result is usually pretty lifeless and static. "
And here's what he wants us to cover and answer for him:
"I would love to hear you guys wax lyrical about a checklist for making a great rhythm track, with what needs to be ticked off before moving forward. Getting the feel right - ie... The pocket.
- When making one instrument in the pocket, should all instruments try to live there?
- When trying to change the feel like this - as in to try and drag the bass slightly behind the beat, what should you be thinking about in terms of layers after that initial move? As in, what feel the guitars could or should be played in over the top to counter or support that bass move (usually when trying to muck around with these parameters ahead and behind the beat, it ends up really messy instead of creating a better feel like im trying to achieve).
- Also any tips for people who struggle to play to click? I can play to a click well but it usually takes me a while of warming up to get super duper tight and usually don't have the patience for this when making a demo.
- Ideas for editing, and ideas for tracking tightly but quickly to be able to move on before you lose inspiration etc.
- Ideas for playing to clicks then adding/ writing midi drums vs playing to pre-made midi drums and tracking to that.
- Ideas for practicing (to a click or any other tips) to be a better studio musician to play with feel and make tracking quicker. As Im finding practicing to a click doesnt really help me with things like feel, dynamic etc. Especially for swingier stuff.
- Methods for getting things to work together really well. I like looser feel swingier jazz vibes, even with rock tracks I like to swing it slightly sometimes in a 60s way and yet I find these really hard to get tight rhythm tracks for and also to edit.
- Also just talking about playing super in time vs. playing looser with feel. Is it better to play to a click with whole notes for this? To be able to fill in the gaps with your own rhythms without off beat clicks influencing you?
- Ive heard of some people recording their own clicks to create specific feels. Thoughts on that?
- I really want to have some method for tightly played rhythms track that doesn't take exhausting amounts of time so I'm not burned out by the time I'm finished with it.
Thank you for those great questions, Jack!Of course, we're happy to roll up our sleeves and answer them all! 💪🙂
Mentioned On The Episode:
TSRB 163 - Automatic Episode Transcript - Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I'm your host, Benedikt Hain, and if you're on mute to the show, welcome. So stoked you're hanging out with us today. If you are already a listener, welcome back. Glad to have you as always. Today we are answering a question by a listener. Uh, his name is Jack Crook and he commented on our YouTube. And by the way, we've noticed like an uptick in YouTube, um, views and listens, which is, which is great. So if you're not aware, this is not just a podcast. You can also watch the episodes. Jack left a comment, which is always cool. It wa it was a pretty long question, like a long comment. There's a lot of things to unpack here, and it's, he's basically asking about, he asked for an episode on a proper. Tracking and editing on the fly workflow basically. So he is not struggling with mixing so much, but he's struggling with getting good takes, knowing when they're actually good, finding the balance between, um, the tracks being tight, but also like, have life. And, uh, yeah, it was a long question. We're gonna go through it step by step and, um, answer all the parts of this and hopefully help you also, um, you know, create a better workflow for yourself that lets you track with fun, less frustration, and, uh, hopefully also helps you end up with better source tracks. So, as always, I'm not doing this alone. I'm doing it with my buddy and co-host Malcolm Owen Flatt. Hello, Malcolm. How are you?
Malcom: Hey Benny. I'm great, man. How are you?
Benedikt: I'm great too. Thank you. We played a phenomenal show on Saturday,
Malcom: I was gonna ask, yeah, I was wondering how it went. That's awesome.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Like, this was so important for us. I, I believe because. Yeah, this one really, really felt like, it should feel like it should be like, packed venue, a lot of energy and like a hometown show with like, I've seen so many familial faces that I haven't seen in a while, but like ev seems like everybody came to the show and, and it was just, was just a perfect evening. Yeah.
Malcom: Great, great. I had, uh, thrown you, uh, on Spotify while I was making breakfast the other day. shaming away. Sounds great, man.
Benedikt: Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it, . Yeah. Uh, we have, we're, we're having fun with it. Uh, it starts to feel like a band again, and so yeah, it's cool. what,
Malcom: jamming myself, but No, no concerts,
Benedikt: I was about, I was about to ask, is it the, the project you were talking about last time? I don't, I don't remember if we actually talked about it on the show, but you told me about, uh, sort of a jam project that you were
Malcom: uh, it was a different group of people actually. So I've, I've, yeah, just, just been playing more music,
Benedikt: Okay, awesome.
Malcom: for the fun of it. Something we wanna talk about, but on another episode,
Benedikt: Yeah, .
Malcom: as well.
Benedikt: Exactly. If believe it or not, music can actually be fun.
Benedikt: so we're gonna do a whole episode on that, but not today. Yeah. Uh, anything else buddy? Like, is there anything we need to know
Benedikt: Because we've learned that people actually appreciate the banter, so I don't, I don't feel bad about it anymore.
Malcom: I don't, I don't really have any music banter saved up for this. I try to always save a topic for, for every week. Um, but I mean, other than I, I went and shot at a, a music video shoot, um, this weekend, but I was like literally taking photos and stuff like that, so I was still not very musical, but music videos. I love music videos or what a fun way to add, uh, some like story behind the band and the brand kind of thing. It, it's great.
Benedikt: Yeah, we, I don't know, we had a long discussion or multiple discussions about that in the band actually, because I don't know, some, there's these two camps where some people think it's automatic. Most people I think, believe that you've gotta have a video of some sort. But then also it's a lot of money and a lot of time that you put into it. And then for a lot of bands, nobody really watches it. I mean, there's better ways to, to do, depends on how you do it and how you promote it and all of that. But there's a lot of bands who spend a lot of money on a video and then they end up getting a couple hundred views maybe or so, and that's it. Um, and so, you know, some say it's not worth it, and I. I love them. Um, but I also have to say that I don't watch a whole lot of them because so many of them are, which is not good. Um, and then if you wanna make it good, you either be gotta be really creative, then it's not really a budget issue, but, or you gotta have, you gotta spend a lot and, and hire someone to do it for you if you're not that creative yourself.
And I don't know, it's,
Malcom: a really tricky spot. I, I absolutely agree. It's for most, most bands, I think music videos totally aren't a great idea. Um, and I apologize to all my camera friends, hopefully I'm not taking business away from you. But it, it's just, yeah, it is too expensive for the, the reward unless you have an audience, like enough of an audience to get some traffic to it. Um, so if, if, if people already aren't listening to your music, making a music video's not gonna solve that problem. It's kind of like I would do it the other way around. You should be getting good streams and then you can consume. It or branching out to video platforms, uh, to find more people, right?
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, I think I, I agree and because I think, um, for most people, music videos are not a discovery tool, but like a nurture tool for your audience. Like, you know, you have, you already have an audience and you wanna give them some, something more, something visual to the music. Um, but that requires you to have an audience. But it's not so much a discovery tool unless you, you are one of the very few people who, who manage to make such a good creative video that it's kind of, um, spreading just because of that. You know, if you make something that is really shareable and, and or funny or, you know, spectacular in some way, then it can be a great discovery tool because people will share the video just because the video is so cool. Um, so if, if you can pull that off, then it's great, but for most people, I think it's just something for your already existing audience and everybody else won't really care. So,
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's just it there. If video can be like, the ultimate way to, to start a band even, because it, like, it allows you to connect way more in that you can like tell a story. Um, you can build a mythology around your band if you want to. You can introduce your band, you know, so people actually have a face to put, put to the music and the name of the band kind of thing. Um, it, it's incredibly powerful, but it's, I think most indie bands maybe just get their first review done to check a box because it's just like, feels like they need to. Need to have one. And that kind of lack of planned out reason and lack of like not very planned out content, I think is kind of where the mistake usually lies. If, if there's not a specific purpose behind the video, it's usually a little bit of a, a waste, not a waste of money. Like you're getting something back for it, but that money maybe would've been better prioritized elsewhere. That's really what it comes down to.
Benedikt: I tend to agree. On the other hand though, so I'm, I'm
Malcom: Yeah. Devil's advocate. Love it.
Benedikt: because on the other hand though, everybody, or it seems like everybody kind of expects something visual and even if it's just like snippets that you can share on social or, you know, you know, some, some visual to the music is kind of also expected in a way. You know, everybody wants to, the Spotify, the Canvas thing that moves and everybody wants, you know, these snippets for social media and so you could do a video and then, and take pieces of it to, to share that and without anything visual. I think it's, it's also a little bit tricky, but yeah, I don't know. What do you think about lyric videos or like, you know, animated stuff that you can do rather, rather, you know, cheap or whatever.
Malcom: Yeah, well, we have one of our more popular songs in my band, band of Rascals. Um, it's like this, like kind of our acoustic song on our first album that, that did quite well for us. And we've got a real music video that I think we spent like 10,000 bucks on us. We got a grant for it, uh, a lad. So that's why we spent that much money, um, because we were being given it
Malcom: Uh, and then we have a lyric video that I think I paid my buddy Matt, like 200 or 300 bucks to do. And the lyric video has vastly outperformed our music video and the music video's. Great.
Benedikt: Wow. Yeah. It's
Malcom: so lyric videos work, um, they're like, they're not, they don't interest me at all, but other people seem to care. So, uh, that's been my experience is that their videos are a great idea.
Benedikt: Yeah. I, I think so too. And also there are, there are quite, quite a lot of people who actually just listen to music on YouTube. We cannot forget that. Like some people, YouTube is their, their way to, to listen to music instead of Spotify or whatever. And if it's. But they don't need like a full-blown like video for that. It just has to be the song. And then a lyric video is a little more than just having the cover art. And you know, if you want to, you can like, follow along with the lyrics. So I think that's a good option because that gives people the, you know, something where, where they can just, you know, hit play and then put it away.
Uh, and if they want to, they can watch it, but it doesn't have to be like a full expensive video for that. So I think, uh, an affordable lyric video is actually a good idea. And then you can take bits and pieces of it. If it's well done, it looks great, and you can use that for social media. So I think that might be the, the option that is, that, that, yeah, would, would be a good idea for most people. But I also have to say I'm not really a band like marketing expert. And maybe, you know, some people will disagree with whatever we say here. Uh, it's just my personal experience and feeling that I have. So,
Malcom: Definitely. Um, and I mean, we've both been in the industry for a while, so I'd like to think we have good ideas. .So here's the thing that I feel really passionate about with video content for bands, is that I think indie bands should be making mini documentaries, not music videos. I think they should be capturing their studio experience and stuff like that. Um, and then making, uh, like a short video. Both showcases the recording that you end up with, but also, you know, it could tell the story of the band. It could tell the story of the song specifically. Um, like, and literally interview style, uh, like talking head moments where anybody that watches that is gonna learn something about your band, your band's story, or you personally, or the song in specifically if they're obsessed with the song, it's gonna be a goldmine find for them. Like it's, I think that's what band should be doing, honestly, way more than like the music's already there to listen to. So give them a reason to listen to it, or a chance to go a step further if they like the song. Can they get even further inside and learn more about why the song exists or how it was made? I think that's the move. I feel like super strongly about that. And I don't understand why only Shawn Mendes style bands have documentaries. It doesn't make any sense to me.
Benedikt: totally agree. And this is also, I think what creates super fans in the end. This is like, it's all about connection and community and, uh, it's Yeah. To Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I agree. All right,
Malcom: Believe it or not, that's not what this episode's
Benedikt: no. Um, but yeah, so, so cool to talk about things like that. So let's, let's go get to the actual episode actually. I'm just gonna start, and this is such a long comment and it's great check. So thank you for, for submitting that. I just broke it down and, and tried to, to find a structure that we can follow, um, along for this episode. Um, and I'm just gonna start at the top here and, and read to you the first paragraph, which is like the, which outlines the, the problem he has basically. And then we talk about it like step by step through the questions that he's admitted. So Jack says, A problem I've been having lately isn't so much with getting good sounds or mixing as it has been with having a good process for tracking. Having a great rhythm track can sometimes be 80% of having a great recording, especially when recording on my own. He says tracking a band like a different band makes things more obvious for me. So he's struggling more with tracking his own stuff than track. For other people, getting a tightly played and edited rhythm track, um, is so time consuming for me that I usually subconsciously rush it just to carry on with recording the song, to speed up the process and to get to mixing it and fun stuff quicker. Quicker. Um, the result is me having to go back into a lot of this in mixing and editing tracks that are played to other tracks poorly. So it's kind of rushing the tracking and then because he wants to start mixing and that is more fun to him, and then he finds that he has to go back and fix a lot of things and that's frustrating.
So let, let's just pause there and talk about that real quick before we move on.
Malcom: Yeah, unfortunately you just can't rush it. , um, because that's like, it, it's, it's working against you. Um, so if you prefer mixing Jack, The you're, you're getting taken out of mixing every time you have to try and, you know, correct some tracking mistakes or, or tighten things up. It's like, all right, I'm in the mixing workflow, but okay, that sounds weird. So now I gotta turn on my editing mind again and flick that creative switch off and my, uh, you know, like specific detail orientated mind on and go edit for a little bit. Now go back and like, you're breaking your flow each way every time you have to stop mixing. So that is, I mean, The first priority reason that I can think of, of why you'd want to just be more diligent in the tracking phase. I guess it, it's also hard though without knowing where your, your tracking skill level is. Um, cause I, I, I don't think I've ever talked to Jack or heard anything of his, it gets better
Malcom: like what used to take me a long time to track guitar wise parts to get like a take that I was happy with really vastly sped up by the time, I mean, I'm, I haven't really been tracking guitar lately. I'm sure I'd be a train wreck right now, but , but at my prime it was really like, you know, sometimes you just get it right on the first try. It, it doesn't always have to be this like a hundred takes thing where it definitely was starting out though, it's, uh, it's much harder than you expect, but then once you get it, it does kind of come. Drummer Marcus. He's like a one hit wonder. Like he, all the time we'd go in and lay down a track and by like the time I, he had learned their arrangement and cuz I would often have him playing on singer songwriter songs where he's creating the drum parts. By the time we had kind of written it, it was like, okay, now just play it. One pass, boom.
Benedikt: yeah, yeah. Totally. It, it gets better. And one thing that I think is interesting here also that I want to unpack is the whole thing about. Recording your own stuff versus tracking other people. I think that just shows that part of it is maybe not even a real problem, but just you being, you know, so, so close to it and, and maybe overthinking it and being very critical, um, with your own stuff where, whereas like when you listen to other people's music, , you don't even, yeah. Like you don't even notice some of the minor things maybe, or they don't bother you because you just listen to the song and not so much to like tiny details that don't matter in the end. And I, I've, I've seen that quite a bit with, uh, projects that I mix, because oftentimes I send out a mix and obviously it's, I think it's good because otherwise I wouldn't send it to the artist. And then they come back to me with revisions and they would find all these tiny little things that are in their playing. Actually not so much the mix. They would like be like, there's this one string noise on the bass here, and then here I feel like this chord sounds weird in a way. And here, you know, and they get so hung up on all these details that I didn't even notice while mixing, because I was, I, I care about the song and how it feels, and I didn't distract me from the song, so I didn't do anything about those things. But like, the people who write and play the music themselves, they are very, um, critical and, and, and, you know, um, about all these things that don't really matter in the end. And, and the fact that you don't have that problem with other people's music, but more with your own, maybe. Maybe that's part of it. Maybe you just, um, You, you're having a hard time stepping back and like listening to it like a listener. So maybe you should just, uh, use more feedback early on. Maybe just show it to other people and see how they react and if they can, like, if they are, if those things really bother them too, you know, I, that might be, might be part of it. I just find it interesting that it's different for, um, where you track other people where is tracking your own music.
Malcom: Yeah, that's a really good point. I think that it's a clue that you're, you're treating your own stuff different than, than how you're treating, uh, other bands. You're recording it, it seems pretty clear.
Benedikt: Yeah. But I, I also have to agree with some, uh, some things you said here, Chuck, because you, I totally think that a great rhythm track that is tracked properly, that's where the pocket is just right where it feels right, that all of that is actually 80% of having a great recording oftentimes. Like that's really, I, I really believe that. So you, you're right. And so it's worth thinking about how to get it right and have a good process for that. So, Yeah, so takeaway number one, there's no shortcuts in a way. You have to take this seriously and get it right at the tracking stage because it will be so much more fun and better and lead to better and result later in the process. But also there's this balance where you shouldn't be overly critical and kind of know what actually matters. So let's unpack more of this stuff and, and move on with, with the other things that he said there, because then I think we get to the core of, of the issue here. So, um, this next paragraph that I'm reading is why it's actually bothering him, because it's not just the time consuming and frustrating thing, but it, it seems like Jack, you're also not happy with the end result all, uh, every single time. So he says, Uh, when tracking, I can play super tight eventually with a warmup, but I sometimes can't get the feel totally right, even if it's tight without editing, and I'm not entirely sure how to do this properly sometimes. Um, so, so you can get, get it right, but then it's tight, but still doesn't feel right. If I'm understanding this correctly, he says this is more strictly talking about recording demos, but when I try to do a more serious recording of a flesh out, um, uh, tracking, I will usually spend way too long on this and edit it within an inch of its life, or rerecord too many things that could be perceived as great character for mistakes. And the end result is usually pretty lifeless and static. So when he does demos, he says that he can get it done after a bit of a warmup. Um, but he thinks it doesn't feel quite right and when, when he's doing actual tracking, he gets so granular and like edits everything out of it until it just doesn't feel like, like a song that has life anymore.
Benedikt: So it's not just time consuming and frustrating, but either way, you seem to not like the end result
Malcom: Mm-hmm. ,that's tricky. Um, because if, if we're assuming it's a song that, that they have written, uh, they're, they're kind of the best equipped person to play with the right feel and to know it what that feel is right. Um, I think the, the one advice I could offer, um, and I was told the guilty of this as well, is editing for the sake of editing, where I would track something and be like, okay, that sounded really good. Now I better edit it. Because that's just something you have to do where it's not necessarily true. It might have just been fine. And editing it is actually just making things less how I want them. Um, so if, if editing is just a built-in step, maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe you're just messing with things that don't need to be messed with. But again, it, it's hard to know without more context, I guess.
Benedikt: Also, one thing that comes to mind is I feel like it all starts with the sound in your head and the vision you have and, and knowing what you actually want. Because then you can, you know, you know, you can play the part and then you can listen back, and then you can be like, is this what I envisioned or, or not? Because it seems like you don't, you're not entirely sure what you actually want because you try to make it as tight as possible, but then it's not really feeling right. Then you try to just play it the way it's supposed to be played, but then it's also not really feeling right. So maybe you should define what it should feel like and have a really clear vision and, and I think that's, that's what it starts with, because I can, I, I think I can. Yeah, I think I can do that. I can track something and then know, okay, this is supposed to be earlier or later, or I wanted this to be that way, and then I can go and either edit it that way or play it again. But I, I, I know pretty much what I want. And then that makes it easier. So maybe you're not entirely sure how the part actually feels best. And so you, you know, you just know that it doesn't feel right, but you can't really say what's wrong, maybe, you know, because otherwise it should be relatively easy fix. Right. Um, the question is now how do you do this? Like, how do you write a song in your head? Or how do you come up with something, um, that you know, just feels right if it's correct? It's a hard thing to explain really. But, but I think that is part of the problem here too. And I, that's also something I've seen with a lot of people that they don't really know what they actually want and they just somehow know that it's never really Right.
Malcom: then that begs the question, are they right? Is, is it not quite there or, or are they just not feeling confident
Benedikt: it, again, feedback would help I think if you just send your stuff to someone who knows what they're doing or to music listeners, you know, and, and, and, um, see how they react and get their feedback. And if it's somebody you who knows, like something about music production, playing music, whatever, then maybe you can also tell that person what you think is wrong and then they can say, I would do this or that about it. But I think you need an external sort of opinion, um, on that.
Malcom: So this is really, we've talked about this before I think, but this is kind of where a producer comes in,
right? Um, the producer is the one that is meant to have that vision and know what, what, you know, true north is for all takes. Um, and, and that's comes down to both judging the, you know, accuracy of the performance like tightness, but also just the feel, um, that and, and the tone, you know, all of that kind of comes down that pipeline. So we,
Benedikt: good point.
Malcom: we, we've talked about how if you're in a band, most of the time, whoever's doing the engineering these days is also the guy that, or guy or girl that, uh, Decides to also be the producer, you know, but it doesn't have to be that way. Um, you know, just make sure somebody takes that role. And it could even be somebody takes that role for just your parts, right? Because maybe it's just when you're tracking your own parts that it's, it's too hard to make the call or even a certain instrument, you know? Um, so I, I would really encourage you to take Penny's advice there. And if you're recording your own music, you don't have any band mates, just, you must know somebody you trust, right? bring 'em over for a day, track that part. It'll make it so helpful.
Benedikt: Totally. And it also kinda explains why you are feeling differently about tracking other people, because then you are the producer who can guide those people like they are worrying about how they play and about the details. And then like, they can focus on the delivery, but you can step, take a step back and like have the big picture sort of vision and, and coach them and guide them through the recording. And that's why it works probably. But if you do it yourself, you have to switch between these roles and it's hard to be the producer, the engineer, and the performer at the same time. This is, this is like what I always call like the biggest challenge actually for self recording bands. It's not so much the engineering, it's like, Doing all these things correctly that in the professional environment, the whole team does basically. So, um, and, and if you're working with other people, you are probably the producer and you probably have a feel for when it's right or not, and you can tell them and guide them. And it's, that just feels more, you feel more confident about that. And if you do it yourself, you're questioning yourself and you have to correct yourself and you have to switch between, you know, you have to switch perspectives. So, yeah, it can be done, but it's not easy and you gotta be aware of that and feedback helps. Yeah. Okay. Let's, let's get to the actual individual questions because that. Um, yeah, that, that helps us help you better. And, and, and, um, there's some, some more actionable concrete things in there. And he basically gave us a list of questions and he says, I would love to hear you guys wax lyrical about a checklist for making great, a great rhythm track with what needs to be ticked off before moving forward, getting the feel right. Um, the pocket, basically. So, and then he says, once asked to give him sort of a checklist, the process for, for making a great rhythm track. And then he, he has individual questions here. So let's start with the first one. He says, when making one instrument, uh, in the pocket, should all instruments try to live there. So he means basically, if everything should be, should be like super tight and do the exact same thing.
Malcom: Right. Um, okay. That's a, that's a great question because I think this might be where some of the problems stems as well. A huge mistake that a lot of people make when it comes to feel and, and why a lot of recordings end up without feel, I think, is that the scratch track is recorded without feel . There's the. Is an overwhelming, uh, emphasis on accuracy for the scratch track that goes down, whatever that instrument may be. And it's just like all about being on grid and then you get your drummer to record to that. Typically, that's kind of the usual order of things. And now you've got a drummer that's played to a lifeless take and they're gonna be really tight to the grid and now you just start building on top of that. So nobody introduced feel at any point into the recording. So feel has to be decided by the first instrument down, I think, because that's gonna be what everybody is playing to. And that is just, uh, maybe that's the most important thing ultimately is getting that first ingredient right. So if it is all about a guitar riff, whoever is the deciding factor, and have what the feel of that guitar riff is, the person that should absolutely play that scratch track and, and just make sure that is captured. Absolutely. So then the drummer can play to that
Benedikt: Really good point. That also means take your scratch track seriously and that you gotta, yeah. And you gotta, you gotta be careful there. It doesn't mean that scratch tracks need to be perfect because then they would be the real recordings that that's not the case. Like there can be the odd, you know, maybe you didn't hit that cord exactly right. Or there's a little noise in there that, that doesn't really matter. What matters is that it feels right for the timing. And that doesn't have to be the perfect take, doesn't have to be the perfect tone or set up, but the way it's feel, uh, it feels should be exactly right. And you have to take that seriously. So don't overdo it and don't try to make the scratch track the most perfect recording, but also take it seriously enough because it's not just, I think many people treat scratch tracks, uh, as something that is just there. so the drummer knows where he's in the song. Like just, you know, but that's not, that's not what it's about. And that's part of it, and it helps, but it's about, it's really about the feel and it's, it's way more than just this, you know, map of, of the song, basically. But a lot of people treat it like that. And, and you should do, I think you should take it absolutely. Seriously. You're right, Malcolm. And because it will definitely have an, an influence, like an impact on how the drummer plays. No doubt.
Malcom: From that, once that drum groove's down and in the same feel it, everybody else can like really it. I mean, drums just make it so easy to play with the right feel because they translate feel so well they, that's drums are amazing for that. But once that's done, everybody else's job gets really easy.
Benedikt: And to get back to the, the question, actually, I don't think that everything needs to be exactly tight or like the in the pocket basically. So I, it depends on the song, of course, but sometimes if the rhythm section is really tight, if you have drum groove that feels great and the bass locks in, and like you have maybe rhythm guitar also, then maybe some of the Lees or some licks or some melodies and even the vocal can sort of. You know, float around that a little bit and not have to be super tight because the rhythm section is keeping it together and everything else can be a little more loose, maybe depends on the song. Sometimes vocals have to be super accurate too, to feel right. But, you know, um, not everything needs to be a hundred percent perfect, of course. Uh, the, the, you know, so no, not everything needs to be exactly in the pocket, but whatever is the rhythm section, rhythm track, that should feel exactly right. And that also doesn't mean mathematically right on the grid, but just feel right. You know, that's the, the difficult part about this. It's, and it all starts with the scratch track. I agree. And whoever wrote that riff and, and had a certain vision for that and can play properly, should just do that and then that dictates how everything else is played.
Malcom: Yeah, I, I totally agree. It's, uh, it's very subjective, so it's, it's hard
Malcom: uh, but it's a skill like anything else that you're gonna develop in figuring out how, how tight is right for each circumstance. You'll develop an ear for it.
Benedikt: Okay, cool. Now he goes on to say, uh, when trying to change the feel like this, I think after the fact, as in to try and drag the bass slightly behind the beat. Um, what should you be thinking about in terms of layers after that initial move, as in what field the guitarist could or should be played in over the top to counter or support that bass move? Usually when trying to muck around with these parameters ahead and behind the beat, it ends up really messy. Instead of creating a better feel like I'm trying to achieve, it's a good question. So he tracks something, he's not really satisfied with it, then he tries to create a feel by dragging the base part slightly late or something. Uh, and then if he does that, like what do you do with the rest of the tracks? And somehow it ends up messing it not being what he wanted. That's the,
Malcom: Okay. The, the base behind the beat thing is given in the wrong context on YouTube
Benedikt: one of
Malcom: It's not something you should do really. Um, it like it. If you look at a Bob Marley song, the bass is probably behind the beat and it sounds awesome. Yes, the. But the, I don't think anybody should assume that's the move for their song. Um, it doesn't usually, in my experience, yield a better result. It just makes it messier like you found there. Uh, so I don't think that's a good call. It's also a result of a mixing problem, um, more than, uh, a tracking pro problem. So people now often might side chain the bass down when a kick hits, and by playing the bass late, that accomplishes a very similar sound. But we don't need to do that anymore. We can have the best of both worlds. We can have the bass land on the drums, but still get outta the way with mixing techniques. So I, I don't think the, the behind the beat thing is really adding a lot. Um, there's always exceptions, but, uh, , uh, I think that that, like if we just back up from there and say, okay, well it, if we had to move it back to try and get the feel right, we just didn't track it. Right. You just gotta play it again until it feels. Pretty darn right. Um, and, and then you should be good
Benedikt: Yeah. Oftentimes actually when I feel like being spot on is not the, the best thing to do, I kind of flip it into the opposite. I like to have the baseline or the riff or whatever is the, the main thing. I like to keep that like the way it should be. And then I might have a snare drum slightly late in a certain part or so. Like, I like the beat, you know, behind the, the, that's also not, not something you should do in general, but there is, you know, sometimes it's a heavy, like breakdown part or like some, some slow halftime thing, and it just feels better if the snare is slightly late every, every hit, or if the one is coming in a little. Late or you know, it can just feel heavier if you drag it a little. So those types of things. But it's rare that I drag the. Um, to either direction, like rushing things is also really something I want to do. So put making something early, not, not often, but more. But if I like to manipulate things after the fact, I'd, I'd rather probably do it to individual, you know, maybe drumm fill or individual elements of the drums. But then again, it starts with the riff and the, the main feel and that kind of dictates it. And, and yeah, so totally agree. Malcolm, you, I, I don't think that in most scenarios, dragging the bass slightly behind, like, does anything for, for the song. Now, let's assume though, whatever you did, you manipulated it and you liked the bass in drums. Um, what do you then do with the rest of the layers? That was po part of the question too. Should you, like he says, do something to counter or support that base move. And at the end he says like, everything just gets messy. And I think that's really the problem. Uh, uh, you know, do whatever feels right. I don't know, uh, without context, very hard to answer. Everything could, could be slightly off in theory and still work. Everything could be super tight together and work like the song usually tells you and and what you have in mind for it.
Malcom: exactly. Yeah. The part should dictate how tight it needs to be. Um, I think if it sounds messy, probably needs to be tighter and you need to be less afraid of things lining up on the grid or whatever it is, you know? Um,
Benedikt: That's a good point. The assumption that if something is like just perfect and on the grid that this is lacking, feel that might be part of the problem because not always is that the case. Like it's not, you don't have to force any sort of feel. Quotation marks like into, into a song. Sometimes it just feels right when it's right and that that's not wrong. You don't have to, to think that you have to move things around because otherwise it's like sterile or whatever. Like there is enough human elements and, and feel it. If it's played by humans, even if it's super accurate on the grid, there's gonna be enough variation in a human element to it, even if you edit it super well. You know,
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. I think people underestimate how hard it is to edit something to the grid. , it's, it gets really tricky. It takes so much time and then you start noticing these tiny little differences and like the tack times you like shine line 'em, it's, it's really a hard thing to pull off, uh, uh, like super, a too perfect edit mix kind of thing. It's really hard to do. It's kind of like a skillset set almost
Benedikt: I would argue that the, like I would say that the overwhelming majority of like d y productions is not tight enough and not the other way around. They're not tight enough and, and they're never too tight to actually.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. When, uh, bands would record with me the fir the first time, they were usually surprised at how tight we were going. And, and then, you know, like you mentioned Benny, by the time we're doing mixing, they're like, Hey, this, this part feels a little loose. . I'm like, really?
Malcom: Remember you were sitting in the chair for eight hours playing that part,
Benedikt: yeah. Exactly, exactly. So yeah, just don't be afraid of things being on the grid and like just, that can't be totally okay. . So, yeah. Okay, so then he says, also, any tips for people who struggle to play to click? I can play to click well, but it usually takes me a while of warming up to get super, super tight and usually I don't have the patience for this one making a demo. Thoughts
Malcom: Yeah. Uh, like we said earlier, it gets easier but it gets easier with practice. So force yourself to keep doing it to a click. The click should speed you up in the end, not slow you down cuz it's gonna save you so much time not having to redo the demo recording like, like we talked about earlier, the scratch track's really important so figure out the tempo. Cause the tempo is a hugely important part of song. Uh, and then play a scratch track with feel at that tempo. Um, but as for tips for getting better with a metronome, start slow. actually, I don't even know what, start slow. But get slow. The slower a metronome is actually the harder it is I think, to really nail. Um, cause there's less, less beeps, less things for our brain to reference for timing. And once you get into like quite slow territory, it's really tricky. But if you can nail that, that's when you develop meter in a pocket, I think. So don't just practice fast. Also practice slow.
Benedikt: I think so. Um, slowing down part is huge and I also think. Take the square track seriously, but also don't, don't think that when you're making a demo, it has to be absolutely perfect. You know, there's this, this balance here. Um, yeah, there's, in this case, there's no way to, there's no way around practicing playing Two click.
Malcom: Um, luckily you have a recording setup, which is the best way to practice, to tell if you're improving and practice with a metronome because you can actually record your progress and, and then look and see how you did, you know, you get visual feedback on how you're doing with your metronome, so that's awesome. Um, I did have one tip that was given to me by, uh, a really great session based player. I played with recorded when I was interning. He came into the studio all the time. He was kind of our oncall session based player and amazing pocket, amazing player. And I asked him, this was years ago, and he said, Check this out, and he fires up a metronome and beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep beep. And he's like, where's one? And I said, of course, on the high beep. And he said, no, that's not even two, three, or four. That's the, and you practice with the metronome as the, and beat the offbeat one and two. And, and if you can do that, you've got it
Malcom: hard. It's really hard.
Benedikt: a good exercise actually. I love that.
Malcom: Yeah. It, it, it was totally tricky. Um, and then other, other things that helped me was removing the accent and getting familiar with that. Um, sometimes moving the accent to two and four, like just be able to play around it. Um, you know, you kind of overlearn the metronome so that you have more skill than you need when you're actually doing the, the normal riff.
Benedikt: Totally. Also, I think that when you're doing it on your own, when you're alone and not a full band, um, it's even harder to do it without a click because there are situations where you can do it without a click. If you are recording a live band altogether in one room, and they are really great. Always have to be great musicians for that to, to work. But like, if they're really great musicians, they have great feel and they are tight. Even without a clique, it can work. Of course, you can record a band off the floor without click and, and it can sound amazing. But, you know, then you have a bunch of musicians in the room who like see each other and interact and that's what makes it tight. And if, but if you're doing it on your own and you put layers on top of layers without a click, that's really tricky because you don't have that natural band interaction. And like, how do you even start, how do you know if that first, you know, thing that you record is really what you want it to be? Without any reference, without anything that you play to, you might not even notice that you're rushing or behind, you know, if, if you're doing it on your own, there's almost no way around a, a click. I mean, you could program drums first and make that on the grid and then play to that maybe. But then even there might be sections where you, where click would help.
Malcom: Yeah. And then you're also missing out on the opportunity to establish the feel, um, with the riff, you know? So.
Benedikt: thing about the click is it doesn't mean you have to be super, like spot on, but you can play with the clique sort of. You can't intentionally be whatever if you want behind rush or whatever. Um, you, as you said, you can establish the feel, but you can only really do that if you have a reference because otherwise you won't know if you're late or
Malcom: yeah. yeah. Now here's a tip that might help with just knowing if you, you did get the feel because when you listen to, uh, say you play your main riff to a metronome and then you listen back to that, it's just metronome and the guitar, for example, it, it's hard to tell if the feels intact with the metronome there. So I think you do want to like, listen back, listen back with the metronome, but for any glar, like glaring the obvious problems. But if you're having trouble telling if the feels right with the metronome there, also do a listen with the metronome muted, just cuz that's gonna be ultimately how it is gonna be played back. Right? Um, and just make sure it, it does feel right without the metronome as well. And one step further is you can actually record a little reference track to without a metronome if it's something. Feel like you're nailing without a metronome. Get that recorded and then just reference against that. And the one you recorded to a metronome should feel just as good as the one without right. But just add a consistent tempo. Um, so if you just need a little, you know, true north check, like, okay, am I, do I have to feel right because this is the recording I have that I know feels right and just listened.
Benedikt: and it's funny how, how different it can sound with or without the click. Like there's cases where with the click on it sounds. Um, less accurate because then you hear the things that are actually off. But then there's also cases, I think, where you listen to it with the click and you think it's fine, and then when you turn it off, something still doesn't sound right. So this can be both ways, but, but it's definitely a difference. And, and all that matters in the end is that it without a click, it sounds the way it should sound and it feels the way you feel. So, okay, next, next point here. Um, ideas for editing and ideas for tracking tightly but quickly to be able to move on before you lose inspiration. It's, that's a good one too. And I think we have full episodes on that. We have one that is an editing q and a where somebody asks a similar question like how to identify problems, fix 'em on the fly, um, type of thing. So that would be episode 108. Um, so maybe wanna check out that one. Then we have another episode on editing, uh, episode 44, wire your tracks need editing where we explain some of. Things you, you need to, um, yeah. It's not just the why. It's, it's a good episode in general. I think also the last series of episodes that we did, the one about the, if we were to start over in 2023, we talked about like the basic editing tools that you need to know in your do and that you need to be comfortable with so you can actually do things on the fly or do quick edits yourself. Yeah. There, there's something to be said about being fast so you don't get frustrated and you don't lose inspiration and you're not flying too close to it, which is hard when you do it yourself, of course, but you gotta be somewhat quick. But then also it's, it's inevitable that, you know, you're gonna be spending quite, quite some time, I think, to, to just do. Some fixes here and there. I mean, it depends on the source track. Like how, how do we answer this? I think you should be comfortable with like operating your do. First of all, you need to know the basic tools that you really need, like slip editing, cross fades, how to cut, how to copy paste things. You need to have the, the hot keys and like a good intuitive workflow for that. But that, that will make it quicker for sure. So you don't have to, to look, look up every single time how these things actually work. So that is something you have to practice. And it gets to a point if you're doing it long enough, it gets to a point where, you know, I can talk to the performer next to me and while I talk about the song, I can, you know, do edits on the fly without thinking about it. It's just muscle memory at this point. So fast. So this can be done and then, um, you know, and then, and then I don't know. Yeah. What, what, what do you wanna say there?
Malcom: Well, I was gonna say that the other places you make up speed are like things like having a tracking template where you've made a session in your do that you can open up for every new song idea that's already got, you know, a left and a right guitar track made and they're already routed to the right input on your, on your interface. Um, and then prioritizing speed based workflows, um, like, you know, tracking with, just, just use a guitar di and a, a great amim to track your guitars. It's, there's no setup time. You know, you could already have that plugin on that track in your. Session template that you've already made with the sound already good to go. You just gotta click in it. Record enable, plug in your guitar tune and go right. Um, guitar di tracking also has speed advantages for the editing, uh, ease, right? It's way easier to edit a guitar di than a guitar amp, so that's gonna speed, speed that up. Mid drums would be the obvious speed based solution to drumming. Um, I mean, depending on your situation, I guess actually, but , for most people,
Benedikt: yeah, yeah, yeah. Agreed. Also, like doing, set up things in advance, like ahead of time when you know that, that, like, that a session is coming up, this also helps a lot that like the whole template thing. Yes. But also if you know that this coming weekend you're gonna have some time to work on music and you want it to be fun and like, um, you know, and you wanna capture ideas quickly and stuff. If you know that this is the case, then I would make sure that whenever you find time during the week, maybe. Put on those new strings, set up the guitar, you know, do whatever you can so that when you actually enter the session, it's really quick and you can just, you know, quickly tune and, and, and then go, um, whatever you can do in advance to, to prepare for that is great. I think. So when I had bands in the studio, I would always do like, you know, things that take a lot of time, like drum set up and stuff like that. I would do that the day before, um, really take time to do that. Then everybody would go home and then the next day we could just come in and start fresh and it's fun again. Um, as opposed to spending half a day, you know, drum doing a drum sound check, and then nobody feels like playing anymore after you're done with that. So maybe you can do things in advance like that. Other than that, yeah, just, just practice editing like you practice playing in a way and, and become, become fast and intuitive with that. That's, that's all I really have to say here. I think, and it shouldn't. and maybe, oh, that's one thing actually, and maybe don't do it with your eyes as much. So as much as a ref, as a visual reference helps. So it's obviously good to see if things are on the grid, and sometimes you can easily spot something without even hearing it, just by seeing it's like super late or whatever. But also be very careful because what I've noticed too is when people are sitting in front of their computers recording themselves and editing on the fly, they stop all the time because they see that certain chords are late or early, whatever, and they always think they have to stop immediately and correct that, or they have to redo it without even really properly listening, listening to it. So I would, I would say it's helpful to see that, but also don't get distracted by it and don't think you need to fix every single hit just because it looks late or early.
Malcom: Totally. Yeah, that's a great, great tip. It's, uh, it's easy to rely on our eyes and then start making decisions that don't have to happen.
Benedikt: Yeah, and, and I'm guilty of this too. I oftentimes stop and question apart just because it looks weird. And then I have to be like, okay, does it really sound weird? No, let's move on. You know? So,
Malcom: And sometimes it's frustrating because it sounds great and looks weird, and then you are like, decide to leave it and then you add one more instrument and now you have to go fix it because it's the, it's changed
Malcom: it just, uh, but it's the way it goes. Um, and I think it is better to, yeah, you always trust your ears. So if it sounds fine at that time, live with it. It might end up being, needing to be tightened up down the road when more instruments are in play. But for the time being, if it sounds right, it's, it's right at that moment.
Benedikt: But in general, I think it's a good idea to edit on the fly if necessary. And you don't have to do like all of it immediately, but just the things that are, you know, if you have a take that just feels right and there's just one little thing that annoys you, go edit that. So you can move on and then put the other instruments in, and then at the end you can do another sort of editing pass where you do some details and, and if the whole part just doesn't feel right, then I wouldn't start editing it. Play it again. It's just for saving these tr takes that are good, except this one thing here, you know? So, um, but yeah, doing it on the fly, at least that's my workflow that I prefer that versus like doing everything at the end and kinda just ignoring the mistakes until we get there. That, that just doesn't really work for me. I want to hear something that I'm stoked while I'm tracking and I don't wanna always say like to myself, okay, this doesn't sound right, but I'm gonna fix that later,
I, I just like knowing that when I move on to the next riff, next part of the song that I, what I did just did before that is finished. You know, I don't want to move on not being sure, like, okay, did we get it? I won't find out until I'm editing hours from now. And then, Then what? You know, so it's just peace of mind knowing that Okay, I've checked that box onto the next one.
Benedikt: Yeah, and knowing that it can actually be solved, you know, sometimes you think you can edit it and then it turns out it doesn't sound good edited. And so I, I just need to know that I can't actually do it and then, you know. Okay. Yeah. Cool. So the next one here, um, are you still playing to clicks then adding, writing mini drums versus playing to pre-made midy drums and tracking to that? I think we kind of covered that. I think I would always use a click, but yeah, you can of course play too mini drums.
Malcom: Definitely. Yeah.
Benedikt: one doesn't exclude the other. Like I would have mini drums and still to click on
Malcom: yeah, me too.
Benedikt: you know, so,
Malcom: Yeah, I think I, I would want both of those as well if I was recording guitar. Just be, it's, drums are more musical than the click. Right. But the click will would also be there for sure.
Benedikt: But I think part of this question is also that he's asking, if I understand it correctly, that picture could, could track tightly to a click and then add the drums, or if he should add the drums first and then track to the drums. Mm. Yeah. There's the freedom to do these nowadays. Like a lot of, actually, a lot of records now are, are made that way where it's not the traditional thing of starting with the drums, but maybe they start with a click and maybe mini drums for reference or whatever, get really tight guitars and then at the actual drums later. So I've, I've heard that a couple of times now and you know, you can, whatever feels right and you totally right whatever is the main thing that dictates the, the feel. Then ideas for practicing, uh, to click or any other tips to be a better studio musician, musician to play with, feel, and make tracking quicker as I'm finding practicing to click doesn't really help me with things like field dynamic, et cetera, especially for swing gear stuff. So we also talked about that a little bit, but do you feel like it's, it makes you a, a worse musician in a way, or like takes away from the feel or whatever if you, if you practice to a click, I think it actually helps with things like feel, because you don't have to think about the correct timing at anymore at some point, and then you can really focus on feel. I think most people can't focus on feel because they are too focused on actually playing it correctly.
Malcom: yeah. If you're having trouble playing to a metronome with feel, you haven't played to a metronome enough,
Malcom: uh, because you need to get so confident with it that you can then decide to swing on a metronome, decide to shuffle on a metronome, you know, like it's, uh, you, you play, you know, behind the beat to the dimension genome, you can play ahead of the beat to the metronome. Um, you, you're, you have to master it in all.
Benedikt: that's what I always teach. What, what I always teach in the coaching when we are in the pre-production, pre-production phase, when I tell people to think of it as like preparing for a studio that you have booked, even if you do it yourself, like when you prepare for the studio session that's coming up, you should be so prepared that in the actual session, it shouldn't be about being able to play the track correctly, but it should be about capturing the best possible take. Like the one that feels not, not the correct take, but the one that feels best. So of course that can be the art mistake, but it shouldn't be about playing this part for an hour until there's finally a take without mistakes. It should be about being able to play it in general, and then you can choose and pick the one that feels best, and you can only get there by practicing and uh, um, and practicing to a click. And, and, uh, and yeah, and as long as you're focused on just being able to play properly, you can't really do the feel thing and, and so, so yeah, I think it makes you a better musician to practice to the click and then intentionally swing.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Swing something that I. Is found hard to lock in on. Um, so just as like a one more tip, if, if, you know, there's like a feel, like a, a song that you have to record that feel, the feel is hard for you to record, sometimes you have to find solutions to that. Um, so for me was like, if, if the drum part was, you know, if it was like a swingy drum part, I could play the swinging guitar part to that, uh, much easier than just the metronome. So if, if it's like something that you struggle with, maybe having that other instrument down that has the right feel of course is gonna help you be able to pull it off. If you just have to problem solve a way around just not being able to do it to a click alone, just find that other instrument that kind of helps you unlock the feel.
Benedikt: agreed to. That's, that's interesting too.
Malcom: But ultimately it meant that I should have practiced to a click more
Benedikt: Yeah. . Yeah, totally. No, like bottom line. It doesn't hurt to practice to click. Like it doesn't Yeah, it's not, never a bad idea. I think good, um, methods for getting things to work together really well. I like looser feel, swing your jazz vibes. Even with rock tracks, I like to swing, its slightly sometimes in the sixties way, and yet I find these really hard to get tight rhythm tracks for and also to edit. So you'll, you, you like the, the swing and the looser feel, but also you find it hard to, to get that, that tight then so, so that, that like everybody swings sort of correctly,
Malcom: it sounds like different things to me.
Benedikt: Yeah. I mean, I, I know, I think I know what he means. He wants the whole band to swing together basically. So it's tight but not on the grid. Exactly. Which is kind of hard. I, I, I get that. But again, I think we're repeating ourselves here. You, whatever is the main instrument needs to. Dictate that, and then everybody else just locks into that and, and follows that sort of like a good bandwidth when they are in a, in a room together. And you have to do it one piece at a time, but still, if you decide that it needs some swing, some sort of swing, then the first instrument, your track needs to have that. And then everything else needs to play to that so that it makes sense. And, and when you edit it, you've gotta keep that in mind. And then maybe there are things that are not exactly on the grid, and then of course you have to edit the other things to that first reference and not to the grid. You know, it.
Malcom: Yeah, may, maybe that's the problem. Like if, if the drums swing and aren't really like locked to the grid, but then you, you edit your base to the grid, now you like, those aren't the same relation. So why we can't really expect those to work together? So you do have to remember to ignore the grid if it's not the reference that you're using. I'm not saying that's what Jack has done, but just that might be useful for somebody listening. It's just like the, the grid lines are only useful if that's what you're going for.
Benedikt: Yeah. And also maybe, um, you think that it's the drums at the rhythm tracks that do the swing, but because you assume that like this is the rhythm, but maybe you need a really tight rhythm section that kind of holds it all together. And then other things can sort of have a swing and play around that a little bit. So maybe you need tight, um, like if you're struggling to get a tight rhythm track for a song that should have a swing, maybe you should start with a tight rhythm section. And then maybe there's, you know, as I said, some melody elements to it, some guitar lick. You know, stuff that can be a little loose and, and, and create that feel, but there's still a rhythm section that keeps it all together and is actually on point. So that could also be the case. So it doesn't have to be the drums that create the swing. Uh, maybe there's a rhythm section that is super tight and then everything else can be a little more loose, you know?
Malcom: The other situation I could see being at, at play here is just being too close to it a little bit and thinking that it's loose.
Malcom: where an hour away from it or better yet, uh, a good night's sleep might, might fix everything and you just kind of come back and have a listen and be like, oh, this sounds good. there.
Benedikt: have you ever analyzed, um, Jack and like, feel free to send us follow up questions or, you know, interact with us because I'm, I'm asking you a question now. Have you ever analyzed. Your favorite recordings, what actually is going on there? Because if you say you like, like the sixties stuff and it feels like it has a swing, um, to it, like if it, it feels to you like it has a swing to it, did you ever, you know, try to figure out what that is that causes this feeling? Like, is the, is, did you ever count to that or, or try to put a click to it and see if is the rhythm section actually tied? Or is there a swing? Like what is the instrument that creates that sort of swing? Why does it feel that way? Uh, because I think, again, you need to define what it is that you like about that type of music and how you can then take that and, and, and implement it in your own music. Maybe you're not even aware what exactly is going on. And so that's what I would always do if I like a certain song or the feel of a certain, certain song. I like to kind of dissect it and, and study it. I, I wanna know what's going on, like, why does it feel this way? And then you'll find that there's certain musicians that have a certain signature thing to them or, you know, or certain songs that feel a certain way because one instrument is, you know, Doing whatever, you know, you know what I mean?
I, I just like to study these things and my, my favorite recordings and, uh, try to figure out what I like about it and then I can try and see if it works on my own stuff too, and then find, find my own version of it basically.
Malcom: Right. Yeah, no, that, that's a good tip as.
Benedikt: Cool. Um, then the next one, we're gonna skip that one check. You asked one question about tones here. This is not really part of this episode, I think maybe another day. Um, how to make different kinds of tones work and sit in the mix. So let's keep it to like, the whole feel and playing thing, I'd say. So the next, uh, related thing is also just talking about playing super in time versus playing looser with feel. Is it better to play a click with whole notes for this so that you can fill in the gaps with your own rhythms? Like just quarter notes, basically saying, so you can fill in the gaps with your own rhythms, or if you should add like the eight notes or, you know, the, um, the, the, the offbeat clicks influencing you, he.
Malcom: I think the subdivision of the click track is just entirely up to whoever is playing at that moment. Um, I It's not an a normal, well, I mean, it's not that common either, but sometimes people like to count in totally different ways. Um, and there's a lot of ways to count something. You know, it like you could count in triplets if you thought that was the feel where somebody else might be counting in, in quarter notes. Um, very different feel to me. But whatever gets you to play the part how you need to, is what's gonna work. So there's no better or worse, it's just what, what helps you get it done quickest.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. I think whole notes, if that's really what you mean. The, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that unless the song is super fast, because that would mean like 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4,
Malcom: Yeah. Like
it would just be the ones
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly that. Like that would be hard. It good practice again still though. But if you can pull it off to, to always still land on the one that's probably a good sign that you, you're doing something right. Um, so for practice, like feel free to do whatever. Um, but in, in the actual recording, I think they're a little more than just the ones are needed, but everything else is totally up to your personal preference and the song, the feel of the song. But I have to say that it leads to different results. So I like to play around with that actually when I record other musicians, because, you know, something, you know, might just not work for one person, but it's exactly the thing the other person needs. Some people need the eight notes, some people need triplets or something. You know, I've, I've tracked drummers with like super annoying click tracks that were like, you know, super fast at all kinds of subdivisions, but that's what they needed. And then there are others who just need the 1, 2, 3, 4, and if it's perfect for them, um, figure that out for.
Malcom: Totally. That's another, you know, little, it comes with experience thing that, uh, Betty and I were able to develop by producing other bands is, is like, you know, have it, let, let somebody beside me take a take at the song and then I can pretty well tell if I need to change the metronome to, to, to get more out of them. Um, it's gone both ways. Sometimes, you know, it might be quarter notes and it'll bump it up to eights for them. . Other times it's like, okay, we just need to make more space. So yeah, you can kind of hear what's going on in between there a little bit better. Um, and yeah, there, there's no right or wrong. Again, you just have to kind of experiment. I would say nine times outta 10, however you naturally nod your head to the song is gonna just gonna be the best way to set the mentor.
Benedikt: This is check again. Uh, asking, I've heard of some people recording their own clicks to create specific fields. Thoughts on that?
Malcom: I have edited my own clicks together, so I've got one friend Adam, who likes to, first off, Adam plays in crazy time signatures all the time. Uh, but. He likes the accent to be on the last beat of the bar. So if we're playing something in five, four, beat five is gonna have the accent not beat one. Um, and yeah, it, it, that's just the way he does it. And, and he makes his own click, click tracks like that for practice. And when we go into the studio, we build out a whole tempo map with all the time changes and sig the time signature changes and tempo changes. always crazy, but I manually make sure that beat five or the last beat of the bar, whatever the time signature is, is the accent.
And uh, yeah. So we, I do that all the time. Um, most people don't need that, but you can
whatever gets the job done.
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and if you do, and if the click for you record or edit or whatever is different from like a standard, you know, feel, or like, um, whatever you, you do there, uh, I think you still need to make sure that it, it's on the grid, like that the grid follows whatever you do with the, with the click. So, because otherwise editing will be pretty difficult. So if you decide to do whatever tempo, variation in, in your click that you create, um, make sure or like, you know, change the meter. Yeah. If you make changes to that or to the tempo, whatever, make sure that the tempo map follows along with that. Uh, because, uh, you wanna be able to, to, you're, you're gonna be so much quicker editing if you have the grid as a visual reverence. If you can quantize things if you need to, if you can like sync delays to it if you want to, you know, so even if you have a custom click track, try to make sure that the grid of the session is actually the same thing I'd say if, if at all possible.
Malcom: yeah, yeah. It, it should match for sure. It, it'll save you heartache down the, down the line when you all of a sudden need to use your grid again.
Benedikt: Yeah. And if you mean like recording a click without like, like just doing it yourself basically, I don't know what, how that would work or why would, why that would be better. I just can see that become a mess. Like
Malcom: So the, here's a scenario that I think would be possible is somebody just might have, some people are really particular about what they hear as a metronome. So they like have a certain sound they want to hear , um, which is again fine, whatever you need. Um, but even then, if you recorded that into your like pro tool session or your da, you would then wanna set the grid to match it so that you can quickly edit it and like line it up on that, you know? Um, and then if you need to make changes, you can just chop 'em up and snap to grid. So the grid's just gonna come into play. It's a really useful tool, so don't avoid that.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. There. There's also this, this trick that I sometimes did with bands when, when I felt like it can't be just. A static sort of grid. We need tempo changes, but they're not exactly mapped out yet. Or I wanna have a, like, if I feel like the band really has a good feel when they just play together and I wanna capture that. What you can do is, um, you can capture a bunch of life takes in the room without a click or even with a click. If you can play with feel to the click, I don't know. But like, even if you don't have a click, you can just play a bunch of takes and record them until you have one that when you listen to it start to finish, it feels exactly the way you want the song to feel and sound. And then you can create a, you can detect the tempo and create a tempo map from that performance. And then, you know, you even out the, the changes that are not as musical and you just make broad strokes basically. But then, , if you compare, ideally you would, you would, you would be able to compare multiple takes and find the same characteristics. Like you'll find that at this part we always get a little faster, and here we always slow down a little bit and this one seems a little, you know, rushed or behind it, whatever. Um, if it's always completely different, then it's, you probably don't know what the song is, is supposed to feel like, uh, yet, but if they are similar and you find the same variations in those spots, then you can just pick the best one, the one that feels exactly right, create a tempo map from that, you can tap tempo to it or you can detect the tempo and then, um, you know, even it out a little bit. And then you have your tempo map for the song. I've done that a bunch of times, and that is, you know, different from like just doing a standard tempo change or having a static tempo, but you still have a grid and you still have a click. It just happens to speed up or slow down at times, and that, that can work. But it requires you obviously to have a really good band or to play exactly like the song's supposed to be played.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, it's uh, it's a really cool way to go about it. It's like a little more advanced, but I also wish that more people would try it
Benedikt: I love that when that's, I would always do, uh, before every tracking session, at least the last couple of things that I did, I would listen to the band. Like, what do they sound like when they play together? Esp like every, like with the exception of like solo artists to just do music on their computers, but the bands that play live that actually exist as a band, um, I just love to listen to them and figure out what I like about it, what's cool about them, what, what are some unique things that they do, how they interact. And then I try to capture that vibe on the record. And, and that's the way I, I often did it where we used the best, the best pre-production take, sort of, and then made the tempo map based on that. And
Malcom: Yeah, very, very cool idea. Uh, last idea to riff on on this is that sometimes, uh, this is kind of more so a solution for people that are struggling with the click, but if I had a, like a singer songwriter in the studio that wasn't very proficient with a click, generally if I replaced those click sounds with a kick in a snare drum or a high hat, like something more musical, all of a sudden they could play to a click it's pretty fascinating. It's the same thing, it's the same timing. Boom pa beep beep. Like, there's no difference, but it works. It was like a pretty tried and true solution. So, I mean, having both again is really great. Um, especially if it's like an actual drum beat and a click. I think that's kind of ideal, but like it, uh, whatever gets the job done again.
Benedikt: So glad you mentioned this. And even, even a tiny switch, like even if you don't do the kick and snare thing, I found that some people just can't stand the beep. You know? And, and instead of using the standard built in click, that is annoying, that is in cubase, uh, if you just switch to the mini, uh, I don't know if about other doors, but in cubase you can switch between the standard audio click, that is one sound. Um, or you can switch to the mid click that then lets you choose whatever sound you want and just switching to a wood block or something that is HEPs people, you know, they find it less annoying than the beep sound or whatever. So I, I don't know, but that's so, I'm so glad you brought that up, that that changes a lot for, for a lot of people. Cool. All right. So, um, I wanna, so these were all the questions, and because the last one here is really just, um, again, he's saying, I really want to have some method for tightly plated rhythms that doesn't take exhausting amounts of time, so I'm not burned out by the time I'm finished with it. That's basically, again, a summary of what we talked about. I wanna say again, that overthinking is a big part of this. If you feel burned out by the time you're finished with it, you probably thought about it too much, you questioned yourself too much, and you went into too much detail and forgot about the actual emotion and the song. You know, at the end of the day, you should still be able to just play your song and really feel it. And every once in a while, you have to take the step back and put the producer head on and like, evaluate and judge what you did there and if it's good enough. But most of the time you should, you are still the musician, and you, you should remember that it's fun and you should enjoy the process. And then, um, and if you feel super burned out after recording it, I think you, you, you were doing it with your head too much, I think, in a way. So,
Malcom: it, it's really easy to get too granular and then think that it's just not tight enough and then you spend way more time on it than you need. Um, so that's a, again, it's kind of a skill to be developed. Um, again, you'll also keep getting better. You'll keep improving with, you know, actually playing the parts to a metronome with the feel you want as tight as you want. That's just gonna keep getting better and better. So feel positive about that. The other big takeaway, I think is just setting up your processes to be more efficient. You know, so like, having the, the session template, having a, like a di base guitar, uh, chain, I think is really gonna be the quickest way to get what you want. Um, it should be pretty plug and play if you set it up right. So that'll just get things done quicker, which is really great.
Benedikt: And the third one is being able to edit on the fly and know the hot keys and like those tools really well, not everything, but just the basic tools, like just knowing how to quickly cut, move, make, cross fades, that sort of stuff. Yeah, exactly. You just have to know that really well, so you don't have to think about it anymore. The more you can do that stuff automatically without thinking about it, the more fun you're gonna have because then you'll be focused more on the music.
Malcom: Yes, it should be fun. That's gonna be a recurring theme, uh, these days on the podcast is all of this should be fun,
Benedikt: ex. Exactly. So one, one final thought that, that, uh, kept coming up in my mind while we're doing this episode was that maybe what you perceive a swing. or feel as like what you perceive as variations from the actual grid or the click track might just be a different type of variation. Meaning that a drummer can be very tight and exactly on the grid, but still feel a little behind or rushing or whatever based on how hard he hits the drums on, on certain beats. So maybe the field is not really the timing, but maybe it's like that the, you know, the two and the four are like played a little differently to the, to the one and the three, or maybe there's ghost notes in between and then a super hard, you know, two and a four. And that sort of creates a certain feel because if you think about it, if you play pretty in a pretty static way and every hit is sort of the same velocity, it sounds more robotic. But if you get more dynamics and good dynamics, not sloppy dynamics, but like good dynamics. With the accents. Exactly right. And like a good dynamic between the loud and the quieter things that, that sounds like feel too, even though it's spot on, but it can make things sound and feel differently. So, so don't, don't confuse this type of feel with like a very, the timing variation, oftentimes it's just the velocity, how hard the snare is being hit, and how cons consistent it is versus the, the, the, the ghost notes in between and that sort of stuff. If that stuff is all, just play around with that. When you're programming drums, just play a part, program, a part with ghost notes and the solid two and four on the snare, and then try to make the ghost notes, make them the same volume as the main snare hits. It's gonna sound super robotic and stupid if you, but if you get the right dynamic in there, if it's quiet and there's like the little accents that are a little louder, you know, then it starts to get this groove and feel, but it's still spot on timing wise, so that, that might also be part of it. Make sure that you actually play it right. That in terms of like dynamics and velocity, not just the timing.
Malcom: Yeah, not just the timing. It, I think I would say it's probably more so important than the timing. Like, like you said, something can be very spot on the grid, but with the right dynamics, it sounds like it's got feel. Um, and I think that's a pretty ideal situation actually.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Okay. Uh, Jack, I really hope that helps. I know there's a lot of, it depends and stuff on in there because it depends without context, it's very hard to help. But, uh, still I hope there's a couple of ideas in there for you and, uh, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and maybe follow up questions and always like, feel free to post your stuff in the community and we'll, we'll just have a listen, like, use, use this community for, for feedback. It's the surf recording ban.com/community. I, I know that you are already in there, check, but just, um, yeah, feel free to post. Happy to help if we can. thank you for listening to this and, uh, and as always, like, yeah. One more thing before I forget. As always, uh, if you got any value out of this, please make a screenshot, share it on socials. Tag us at Malcolm Owen Flood at Benedictine, uh, at the self recording band on Instagram and we're happy to share it. Uh, keep submitting your questions and comments too. We love those. We love to make these types of episodes and, uh, yeah, thank you for being part of this community.
Malcom: Yeah. Thank you very much guys. See you on the next one.
Benedikt: All right. Bye.
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