Editing (Musical) Reality

I recently read Perfecting Sound Forever and found it a pretty thought-provoking read. In particular, the pros and cons of editing as a tool and process when recording music. As soon as you start editing and mixing music you’re no longer creating a record: the sound you end up with was never performed and furthermore, it’s potentially misleading (i.e. auto-tuning vocalists who can’t hold a note in tune). Where do you draw the line? Is there a line that should be drawn in the first place? Does it matter? The last question is the easiest to answer: of course it doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t matter what I do. I just play around my guitars and computer in my spare room :)

Still, I’m working on a few of recordings and have been thinking about this. First of all, there’s Under Your Wing, one of Norman’s songs. The warr guitar part I’ve given myself to play is pretty challenging (at least, it is for me!). Generally I fluff the odd note on some chord changes and I have a tendency to rush, as does the whole band. So, how should I approach recording my part? One way would be to record a handful of takes, and piece together a take with no fluffed notes. It would be pretty trivial to edit the timing too if I’m pushing the beat. I could probably get it all done and dusted in under an hour. But this somehow seems unsatisfactory to me. I think I’m cheating myself. One of the reasons I like recording music is that a record not only records the music, but also the memories of old friends, places and situations.  And I know that if I put in the effort to practise my part, future-me will appreciate it when I listen back.

A contrasting example is 5ives… an electronica type tune I wrote a year or so again. I’m in process of returning to it as I think it has some good ideas in it. One of things i want to change is the bassline: at the moment it’s played on a synth and I’d like to get it done on my Warr. The problem is, 5ives is a real bugger to play. So what should I do? Well, I could spend ages practising the part to get it tight, but it’s real hard.. the groove has a lilt to it, half way between straight and swing (each beat is five semiquavers, hence the name). And, while the tune is a collaboration, it’s never going to be performed live, so the concept of a record being a record of a musical event is a non-starter. The recording will by the definitive thing. And therefore, editing my part to get it right seems appropriate. The whole track is being created via a method more akin to sculpture than musical performance.

A third track is from a collaboration with an old uni friend. The track’s currently untitled, but the collaboration is tentatively called Puppies Go Boom. So again, this is a track that I’ll probably never perform live. And I’m also struggling with the bassline: I’m trying to come up with something Motown-y, and the recording process is really drawing attention to the fact that I haven’t bothered practising my bass playing these last few years. So, should I edit or practise? In this case, I think that I should practise. Despite what I said in the earlier paragraph.

Obviously, I’m trying to justify too opposing viewpoints, and my arguments don’t really make sense. There is no right answer or approach. And none of it really matters. I’m just killing time on a quiet Sunday afternoon

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