AF’s Weblog

September 19, 2011

Editing: The Unsung Hero

Filed under: Editing — Tags: , , — audiofanzine @ 11:01 am

My last article was on arrangement. This one is about editing. These two articles really both need to be read and absorbed to illustrate a greater point…

My primary gig is mixing – so I’m down stream of most of the production and pre-production. I spent a long time facing issues that I just couldn’t seem to solve: It doesn’t feel right, my mid-range is weak, I can’t get a sense of dimension, the kick and bass are clashing. No matter how much I EQ’d, compressed, worked out the reverb, it just wouldn’t quite seem to gel. Eventually I came to realize that the issues I faced had very little to do with mixing, and actually resided in the arrangement or editing. These are two subjects that are often ignored, but have a huge influence on the song and the mix. This article will provide a little insight into the importance of editing, and some basic ideas about editing you can use.

Editing is really not so different from mixing. It’s the manipulation of the recorded sound to create a desired outcome. Except the processes are different. Some basic editing processes are: Pitch Correction, Time Alignment, Clean Up and Compositing.

Pitch Correction

No matter how much EQ, compression, flanging, whatever, you use – if something is out of tune with something else they will forever interfere with each other. Sometimes reverb or slap delay can hide some pitchy sounds, but now a days we have pitch correctors. Unless working on a project that specifically demands an organic feel or off pitch sound is a cultural aesthetic – pitch correction is going to immediately gel your sounds together. This includes the whole range of instruments.

Sometimes you’ll get something like an 808 kick drum that just doesn’t seem to sit well with the bass – it’s either blurry and lacking impact, or you have to turn it up to the point where it masks the rest of the track. The 808 might be out of tune. Pitch Shifting would be your solution here – while most people would reach for an EQ.

Potential Pitfall – Pitch Correction can be like a drug. You use it and all of the sudden everything just fits magically. This leads to the temptation of overusing it. Pitch Correction is great for smoothing out a couple of bad notes, or tightening up a wide vibrato, but too much can easily stagnate a natural performance, and can also degrade the tone.

Let’s take a closer look…

Clean Up

Hum, Hiss, Breathes, Farts – these are things that while they can have their place, generally are best left out of the record. With hums and hiss, noise reduction software is generally most effective. Most of this software comes with a price – so think of it as noise reduction, rather than noise removal. Too much usually compromises the audio.

With breathes, there’s some negotiation. Logically one would think if the music is sparse than you should probably get rid of the breaths as they will be more audible, and if the music is busy it really doesn’t matter if you leave them in. Well – I find that not to be the case. In sparse music, I find it strange if I don’t hear the vocalist breathe to some degree. I also don’t want to hear an asthma attack in the record – so the best bet is to volume ride the breathes down about 10 dB.

In busy music, the vocals are probably getting a lot more compression, and this is going to pull the breaths up in the mix and cloud up whatever else is going on. Here I would most likely completely remove the breathes.

Compositing

Compositing is taking the best moments from the best takes and creating one super awesome performance. No EQ, Reverb, Delay, Phasing, Flanging, Twizzle-Flanging, or Compression will ever improve a performance. Therefore, choosing the best of the best will give you something right off the bat that is incredible – and when it comes time to mix, you just make it more incredible.

The secret to a good mix besides a solid performance, is good editing and arrangement. Don’t try to fix timing issues with compression, or tuning issues with EQ.

To read the full detailed article see:  Editing: The Unsung Hero

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