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The biggest problem with "One Man Band" production - Timing is Everything
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #31
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by LLSentelle ➡️
Here is my formula when working with a band;

1) I need to hear GREAT songs first.
2) Rehearse the material until the band knows the arrangements so well, they couldn't possibly make a mistake.
3) Have the band perform the music LIVE in front of audiences. This develops the songs even further.
4) NOW, we're ready to get stated recording.
5) Record Drum, Bass/Scratch GTR, and scratch LV

My goal is to capture a great perfiormance between the Drummer and Bassist, and then build upon that live energy.

I'm not a "we'll fix it later type, I want to hear Great songs, Great performances. The One-Man-Band approach to my ears anyway, sounds like what it is. My thing is Greatness requires, greatness at every move. Guitar tone? Great sounding guitar, great sounding amp id where I begin. This mic, that mic? We all know which mics work for us on GTR.

I've been accused of being insane lol so, it doesn't bother me in the least but, yeah, I LOVE hardware, great musicians, and reality. Hell yes, I'm a Gearslut, plugins bore me. Great band, playing great sounding songs through great sounding instruments. Find this, and the rest is simple.
Fabulous answers to a different question. :-)
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #32
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LLSentelle ➡️
Here is my formula when working with a band;
1) I need to hear GREAT songs first.
2) Rehearse the material until the band knows the arrangements so well, they couldn't possibly make a mistake.
3) Have the band perform the music LIVE in front of audiences. This develops the songs even further.
4) NOW, we're ready to get stated recording.
5) Record Drum, Bass/Scratch GTR, and scratch LV
Agree. Also might be like this.
1) I need to hear VERY WELL rehearsed song first.
4) NOW, we're ready to get stated recording.
5) Record Drums, Bass sampled or no bass at all/GTRs, Vocals/Bass real
Old 31st December 2020
  #33
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
These days I find it much more successful to not start with the drums. I'll lay down a rough guitar or keyboard part to a click -- whatever the main instrument that gives the song its feel -- and then use that as a reference for drumming and so on.
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #34
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller ➡️
These days I find it much more successful to not start with the drums. I'll lay down a rough guitar or keyboard part to a click -- whatever the main instrument that gives the song its feel -- and then use that as a reference for drumming and so on.
Of course if it is a "one man band".
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➡️
Fabulous answers to a different question. :-)
LOL .... threads on Gearslutz these days are like a game of Chinese whispers.

I'll come back in two days time and people will be debating which spread tastes best on toast.
Old 31st December 2020
  #36
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
One obvious solution is to woodshed on your "new" instruments, try to get to that Prince level of tightness. But realistically there are some people out there who may not have the "gift" of rhythmic tightness. It seems to be lacking even in very experienced musicians that I know. I mean people who have been trained at a very high level and so on..
I personally have picked up the practice of rehearsing like crazy, my final performance always comes at least a week after the part was composed, and I'll practice almost every day, recording many of the takes for reference, fine tuning every aspect of the performance as well as composition and tone over that time.

Same with singing. I'll practice and rehearse for at least a week. (some tracks take months of feeling things out of course.)

Rehearsal and practice seem to be a lost art in the recording world, which is insane if you think about it. I've only picked up rehearsing to this degree in the past year. I've improved enormously as a result and my music has gotten so much better.

By comping takes after at least a week of practicing the part, I can generally get a performance that doesn't need any timing manipulation. I'll be fully in the pocket.

Its true most session musicians are not as tight as music is now produced. They also tend to not rehearse. The above approach gets me tighter than any session musician I've personally worked with.

In those cases where things are close but not quite it (or aligning vocals, etc), Logic's Flextime does the trick. It works pretty flawlessly, without ever needing to chop audio. I believe most DAWs have something similar now. This is a LAST RESORT though, IMO. A way to fine tune small errors in something as amazingly performed as possible.



Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
I wanted to open a general discussion on this topic, and ask people what are their techniques to nail timing when quickly building a track. While maintaining something of a live feel, not a gridded robotic type of sound. I don't want mechanical software drum machine timing and autotune on everything sound. Not with live rock/funk/jazz/pop instruments.
This also comes down to rehearsal IMO. Learn the part inside and out until its muscle memory. Then your sound goes from "making it through the part without any errors" (which gives a "wow that feels hard to play, you did well making it through that" feel), to "perfectly performed with a nice groove" (which gives a "wow that sounds easy" feel.). Expert performance = makes it feel super simple.

Stopping when you're at the "making it through the part without any errors" point and trying to find the groove using Flex-type stuff ITB is an error itself, unless that's what you're going for.
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #37
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 ➡️
I personally have picked up the practice of rehearsing like crazy, my final performance always comes at least a week after the part was composed, and I'll practice almost every day, recording many of the takes for reference, fine tuning every aspect of the performance as well as composition and tone over that time.

Same with singing. I'll practice and rehearse for at least a week. (some tracks take months of feeling things out of course.)

Rehearsal and practice seem to be a lost art in the recording world, which is insane if you think about it. I've only picked up rehearsing to this degree in the past year. I've improved enormously as a result and my music has gotten so much better.

By comping takes after at least a week of practicing the part, I can generally get a performance that doesn't need any timing manipulation. I'll be fully in the pocket.

Its true most session musicians are not as tight as music is now produced. They also tend to not rehearse. The above approach gets me tighter than any session musician I've personally worked with.

In those cases where things are close but not quite it (or aligning vocals, etc), Logic's Flextime does the trick. It works pretty flawlessly, without ever needing to chop audio. I believe most DAWs have something similar now. This is a LAST RESORT though, IMO. A way to fine tune small errors in something as amazingly performed as possible.





This also comes down to rehearsal IMO. Learn the part inside and out until its muscle memory. Then your sound goes from "making it through the part without any errors" (which gives a "wow that feels hard to play, you did well making it through that" feel), to "perfectly performed with a nice groove" (which gives a "wow that sounds easy" feel.). Expert performance = makes it feel super simple.

Stopping when you're at the "making it through the part without any errors" point and trying to find the groove using Flex-type stuff ITB is an error itself, unless that's what you're going for.
Yeah, it's tricky when you're doing it alone as you don't necessarily "need" to rehearse (there is nobody else to teach the song to) and by virtue of being alone, you almost have to record in order to rehearse it as a "band", at least scratch tracks to play along to.
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #38
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Yeah, it's tricky when you're doing it alone as you don't necessarily "need" to rehearse (there is nobody else to teach the song to) and by virtue of being alone, you almost have to record in order to rehearse it as a "band", at least scratch tracks to play along to.
Yeah exactly. That's why I'd never go that extra step. It costs days or weeks, and gets you 10-20% better, and Flex is so easy. But man, that 10-20% starts to really add up track after track in a session!

You gotta think in terms of learning parts to the point of muscle memory, for YOURSELF and the feel of the recording you're creating.

Its definitely tough. I start with the best scratches I can get in the "creative lightning" stage, and then practice practice practice to where I can be playing them and not even be conscious of it. Then you can really bring in the feeling and groove without any intellect-mindedness (left brained stuff) mucking it all up.

What interesting is the quality of the performances tends to decline from my first "lighting takes" until almost the very end of my practice/rehearsal phase. I think that's why some say "the first takes are the best takes." That's true. . . to a point, if you don't keep pushing. But a well rehearsed muscle memory performance full of feeling > first takes IME.

Those first takes are "Feeling it!" cause you're in the creative zone. The rehearsal takes are "learning it. . feels a bit more blah" as your intellect gets in the way which lowers the quality for a bit. The final takes are "feeling it!" again but from a more perfect place.
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #39
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 ➡️
Yeah exactly. That's why I'd never go that extra step. It costs days or weeks, and gets you 10-20% better, and Flex is so easy. But man, that 10-20% starts to really add up track after track in a session!

You gotta think in terms of learning parts to the point of muscle memory, for YOURSELF and the feel of the recording you're creating.

Its definitely tough. I start with the best scratches I can get in the "creative lightning" stage, and then practice practice practice to where I can be playing them and not even be conscious of it. Then you can really bring in the feeling and groove without any intellect-mindedness (left brained stuff) mucking it all up.

What interesting is the quality of the performances tends to decline from my first "lighting takes" until almost the very end of my practice/rehearsal phase. I think that's why some say "the first takes are the best takes." That's true. . . to a point, if you don't keep pushing. But a well rehearsed muscle memory performance full of feeling > first takes IME.
Paul McCartney's a master of it and he works super fast (and has everything setup all the time, mic'ed ready to go, with engineers on staff). But, he's Paul McCartney, not day-jobbers like us (me) trying to bang this out in our limited free time.
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #40
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Paul McCartney's a master of it and he works super fast (and has everything setup all the time, mic'ed ready to go, with engineers on staff). But, he's Paul McCartney, not day-jobbers like us (me) trying to bang this out in our limited free time.
Yeah he's not a one man band, he's got teams. And he's not exactly known for the most amazing performances or records. I definitely think you can get to a point of expertise where rehearsal may be less necessary, but that's WAAAAY up in there in skill level IMO.
Old 31st December 2020
  #41
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
I personally prefer an unrepeatable 'un-photoshopped photograph' of a real performance to avoid a guided performance sounding guided.
If I need a guide, I'll use a drum machine, loop, or pre-recorded track rather than a click. But in tracking I'll only pay attention to that guide about 10-20%. I focus on patterns, feelings, and images of rhythms - not notes. If the resulting playback has errors or doesn't sound like a great record all by itself I do the whole thing over. Generally no edits and no punch-ins.

fwiw I would say Mccartney has it down pretty good
Old 31st December 2020
  #42
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🎧 10 years
McCartney III is all Paul, but he has a personal engineer working for him, which I'm sure helps big time.

The article I read said a lot of it is first takes, first ideas, spur of the moment. This is the way I work too, very spontaneous.

The rigorous rehearsal type of thing doesn't seem to have a place for me, it's more off the cuff, white knuckle feeling. At least when I'm solo and not with other musicians. The practice and jamming happens separately from writing/recording, mainly.

Just trying, grasping, for ways to make it work out more often. Of course, some tracks you just don't release, there's no problem there. And I'm sure it gets better as some people have said. For me the stronger tracks almost compel more work to finish them, they seem to finish themselves.

My next one, which is in the planning stage, will be a complete re-recording of older songs, but hopefully with an updated idea about time, groove, tightness, and so on, with the benefit of having put out a couple releases this way already.

I also plan to use a second engineer to help with the drum tracking, which I think will really help with laying a strong foundation. Since the songs are already written I'm sure I can knock out some scratch guide tracks.

But as far as daily, weekly home studio songwriting goes I'm still trying to tighten up and expand my strategies and techniques, to have more tools in the box.

To go back to an earlier idea, there's that thing they also talk about on McCartney III where they're "throwing stuff around" in Pro Tools, presumably on a grid or to a click. Not on every song. But there's that thing where you're no longer making live music, but using sampling techniques to construct a song. And then maybe doing a live bass and vocal, etc. I guess, I'm assuming you have to work with shorter bits. Little riffs, single hit drum samples, and so on. But if you make your own samples that probably sounds more tasty than some TR808 drum machine sample of a kick drum or a cymbal. I like to reference Atoms For Peace as a really high level of this kind of production.

Thanks to everyone for the nice responses.

Last edited by monkeyxx; 1st January 2021 at 12:05 AM..
Old 31st December 2020 | Show parent
  #43
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor ➡️
I have the opposite issue.

I have a backing band of very good seasoned players, but they don't make it onto my records because I get too frustrated they can't play the parts with the exact pocket and groove I want so I've ended up tracking everything myself, with the exception of any specialist lead guitar parts or pedal steel slide etc. Live the energy of the gig seems to smooth over any issues that would pee me off in a recording situation.

I think it comes from me starting my career as a professional drummer at 16 and now at 57 I'm just so demanding of the feel being spot on - perhaps if I had Tony Levin, Herbie H, Pino P and Tim Pierce in the band - I'd roll over and let someone else play

If you do track alone one thing I have definitely decided is, track the drums first, and overdub onto a great drum track then it feels like the band is being driven and the groove laid down by the drums.

Maybe that's the one skill to hire in - a drummer to lay down a great groove - then overdub onto to that and the groove will be already baked in.
I write it first, which means laying down keys and a scratch vocal, or a synthesizer approximating what the vocal will be. Last thing down is drums. And it's definitely weird. I have to be much more relentless with the click and the timing compared to tracking live with a full band. But I can't see myself writing it, then playing drums by myself and then retracking everything to the drums, especially because it's my keyboard playing (and my, um, singing...) that need the most digital assistance.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #44
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
The rigorous rehearsal type of thing doesn't seem to have a place for me, it's more off the cuff, white knuckle feeling. At least when I'm solo and not with other musicians.
That's phase 1 for me. Phase 2 is practice what I came up with to muscle memory. Phase 3 is record the final takes.

Its going to be tough to be tighter and more on point without practice, unless you're performing parts below your ability. Not sure there's a shortcut there tbh, other than Flex type stuff. Re-recording songs is a similar sort of thing: you've already familiarized yourself with the parts for a while.

It could just come down to more conscientiousness in the lightning phase moment. I haven't personally achieved that yet except for parts below my ability.

I'm in a recovery/growth phase though and have spent the last 8 months on 5 songs . Been such a challenge to figure out how to step it all up, my goals for these songs forced me to step up in so many ways. I'm days away from happiness with my work right now though, they're sounding so good to me!! First time in my life I'm happy and not surrendering. One final ukulele performance on an outtro (I'm on day 3 of practice) and some mixdown tweaks and 8 months of work is a wrap.

Good luck going forward!
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #45
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjg ➡️
I have a one man band musical project that I do all the production for and I've found that recording all the tracks to a very simple "scratch" midi drum track first, then either record real drums or compose a midi drum performance after works best for me to get a live feel in the end. When recording everything that isn't drums, I give myself several bars of count in to get the feel, record a few takes, pick the best one, and leave it alone (don't quantize). Each instrument performance has small timing fluctuations that when stacked up feel "naturally tight" and not "clinically tight". If I record real drums after this, I'll quantize any errant hits, but try to keep it as natural as possible. If I'm writing midi drums, I'll actually go through the song at the end and move some hits around slightly (often to get closer to bass track) so everything isn't relentlessly on grid. If I notice after recording all the instruments that I was more frequently before or after the beat, I'll adjust the drums accordingly if the song calls for it or keep them closer to on-beat to get an "urgent" or "dragging" feel to the song overall.
I made a batch of songs recorded this way during the lockdown/pandemic if you want to judge for yourself: https://stateforest.bandcamp.com/album/any-prior-self

Other things that have helped: headphones with good noise isolation (often IEM's) and mood lighting when recording

Nice work, neighbor!
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #46
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
Paul McCartney's a master of it and he works super fast (and has everything setup all the time, mic'ed ready to go, with engineers on staff). But, he's Paul McCartney, not day-jobbers like us (me) trying to bang this out in our limited free time.
I agree. His drumming however sucks IMHO. Very stiff and robotic. No nuance. Holds his sticks tight like little baseball bats. One of those guys who leave big dents in drum heads.
Old 1st January 2021
  #47
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I sometimes deal with this when demoing my own songs.
For most of the process, tightness isn’t a priority, and I‘m more focussed on groove, balance of elements and colors.
Usually it starts with a guitar or bass riff, a rhythmic groove of some sort. Next i sit down with the instrument and a metronome, and find the best bpm to play to.
The aim is to have the metronome feel like a bannister or handrail of sorts: I can let go of it anytime, but when I need to reach for it, it‘s right where I need it.
Then the basic riff gets recorded at that exact tempo, and all further overdubs are done to a playback of all previous instruments and a hint of metronome. And since I‘m a pretty bad/basic drummer, drums come last, if at all.
So far, so good...
The stumbling block comes after I’ve accumulated about 4-5 elements. Since at this stage there is no interplay with other musicians, there is a risk of losing the groove, of it becoming stale. Adding more elements by myself at this point would be detrimental. And songs only get finished when other people get involved, though by then the road is pretty much mapped out.
So I guess I‘m saying that, at least for my music, groove and interaction tops tightness, and drums are only one of X elements contributing to it.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #48
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
McCartney III is all Paul, but he has a personal engineer working for him, which I'm sure helps big time.

The article I read said a lot of it is first takes, first ideas, spur of the moment. This is the way I work too, very spontaneous.

The rigorous rehearsal type of thing doesn't seem to have a place for me, it's more off the cuff, white knuckle feeling. At least when I'm solo and not with other musicians. The practice and jamming happens separately from writing/recording, mainly.

Just trying, grasping, for ways to make it work out more often. Of course, some tracks you just don't release, there's no problem there. And I'm sure it gets better as some people have said. For me the stronger tracks almost compel more work to finish them, they seem to finish themselves.

My next one, which is in the planning stage, will be a complete re-recording of older songs, but hopefully with an updated idea about time, groove, tightness, and so on, with the benefit of having put out a couple releases this way already.

I also plan to use a second engineer to help with the drum tracking, which I think will really help with laying a strong foundation. Since the songs are already written I'm sure I can knock out some scratch guide tracks.

But as far as daily, weekly home studio songwriting goes I'm still trying to tighten up and expand my strategies and techniques, to have more tools in the box.

To go back to an earlier idea, there's that thing they also talk about on McCartney III where they're "throwing stuff around" in Pro Tools, presumably on a grid or to a click. Not on every song. But there's that thing where you're no longer making live music, but using sampling techniques to construct a song. And then maybe doing a live bass and vocal, etc. I guess, I'm assuming you have to work with shorter bits. Little riffs, single hit drum samples, and so on. But if you make your own samples that probably sounds more tasty than some TR808 drum machine sample of a kick drum or a cymbal. I like to reference Atoms For Peace as a really high level of this kind of production.

Thanks to everyone for the nice responses.
My problem is finishing songs. I get a good idea, lay down parts, and have the coolest 4 bar loop of stuff... that goes nowhere.
Old 1st January 2021
  #49
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Some people have a good internal metronome, some don't. I don't know if that can be taught. When it comes to drummers, slow tempos are a different beast. There are drummers I've worked with that are fantastic until you get down into Pink Floyd tempo territory. But often the ones who are really good at that can't get up into fast tempos. Poeple like Bonham and ringo could cover the tempos.

the one man band thing. I've done that. I can 'play' a drum set and get a groove I like but I'm super limited. It's not my instrument. I've more or less stopped doing it because I'm never happy with the final result. It's usually the slow tempo stuff where I can find something.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #50
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18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface ➡️
My problem is finishing songs. I get a good idea, lay down parts, and have the coolest 4 bar loop of stuff... that goes nowhere.
I hear you on that, I've been doing that for the past week or so. It feels better than doing nothing, even if it's not a full idea. Keeps the hands dirty.

The last parts of finishing a big recording seem to require the most effort, being the least amount of fun, that final 2 hour push or whatever it might be. Fixing all the details and whatnot, extra musical parts.

One strategy I have for smaller ideas is try to keep them going for 2 or 3 minutes instead of some 20 second loop. Especially that first track, whatever it is. Stretch it out and then see if you can build on top of it. You have more of a chance of landing on a song that way. I know some people in the past, who got so fixated on these little 20 second loops, and the looper pedals, that it seems like a few of them couldn't even finish a 3 minute idea at all. One strategy for these kind of people is to help them link 4 of these tiny ideas together into a composition, if they're all on the same instrument.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #51
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3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
The trick IMO, is to define the groove very early in the process. I do what Jim Keltner does, lay down a shaker over the click and play to that. I make a 1-2 bar loop that has the perfect feel. The shaker will have the swing, and incorporate all the subdivisions of the beat. If you do this right, you almost have to try to play sloppy.

The bonus of this is you can lay down the drums later in the process if you want, which tends not to work well otherwise.
Old 1st January 2021
  #52
My workflow, which has been fairly successful, IMHO, is to start with my best instrument, guitar. I find a drum loop, shaker loop, or similar that will function as a metronome but has more beats covered than quarter notes. I record the song on guitar, though it will mostly be a scratch track.

Then I record drums. That way I can follow the feel and groove of the guitar as well as knowing where the fills go without having to think too hard. Next I'll fix the drums a little. I never totally quantize them, but I'll make them solid while keeping the groove.

Grooves are not at all just straight or some degree of swing. Some grooves have the kick a little early on certain beats, a little late on others, etc. There's a whole world of grooves that the grid has nothing on. There is no automatic way to do that, you just have to listen and manually put things where they belong. I often will start with say 50% or 70% quantize and adjust from there, nudging forward or back as needed.

Next I'll usually put down the bass line, and then correct it with respect to the drums. Next I'll re-record the guitar so it's more locked with the drums and bass. Then keyboards, vocals, solos, etc.

Working a little more circularly this way, sometimes re-recording parts to fit the groove more, and making sure that the time correction actually fits the groove and not just the grid, I feel like I'm getting a sound and feel that's reasonably close to a full band playing together.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tymish ➡️
Some people have a good internal metronome, some don't. I don't know if that can be taught. When it comes to drummers, slow tempos are a different beast. There are drummers I've worked with that are fantastic until you get down into Pink Floyd tempo territory. But often the ones who are really good at that can't get up into fast tempos. Poeple like Bonham and ringo could cover the tempos.

the one man band thing. I've done that. I can 'play' a drum set and get a groove I like but I'm super limited. It's not my instrument. I've more or less stopped doing it because I'm never happy with the final result. It's usually the slow tempo stuff where I can find something.
Bonham yes!!! Ringo ... a good fellow. Ian Paice even better then LZ if we are talking "internal metronome". I can play drums steady both slow and fast but I am a clown compared to drummers who know what which hit means. I had a drum kit donated to me but I sold it, didn't even try to record myself drumming. I would go down and lose all my clients if I did.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #54
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
One thing I've found (doing acoustic music) is you need to over emphasize the dynamics when you are tracking a bunch of parts by yourself. Otherwise it gets to all sounding kind of monotone.
Old 1st January 2021
  #55
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psycho_monkey's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
I've been, pretty often, struggling with laying down drums, bass, keyboard instruments, guitar, voice, percussion, all by my lonesome self.

When I hear a lot of "amateur" productions, by people that are very skilled at one instrument, but dabble in others (typically, drums), the timing is what kills the track. There might be measures of playing that are a full quarter note beat off in timing, which becomes a train wreck. When you have 4 downbeats landing in different scattered places it's torture on the ears, not really going to win any new fans.

Tempo drifts also, and you multiply this by 6 tracks or whatever, it gets ugly.

It's difficult to feel "groove" and "pocket" when you're tracking alone in headphones to your own self.

One obvious solution is to woodshed on your "new" instruments, try to get to that Prince level of tightness. But realistically there are some people out there who may not have the "gift" of rhythmic tightness. It seems to be lacking even in very experienced musicians that I know. I mean people who have been trained at a very high level and so on.

The other more immediate solution is to learn DAW timing fix techniques. Typically, record to a click track. Then for example in Cubase, you can slice and intelligently quantize your drum tracks to match the tempo track. When I did this "correctly" for the first time it kind of blew my mind. It's also a slightly involved thing to learn how to execute in Cubase. There are some YouTube videos that explain how. You could save a track from the garbage can, even if it's not quite as groovy as a pro-played track.

I wanted to open a general discussion on this topic, and ask people what are their techniques to nail timing when quickly building a track. While maintaining something of a live feel, not a gridded robotic type of sound. I don't want mechanical software drum machine timing and autotune on everything sound. Not with live rock/funk/jazz/pop instruments.

To me, this "gridded, but live" or sort of "sampled sounding acoustic" sound is a hallmark of a lot of really beautiful modern productions. Things like newer Thom Yorke stuff, the new Paul Mccartney III album, etc. You can freely blend live and synthetic sound sources while maintaing vibe and groove in the overall timing.

This is the sound I am chasing, so I was hoping some people here might have some insight or experience with the topic/style. Specifically working methods and techniques. I think it could help a lot of people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aural Endeavors ➡️
IME, quantizing a real player to the grid can sound very organic and real as ever if done properly. I do it sometimes, depending on the music. A client just told me literally yesterday that a live drum performance locked exactly to the grid had an awesome feel to it. He also mentioned there was no way Superior Drummer could ever produce the feel and organic nature of the track. Of course, he doesn't know I locked it to the grid; if he did, his perception due to bias would have taken over.
Totally. A player with great dynamics locked to a grid still grooves.

Regarding the original question, if you’re putting drums on post other things, you kind of have to have very good timing naturally or be prepared to edit. If you’re tracking drums first or band as a whole, I’ll usually get the drum take, and then either tighten to click, or if not tracked to click, I’ll make a click that follows the player - that way I can tighten within the bar but still keep the overall free pace of the piece, and also tighten other parts to “grid”.

In both cases, I’ll then track overdubs to the drums, and tighten as much as needed by ear.

In this day and age, there’s really no excuse for sloppy performances.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #56
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
 
18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lobsterinn ➡️
The trick IMO, is to define the groove very early in the process. I do what Jim Keltner does, lay down a shaker over the click and play to that. I make a 1-2 bar loop that has the perfect feel. The shaker will have the swing, and incorporate all the subdivisions of the beat. If you do this right, you almost have to try to play sloppy.

The bonus of this is you can lay down the drums later in the process if you want, which tends not to work well otherwise.
I'm going to have to try this shaker trick, you and Ragan both make it sound really intriguing. I'll put one out on the desk for tomorrow, thanks. I also like that idea of spending a lot of careful time on the rhythm section and making it really tight, then expanding from there.

Last edited by monkeyxx; 1st January 2021 at 06:43 AM..
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #57
Good topic...and yep, one of the biggest problems. One of the banes of my home recording adventures. The best I can do is to use AD or EZdrummer...and hope that my very rudimentary editing skills can make them seem or feel as natural as possible so that later when I play to them I can do so with some sort of feel or timing.

Once that's done to the best of my ability, I just try to track each part appropriately. That's all I can say really.

There's so many other things going on by that stage...keeping an eye on levels, trying not to breathe too loud, actually playing the part, getting a nice headphone mix so I can hear as naturally as possible what I'm tracking, making sure I don't trip over headphone cables...the list goes on.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll...from your bedroom...alone.


Last edited by hello people; 1st January 2021 at 06:43 AM..
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #58
Gear Maniac
I’ve been stockpiling recordings of my solo live guitar performances with the notion of scouring them at a later date to find nuggets worth bolstering with studio overdubs.

A couple nights ago I delved into the Logic Pro “Smart Tempo” function set and was pleasantly surprised to find it’s quite easy. Without too much trouble, you can have a perfect tempo track (bpm changing every beat or bar) including all the time signature changes extracted from the original free-tempo performance.

Hoping this will allow me to overdub and then transparently “lock in” midi parts and various acoustic percussions. Back in the studio, I mostly do single-mic, close-up recording because I get pretty liberal with flex time. Multi-mic and ambient sources tend to experience more tone degradation with flex time.

Not a conventional one-man-band approach, rather an on-going experiment to see if I can start with free-tempo improvised guitar and end up with coherent and rhythmically-tight arrangements.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #59
js1
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I'm quite good with editing tools, and can "fix" most timing errors. Today's tools are amazing, and getting to know which one is the right one to use for the correction at hand is worth learning. For example, in Studio One for audio, I can slip edit, manually warp, or auto quantize.

Getting a good feel is a different matter entirely. The eye and the ear often disagree.

For drums, I usually build the track from pro played midi (Toontrack, etc) that has the feel that I want, and I'll edit that to get the part I want. Or, I'll find a drum loop that has the right feel, and pattern the drum groove to that.

Bass is my main instrument, no issues there. Then I add a rhythm guitar.

This is my foundation. If those three together don't make me want to move, or don't feel like a band, I'll stop there and figure it out. Because it may be timed OK, but the parts, accents or dynamics could be wrong.

After the feel is dialed in, I'll listen with my eyes closed to pick up any places where it's off, and fix them.

Other parts are added, keeping in mind that arrangement is king. Each part has to have a reason to exist. A new part won't fix a previous one that has issues.

I can get a pretty good result, but it's a lot of work. And I consider what I'm doing is demo grade. Because I'm competing against the best players and bands using the best producers and recording engineers.

When I do it for real, I bring in the right team, head into a good studio, and do the bed track all playing together. We use my demos as outlines, but they come up with their own parts. Their parts aren't limited by my ability. Way quicker, and much, much better results.
Old 1st January 2021 | Show parent
  #60
Gear Maniac
 
Janne19691's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Like many others, I have my one man band home studio in an apartment environment. I have done this a few decades and this is my way to lock myself away from everything else

I can do pretty much everything I want except an acoustic drum set. Even if I had a live room I am not even passable drummer. I always start with composing the midi drums. And I do try to humanize them by adding dynamics to the hits and slight imperfections in timing. I have also tried to adjust the tempo according different parts of the music. When it feels right, it adds sort of intelligence that a "drummer" might have done on purpose or by feel Also a great way to make midi drums hide some of the machine qualities is to add real mic'ed percussion and not to quantize them.
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