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The biggest problem with "One Man Band" production - Timing is Everything
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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monkeyxx's Avatar
 
18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The biggest problem with "One Man Band" production - Timing is Everything

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.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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weave's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Awesome subject and although I don’t have anything to help I will be watching this thread intensely. Topics like these are the ones I come here for. Thank you for your very well worded thread starter!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by weave View Post
Awesome subject and although I don’t have anything to help I will be watching this thread intensely. Topics like these are the ones I come here for. Thank you for your very well worded thread starter!
Thanks, haha. This is probably the first "new thread" I've started this year. I hope some of the more experienced posters will find some time to respond. Gearslutz is a huge community I don't know if username tagging is a thing or not. But I would if I could.

The reason I started this question is it seems like a "big deal" to me, and many of the people I have worked with and known personally, who call themselves musicians.

Just to help the thread along I can post a few links to insight videos I've found:

(I think if you spent the hour to watch these videos, it describes the topic)

Chris Selim



Sebastian



Eric Valentine

Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Nailing!? How about editing in time?

I worked with extreme metal for like 10 years so I got a black belt in editing . I would argue groove is in the subtle pauses in between notes. So a good performance almost completely on grid sounds great.

The thing is more about being experienced enough to know what you want to achieve and how to get there. And that takes time and can ofc be hard.

I mean do you want a certain thing to be slightly off beat or laid back. It's all good if there is thought and meaning to imperfections.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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I'm in the same boat, with lockdown going on right now.

I'm laying down drums to a click, getting that right first, then playing keys over top of that without a click, because, naturally, I tend to follow the drums when I'm not drumming anyways. I also record MIDI of everything that's outputting MIDI, so it's way easier nudging notes around if a performance is otherwise perfect.

Bonus round is that I can "playback" the performance via MIDI to hardware keys and tweak knobs on synths and EPs (modulate, sustain, filter sweeps, etc.) in real-time or tap delays, so they're not perfectly in time, but grooves, much like a live delay pedal on a guitar would be done, or tape delay back in the day.

Basically all the things I can't do live as I'm not a great keys player.

There is a loss of push and pull that happens when you're playing with someone and are locked in, but depending on the genre, that might not matter.

Sometimes I'll do the opposite and turn off the click, but play off of an arpeggiator with some hand-tapped bucket brigade delay, triplets, whatever, to get a real swinging groove going, and then lay drums down to that.

Basically I never edit live drums to the grid as it freaks me out and I think it's ruining music, but I have a lot of theories about that... probably for another day/thread.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #7
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monkeyxx's Avatar
 
18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
Nailing!? How about editing in time?

I worked with extreme metal for like 10 years so I got a black belt in editing . I would argue groove is in the subtle pauses in between notes. So a good performance almost completely on grid sounds great.

The thing is more about being experienced enough to know what you want to achieve and how to get there. And that takes time and can ofc be hard.

I mean do you want a certain thing to be slightly off beat or laid back. It's all good if there is thought and meaning to imperfections.
That's very interesting. I think in metal music timing is even more important than say a rolling stones style band.

I heard a few people talking about Converge and Led Zeppelin about their live shows, how some of the times on stage, they would go completely off the rails and lose everyone in the audience and in the band.

I think you are right that the person doing the editing needs to also be the person that is able to "hear time" and "hear groove." To know when you're helping, and when you're creating a frankenstein monster that will ruin someone's reputation.

Once I recorded a band that needed so much editing that they couldn't even really play it live. But when it was all done the recording was at least somewhat convincing. It was a compilation album and it was one of the best songs on there, in the end. But it was a brutal amount of work in front of the DAW.

I am sort of afraid that this is more common than a band that can play tightly together.

A song like "Yoyo's Theme" from Art Enesemble of Chicago shows how far off time a drummer can go and still keep you grooving, it's outstanding.

But obviously you don't want to be the open mic or house show band that people "get through" and clap for reluctantly. In the studio world we have some amount of control over that, but it seems like what I want to think of as an advanced technique, rather than learning the basics of EQ and compression.

And you also don't want to become the Portlandia style producer that "perfects" some generic uninspired hogwash with digital tools.

I'm sort of interested in the perfect storm of modern DAW skills mixed with high level music and performance. Editing and production methods that you would use even with someone extremely talented.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
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🎧 15 years
I was 18 and playing bass in a band with a drummer who was only three years older but had already played on hits and toured a bunch. He basically told me he liked me as a person and I was a good hang in the van but I had terrible time and I was about to be fired.

So he staged an intervention. He sat me down with some mushrooms, a fat joint, my bass, and a copy of "Corinna, Corinna" by Taj Mahal. And he said, "Come find me when you've figured out why this is great, and why these are top session cats, and show me you can play with it."

One main takeaway from it was to learn to feel the music on a "subdivisions" level. It's not "one, two, three, four." It's "one-ee-and-a, two-ee-and-a..." And when I say "feel" the music I mean literally that. Move with it, get the sway going.

The other insight was that when it comes to playing with pre-recorded players (or a click)... and this is a bit woo-woo... try to be them. Get inside their skin. You play super-tight with them because you are them.

I won't say it was an instant night-and-day transformation on my part. But it sent me in the right direction and I didn't get fired. And it was kind of a win-win-win, actually, because it got me playing better, and simpler, and having more fun.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
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Poopypants's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
Art Enesemble of Chicago .
You get points for Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
He sat me down with some mushrooms, a fat joint,

You get points for mushrooms, and the lesson as a whole.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #10
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
That's very interesting. I think in metal music timing is even more important than say a rolling stones style band.

I heard a few people talking about Converge and Led Zeppelin about their live shows, how some of the times on stage, they would go completely off the rails and lose everyone in the audience and in the band.

I think you are right that the person doing the editing needs to also be the person that is able to "hear time" and "hear groove." To know when you're helping, and when you're creating a frankenstein monster that will ruin someone's reputation.

Once I recorded a band that needed so much editing that they couldn't even really play it live. But when it was all done the recording was at least somewhat convincing. It was a compilation album and it was one of the best songs on there, in the end. But it was a brutal amount of work in front of the DAW.

I am sort of afraid that this is more common than a band that can play tightly together.

A song like "Yoyo's Theme" from Art Enesemble of Chicago shows how far off time a drummer can go and still keep you grooving, it's outstanding.

But obviously you don't want to be the open mic or house show band that people "get through" and clap for reluctantly. In the studio world we have some amount of control over that, but it seems like what I want to think of as an advanced technique, rather than learning the basics of EQ and compression.

And you also don't want to become the Portlandia style producer that "perfects" some generic uninspired hogwash with digital tools.

I'm sort of interested in the perfect storm of modern DAW skills mixed with high level music and performance. Editing and production methods that you would use even with someone extremely talented.
That was when I worked professionally with music. Metal is really overedited but if someone plays good that person will sound better edited and grided then someone who is worse at playing.

When I record myself and produce my own stuff which is more Josh Groban, Bublé style. I really think the timing is key. You know even nailing the end consonant in a word on beat makes a hugh difference. So wheb I'm happy with the performance I tend to edit timing, nudging stuff 200 samples +- . My timing is great but I really like to make things sit together.

I know there are alloy of different perspectives but I always liked "perfect" performances so that's where I come from
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I was 18 and playing bass in a band with a drummer who was only three years older but had already played on hits and toured a bunch. He basically told me he liked me as a person and I was a good hang in the van but I had terrible time and I was about to be fired.

So he staged an intervention. He sat me down with some mushrooms, a fat joint, my bass, and a copy of "Corinna, Corinna" by Taj Mahal. And he said, "Come find me when you've figured out why this is great, and why these are top session cats, and show me you can play with it."

One main takeaway from it was to learn to feel the music on a "subdivisions" level. It's not "one, two, three, four." It's "one-ee-and-a, two-ee-and-a..." And when I say "feel" the music I mean literally that. Move with it, get the sway going.

The other insight was that when it comes to playing with pre-recorded players (or a click)... and this is a bit woo-woo... try to be them. Get inside their skin. You play super-tight with them because you are them.

I won't say it was an instant night-and-day transformation on my part. But it sent me in the right direction and I didn't get fired. And it was kind of a win-win-win, actually, because it got me playing better, and simpler, and having more fun.
I still do that with a new album.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
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.
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.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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monkeyxx's Avatar
 
18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
@ Brent Hahn that reminds of some Ginger Baker story I heard about when he was coming up, it's in the Ginger Baker documentary. He finds some guy that knows all about African drum music, and acid, and has some kind of epiphany at his apartment.

He ended up living in Africa for much of his life, and is one of the more popular mainstream drummers that was doing polyrhythm and things like that, on big popular records.

I like the "be the click" idea too. It seems like some people either forget, or consciously choose to completely disobey timing in their music. I don't want to rag on anyone but it's more common than I would like to admit. I have this notion that people think they are "getting away with it" and sometimes they are, but only if the person listening has no sense of time.
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  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor View Post
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.
You sound like a fun guy.
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  #15
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
I think in metal music timing is even more important than say a rolling stones style band.
Well, yeah. Most metal records sound like they start with the grid and then add stuff.
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  #16
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
You sound like a fun guy.


The thing is a band needs a singer and a songwriter - I'm a good singer and songwriter.

Otherwsie these guys would be playing covers and they hate playing covers!

It's a reflection of my age group - a young band would of told me to "pee off" - in fact thinking about it, decades ago several did!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
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Karloff70's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Editing and tactics of is interesting indeed. And I reckon important things are to get the rythmical scaffold down tight before overdubbing. Whatever is the scaffold. Drums is likely but could be acoustic guitar. Basically a decision what is to be the pulse. And getting that swaying like Brent says.

But then if you are playing everything you would be playing those drums to click only, or nothing, and they wouldn't be informed by vocal etc which is an issue. Or could be anyway, depending on how you want it to behave.

I think in general if you're doing everything the best bet is to decide what is the main musical instrument like guitar or piano and get it swaying with just that and the lead vocal. So then the thing already has life and angles and those will make you react when overdubbing. Including how and what you play on drums. But drums last is not going to behave like "driving drums first".

Other than that I absolutely despise elastic audio as it effectively removes the intent of the performance for me. Makes androgenous. Makes things un-wrong. Which is worse than tastefully wrong. Chopping things into functional phrase chunks that are good within themselves and leaning/sliding that chunk onto a specific snare or kick or other instrument transient works much better IMO.

Eagerly following this one, good thread.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
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🎧 10 years
Doing commercial music I have to crank stuff out, play everything and make it feel good.
There are some MPC quantize files I found a long time ago, 8th and 16th note options with or without swing.
I use these for anything midi and only quantize at 80-85%. I don’t use the velocity part of these MPC files.
I use the flam quantize for piano so the gliss playing stays that way.


The controller makes a huge difference too. Dynamic playing, accented and unaccented notes are what really make a groove.
Midi Drums are played on a kat pad so that helps feel. Keys are on a KX88, weighted controller. Adding some sort of live perc loop helps
fill in the cracks and glues the feel together. Can be a shaker or tamb or drum loop with the low end rolled off. Whatever.

Bass and guitars are live no quantizing unless it’s an effect. I play a lot of takes, mostly because it’s the fun part, and comp.
I also play live percussion a lot, and will be tracking drums more now too. Those will be comped takes and then a little quantize as needed, same approach.

This is where I start typically but groove is inside you. You can use tools and grids to get there or not but I really think the dynamics of the part have more to do with it than anything. If you lock a part to the perfect grid of the best groove but play every note at 127 velocity, trust me it’ll suck. It’s the bounce that makes things musical.

I use the midi velocity compressor plugin in Logic to keep the samples in the sweet spot but I’d never flatten out the life in the playing unless it’s a dance kick or something you want overtly consistent. Compressing your midi before you add plugin compression makes a huge difference. You can have a string part stay right in your face or place the piano just below the aggressive velocities for a softer part. This is really more for tone but using it with subtle quantizing is a great trick.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #19
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor View Post


The thing is a band needs a singer and a songwriter - I'm a good singer and songwriter.
If this was about gear I'd come out with the usual "clips or it never happened." But in this case I'll take your word for it.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
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🎧 10 years
This is an issue I've struggled with for years. I'm currently doing a CD project in which I play everything. Fortunately for me, I was a rock band drummer for several decades. So...I've learned to start with the drums which I record while hearing a click track in one ear. Then lock everything to the drums. I'm trying to use James Brown's philosophy that every instrument is a drum. Punch, counter punch, jab jab, punch. Acoustic guitar as a percussion instrument. You get the idea. It's working 10 times better than any other one man band attempts I've made in the past.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
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Ragan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
For me, the composition of the click track is everything. I have naturally tight rhythm and can play several instruments at a pretty high level (that’s not meant as a boast, most of my family are musicians and I've been playing several instruments since I was a little kid and I spent many years in bands and blah blah blah...it’s in my blood) but if I can’t get a really good, properly swinging (or not) click, it’s just so unenjoyable. I used to spend ages agonizing over tempo and layering up the right click for it (I like width and variation in my click tracks, a shaker R, a maraca L, a tambourine hit center, whatever works for a given groove). So I’d track all that stuff and then cut it up and duplicate/loop it. Took absolutely forever but it’s the only way I can really enjoy one-man-banding it.
This plugin made my life soooo much better. I’d rank it in the top few things I’ve ever bought for making music.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #22
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Rob Coates's Avatar
 
19 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I was 18 and playing bass in a band with a drummer who was only three years older but had already played on hits and toured a bunch. He basically told me he liked me as a person and I was a good hang in the van but I had terrible time and I was about to be fired.

So he staged an intervention. He sat me down with some mushrooms, a fat joint, my bass, and a copy of "Corinna, Corinna" by Taj Mahal. And he said, "Come find me when you've figured out why this is great, and why these are top session cats, and show me you can play with it."

One main takeaway from it was to learn to feel the music on a "subdivisions" level. It's not "one, two, three, four." It's "one-ee-and-a, two-ee-and-a..." And when I say "feel" the music I mean literally that. Move with it, get the sway going.

The other insight was that when it comes to playing with pre-recorded players (or a click)... and this is a bit woo-woo... try to be them. Get inside their skin. You play super-tight with them because you are them.

I won't say it was an instant night-and-day transformation on my part. But it sent me in the right direction and I didn't get fired. And it was kind of a win-win-win, actually, because it got me playing better, and simpler, and having more fun.
Great story Brent! Reminds me of how I was humiliated by another member of the first band I started. I was 14 years old and we were doing a sound check. Our keyboard player told me my drumming and timing sucked. Then he said stand out on the floor and I'll show you. He proceeded to play a groove on my drums that was 10 times better than what I could muster. This guy went on to join some pretty big names (Joe Walsh was one) and wrote songs recorded by the likes of Joe Walsh, Ringo, and Eric Clapton, so even back then I guess he knew what he was doing. I was royally pissed off but it also made me very determined to keep improving. I eventually got fired from my own band. Even now, I'm struck with how similar that is to getting dumped by a woman you've loved. Feels about the same.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #23
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
If this was about gear I'd come out with the usual "clips or it never happened." But in this case I'll take your word for it.
I'm not keen on posting clips of finished tracks.

So you'll have to take my word for it - but I did say "good" and not "great" - I have some sense of being humble
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
bjg
Gear Head
 
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
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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dc_r's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I have almost no time for recording music lately but I was wondering the same thing. I also got a Roland electronic drum kit with the idea that learning to play drums would be the easiest way to give my tracks that kind of feel. I got my drums about six years ago and became somewhat ok but I don’t practice much. I’ve been playing guitar for about 33 years... I think there’s this prejudice that drummers are the dumb- in my opinion, the drummers are the most underrated players in in any band. Only when I tried to learn drums did I realise how difficult it is to keep time.

My idea on how to record live drums by myself was to record rhythm guitar to a click track first and then play drums to it. Then quantise a bit, copy and paste the bars that worked and tweak them a bit, and maybe even mix this with software. Another problem I encountered when recording electronic drums is the MIDI latency. I haven’t figured out this completely myself yet.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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🎧 10 years
I think this is like just about anything else in music in that it takes a lot of practice and a lot of failure to get to a point where you can do this and have it come off well. I've been making recordings consisting of just me for twenty years, and for most of these years they tended to suffer from the kinds of problems you're talking about. Having to listen back to your shoddy timing is a valuable piece of experience.

Another thing that made me better at this was gaining some experience as the drummer in a band. I'm primarily a guitarist, but for the past ten years or so, all the playing in bands that I've done has been as a drummer. When you've got a room full of people relying on you to be solid with the rhythm, it helps stop you from cutting corners.

This seems like a good place to drop in this thing that I made late in the summer:
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
Here for the gear
 
I always find the click track to sound better after automating the tempo. Even just random fluctuations of .5-1 BPM can be better than nothing.

Get a sense of what playing ahead of and behind the beat sounds and feels like.

A heavily comped take will often sound better than a heavily edited one.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
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.
It's difficult to feel "groove" and "pocket" when you're tracking alone in headphones to your own self.
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.
Excellent subject to discuss. I do a lots of arrangements for people and I love it. Love el/acc/class guitars, love playing bass and working on bass tracks and keys. Love playing real bongos. The only "The biggest problem with One Man Band production" for me is absence of other musicians. So if a client is willing to pay an extra $50 per hour I would bring sax, violin or piano (I play it too and my hands are properly trained, just not fluent) players.
If this thread is about drums then what I do is create quantized click (don't like the sound of a DAW) which is more human sounding. There are a millions of good drums soft to make a kit sound real. Also one of my clients is a drummer/singer with perfect pitch and he can suggest something like "change that cymbal with just one open hi-hat hit". I do quantize kick or snare or hi-hat but only if tempo of the song is 130 bpm or higher or if it is some stupid stuff a la Billy E. I do drums manually, though sometimes have to deal with drum tracks sent to me from other studios which might be real kit or just grooves already premade. I don't do metal but if I had to I would bring a real guy. I have a few drummers who nail the song with one or two takes, no quantizing needed. I wear headphones only when tracking gtrs/mandolin or singing. What else did I miss?
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_r View Post
I have almost no time for recording music lately but I was wondering the same thing. I also got a Roland electronic drum kit with the idea that learning to play drums would be the easiest way to give my tracks that kind of feel. I got my drums about six years ago and became somewhat ok but I don’t practice much. I’ve been playing guitar for about 33 years... I think there’s this prejudice that drummers are the dumb- in my opinion, the drummers are the most underrated players in in any band. Only when I tried to learn drums did I realise how difficult it is to keep time.

My idea on how to record live drums by myself was to record rhythm guitar to a click track first and then play drums to it. Then quantise a bit, copy and paste the bars that worked and tweak them a bit, and maybe even mix this with software. Another problem I encountered when recording electronic drums is the MIDI latency. I haven’t figured out this completely myself yet.
The secret is to monitor the drum module not the VI you're triggering.

The other secret is to use a Roland V Drum set, the MIDI to drum brain trigger time of their newest models is very, very low and also don't use the USB output use the proper MIDI DIN output.

The third secret is to use an RME interface as their MIDI jitter is sub 1ms.

So listen to the drum brain audio not the VI, use a Roland kit, use an RME MIDI interface and the latency and MIDI jitter will all be sub 1ms.

Then after you have captured the MIDI performance, only then trigger your VI of choice.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Nut
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 started recording.
5) Record Drum, Bass/Scratch GTR, and scratch LV

My goal is to capture a great performance 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 ids 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 on great sounding instruments. Find this, and the rest is simple.
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