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(Why) Are we more picky with takes these days? Studio Headphones
Old 31st August 2007
  #1
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Eldhrimnir's Avatar
(Why) Are we more picky with takes these days?

Hi!
I hope this matter and these examples aren't old news, but anyway..bear with me.
In the last couple of weeks I've noticed some very obvious performance mistakes in some really huge hit songs out there. I guess there's thousands more, but these three made me thinking.
Listen to the piano in the beginning of Toto's Hold the Line, just after the drums come in; a very clear mistake with the wrong key being hit.
And listen to Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love by Van Halen. The main riff's got a terrible mistake just a few seconds into the song.
Also, the drums on Sweet Child of Mine starts out with hi hats, when it's clearly intended to be ride, which Steven Adler suddenly realizes and switches to ride after a few beats.
All these might seem like small flaws, but still, mistakes nevertheless.
How come they decided to keep these takes at all? I myself would never, ever in my life keep an obvious mistake like these. I could understand it if the takes had the "ultimate feel", but these three excerpts aint' got much to do with feel at all; just plain mistakes that would've been easy to re-record from the top.
Still, these songs have sold several million copies worldwide, so the performance flaws clearly has nothing to do with sales.
Are we biting our own ass by being so ridiculously picky with "the perfect take" these days? At the end of the day, does it really matter? The song as a whole is what really makes the difference. People (I mean, ordinary people), hears what the THINK they hear, and what they're SUPPOSED to hear, not the tiny little notes or hits that are wrong, off or out of tune.
What do you guys think about this? What's the reason for the immense pickiness in recent years (other than the cut-and-paste aid of the digital domain)?

/Daniel Beckman
Old 31st August 2007
  #2
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

The tunes you mention are all recorded to tape and that means more focus on the overall picture and less attention to tiny details.

Beeing picky about getting a good performance is a good thing. What worries me is the way a lot of people are doing it. Just record something, spend a couple of minutes on it. Then spend five hours editing the poor performance trying to make it useable. Then spend another five hours with every plugin known to man trying to make the bad recording sound useable.

Ridiculous attention to detail, over editing, obsessive tuning etc is a big problem to the music industry as a whole. Editing to a point where it doesn't matter. Painting a million perfect leaves on a tree without asking yourself if it's a good idea to have a picture of a tree in the first place.

Grid perfected, over compressed music lacks human feel and primitive energy. A big reason why kids are discovering older music.

We are way too picky editing stuff, not recording it.

´Coz we can.
Old 31st August 2007
  #3
CKK
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Well, you could go all the way back to the first Elvis or Beatles recordings to find BIG flaws in the recordings - guitars out of tune, bad bad timing etc.

Try to listen close to Pinks rather new tune Who Knew and you will hear breathing and mouth pops where there are no vocals. These "flaws" could easily have been cut out - but wasnt. So this happens today too - agreed on a much smaller scale - but it happens.

I always try to keep as much of the humanity in the recordings I'm involved in. But its sometimes a struggle to convince the client to keep a take thats less than brilliant now a days, when its soooo easy to correct the faults re-recording, autotuning, copy-pasting or quantize the whole ****. In the good old tape days it could be a hazzle and very time consuming to correct minor faults, and as you know time is money.

Blame technology hehheh
Old 31st August 2007
  #4
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fwiw i look at "perfection" in performance (and editing) simply as a modern technique. like a tool available that's "in style" . . .
Old 31st August 2007
  #5
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It's done because it can be done.

Classical music has had this debate for a long time too. If a recording had an edit in it, was it still a "true" performance of the material? Over time that debate has subsided somewhat as the technology has gotten more and more powerful and more and more artists started using it. Glenn Gould was one of the pioneers of this way of thinking, fwiw.

As for rock recordings and the search for perfection, of all the things you mentioned the placing of drums on a grid strikes me as the most bizarre. I can understand for certain dance music why you would want the kick right on the 1 or something, but for rock and other styles it seems odd to want to change the timing of the drums. This would sound less musical and less good, one would think.
Old 31st August 2007
  #6
Humans make mistakes. Machines don't.

At least you know it isn't a sample.

Jim Williams
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Old 31st August 2007
  #7
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The ****tier the music the more picky I get.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's no joke. When things are rockin' and groovin' and we're all into it - I have to be carefull and put on my "cold bastard hat" to make sure we're not missing something that might annoy us later.
Old 31st August 2007
  #8
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
´Coz we can.
Yes we can. And so we strive for perfect timing, perfect tone, perfect pitch....that elusive perfect take, sometimes forgetting in that process that in the end....as in the beginning....

It's really just music.

Get it on.....bang a gong.
Old 31st August 2007
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eldhrimnir View Post
Are we biting our own ass by being so ridiculously picky with "the perfect take" these days?
/Daniel Beckman
Yes

I worked a while back with some extreme fussbudget Emo timing fascists, they thought I was completely insane OK'ing 'feel' based takes, I thought they were totally insane trying to copy their beloved emo CD collection EXACTLY right down to every last generic tone, Beat detectived, Sound Replaced, sterile second.

HUGE expectation clash for that session, I would have to say though, that I made a huge mistake in the initial meetings by not picking up what they meant by 'could you get us to sound close to this CD' ? ... As what they really meant was if we dont sound exactly like this CD we will walk around depressed looking like someone has just shot our dog.

as I left them (they were so ridiculously over fussy there was no way my planned studio schedule was going to work and they ran out of time very quickly...) they were wondering how much PT HD was (I think a recent inheritance was funding the sessions...)

They had an AMAZING drummer too!



In the end they skanked me for about $800 of my bill, I didn't lose sleep over it... the whole thing was an extremely bad producer / band mismatch... they carried on producing it themselves...

Oh well...

Last word... You know..? If these cookie cutter bands turned up at the studio on day 1 having done research into how the bands they want to copy GOT their sounds (you know like same snare drums, note of drum tuning and cymbals, guitars & amps etc) it might make the process almost bearable... but most wannabe's haven't done that research. They turn up with what they got and somehow you as Mr Photocopy producer - are supposed to feed their **** into the machine and get some other bands sound coming out at the other end...Crazy..
Old 31st August 2007
  #10
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FossilTooth's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kats View Post
The ****tier the music the more picky I get.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's no joke. When things are rockin' and groovin' and we're all into it - I have to be carefull and put on my "cold bastard hat" to make sure we're not missing something that might annoy us later.
Exactly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
T

Being picky about getting a good performance is a good thing. What worries me is the way a lot of people are doing it. Just record something, spend a couple of minutes on it. Then spend five hours editing the poor performance trying to make it useable. Then spend another five hours with every plugin known to man trying to make the bad recording sound useable.

We are way too picky editing stuff, not recording it.
Well, I was going to say: "Hey that sounds like me when I was getting started".

But then I realized: "That sounds like me everytime I have to work with a really terrible band".

We do these things because we have to. More and more, players who are essentially non-musicians are coming into the studio demanding that their recordings that sound commercially viable, even if their playing, writing and arrangements aren't.

Have you ever tried to make a bad drummer sound good?

Have you ever tried to make an awful guitar tone sound good in the mix, because the guitar player refused to change it during tracking?

Have you ever slaved over something you knew you couldn't salvage, for the sake of your own ego? Most of us have.

As there always have been, there are bands out there who think that "rehearsing" means playing the same songs again and again, the same way, not really making adjustments based on their ears, hoping to magically learn to "tighten up" by endless repetition of the same mistakes.

The only difference is that each one of them is recording an entire LP's worth of material.
Old 31st August 2007
  #11
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FossilTooth's Avatar
 

Alternate Answer:

Music that is over-limited, locked to the grid and lacking in nuance, sounds much more immediately impressive to the average listener, even if that production style is less likely to inspire repeat listening.

Singles and first impressions sell records.
Old 31st August 2007
  #12
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
The tunes you mention are all recorded to tape and that means more focus on the overall picture and less attention to tiny details.

Beeing picky about getting a good performance is a good thing. What worries me is the way a lot of people are doing it. Just record something, spend a couple of minutes on it. Then spend five hours editing the poor performance trying to make it useable. Then spend another five hours with every plugin known to man trying to make the bad recording sound useable.

Ridiculous attention to detail, over editing, obsessive tuning etc is a big problem to the music industry as a whole. Editing to a point where it doesn't matter. Painting a million perfect leaves on a tree without asking yourself if it's a good idea to have a picture of a tree in the first place.

Grid perfected, over compressed music lacks human feel and primitive energy. A big reason why kids are discovering older music.

We are way too picky editing stuff, not recording it.

´Coz we can.
It comes down to the people running the show. And how much money there is to make the record. And time. I totally am not buying the 'because it went to tape' argument. The history of recorded music is littered with perfectionists, only instead of sitting in front of a computer screen, there was a singer or a player [or players] out in the room for hours at a time, a producer dictating what he/she wanted, and an engineer doing the punches. I watched Mike Landau do an 8 bar guitar solo for 7 hours one day, because the producer was being incredibly picky about every nuance. I've seen singers punching in one line for an hour because the producer was not getting what he wanted. And then if the engineer lost focus and screwed up the punch, it turned into a big nightmare. I've seen people taking sliver edits out of 2" tape right up until we printed [yes, including the timecode track] to get the feel where they wanted it. The drums were a loop on 'Stayin' Alive' because they wanted a perfect, even feel throughout the whole song. There was a time when people measured the distance between snares with a yardstick to make sure they were all exactly even and would edit them until they were right. And then there is that whole idea of getting the drums first [getting them 'perfect], and then the bass, then the guitars, etc., etc...

It comes down to the person making the decisions, not the recording medium. Plain and simple.

Just remember, it's not the arrow it's the Indian...

Cheers,
John
Old 31st August 2007
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules View Post
I worked a while back with some extreme fussbudget Emo timing fascists,
Odd... somehow that strikes me as being the exact opposite of what Emo is supposed to be about...
Old 31st August 2007
  #14
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Riddler's Avatar
 

In 'Hold the Line' the lead guitar tone completely changes in the first phrase of the 2nd chorus! I find it awesome hearing those mistakes!

I've been forced to delete amazing takes in the past because of some tiny little mistake. It's sometimes very difficult to get artists to see the bigger picture as they'll inevitably end up with a take that is techincally perfect but just won't sit against the other instruments.

Tim.
Old 31st August 2007
  #15
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well.... white stripes ? arctic monkeys ?....

i was lofi my whole life... heh

track 12 takes then comp all parts with mistakes into one perfect mistake take .... now that WILL stand out for sure !

imo the problem is fear not the technology and as someones mentioned not being able to hear the big picture.

that takes knowledge and experience.

now im off to edit someone else drumtracks to non belivable perfection
Old 31st August 2007
  #16
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rodge's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornutt View Post
Odd... somehow that strikes me as being the exact opposite of what Emo is supposed to be about...
this kind of emo im thinking...

myspace.com/maydayparade
Old 1st September 2007
  #17
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Unclenny's Avatar
You know...after reading all of this I'm realizing that, while emotional and organic takes are all over the music that has shaped me, there is a real reason why they made it to tape....a reason why some players spend hours on a solo and others get the perfect take before they even realize it, mistakes and all.

Production....a Producer.......somebody with some perspective either let these muso's do their thing or made them do their thing.
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