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Recording Tricky Guitar Parts


(@rparker)
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Another general,"what does everyone do?" type questions. This one gets down to personal preferences that probably changed as skill levels increased over time. On to the question.

What do you guys do when you're recording tricky guitar tracks. Let's say for argument's sake that this one is 45 seconds long. Do you take the time to learn the entire passage and play it in it's entirety and choose the best one? Do you play several takes, but piece together a best in class track? Do you play one little bit at a time, say 2-4 bars or particular phrases, and go from one to the next without ever playing it from beginning to end? Do you substitute an easier phrase for the more difficult one? Something else?

I've been kind of anal. If I can't play a part and don't want to learn it, I substitute an easier one. I don't mind piecing together a best of breed scenario, but I want to be able to say I can play that whole bit in front of people or even a mirror if forced to ptove I played something. I do relax my stance on non-primary instruments, like keyboards and such. I'm working on a song right now that I needed two bars each of a chord progression using my keyboard. 5-6 chords total. I recorded two bars at a time and made sure no clicks popped through at the section joints.

A related question, is what are your acceptable limits for post tracking editing on your primary instrument?

I'm betting everyone's answers will vary within the same response. Different things for different scenarios. Still, it'd be fun to hear.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@noteboat)
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If I'm recording for my own purposes, I'll do a bunch of takes and pick the best one. So what ends up in the final cut is essentially "live".

But if I'm doing studio work, I know the reality of today's recording scene: what ends up on the final cut will be something I never played. We do fewer takes than we used to 'back in the day' (two to four is typical now; the norm 30 years ago was at least 6-8, and sometimes as many as 20). The producer will take those tracks and cut and splice at will to get the best overall track.

Once that's done, they start really tweaking. I've seen sounds moved in time by thousandths of a second. Amplitudes and even effects get tweaked - sometimes for individual notes. The results end up better than human. Pro Tools is amazing.

I'm not really sure how I feel about that. On the one hand the end results are 'better' - in the sense that they're better than my best, even if they're still all me. On the other hand, I feel more like a tradesman and less like an artist; I'm just there to supply raw materials for a construction effort that's out of my hands. I feel like there was more "soul" in the recording process back in the take-it-til-you-make-it days.

I recognize the necessity of punching in now and then to get rid of a clam. But in a perfect world, I'd like the finished product to be something I actually played as it''ll be heard.

(Related aside: a friend of mine was doing a session in LA working with an award winning engineer. After the track was down, he sat there watching him go through the process of tweaking single notes. He asked how he knew the song was "done". Without batting an eye the engineer gave him the answer - "The guy paying for this runs out of either time or money. Until then, it's not finished.")

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@rparker)
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Very interesting points, Tom.

I'd like to touch on some of these tomorrow as it's getting late for me now, but am curious what - in your eyes - makes Pro Tools so great. Something is either lost on me or I am so taking things for granted due to limited DAW experience. Sometimes I feel that there are dues I've not yet paid. Pro Tools opened up a whole new world for me. :)

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@jwmartin)
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I just finished reading the book "Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album" written by one of the producers of the album. He was talking about recording guitar solos and said that Lindsey Buckingham would play a bunch of ideas and the producer would help piece them together by remembering key phrases and licks. One he mentioned specifically was the ending solo in "Go Your Own Way", Lindsey never played that solo that particular way until after the album was recorded. It's at least 3 different ideas pieced together.

Bass player for Undercover


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(@boxboy)
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I'm a hobby player but I'd never try to lay down something I couldn't more or less play well in one go.
I'm big on punch recording though! My DAW Logic Express does an amazing job of stitching the bits together.
I'm working on a small project now where there's a tricky part that will definitely have to be punched in. I play the whole thing well enough to jam on, but I don't feel it's fluid enough for a recorded version.
But a zillion little punches, like some piece of needlepoint...even if it was technically seamless, something would have to be lost in translation. DAWs often give you a tyranny of choice; sometimes you've got to resist. :)

Don


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(@trguitar)
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I tend to like to do a seamless recording, live beginning to end. Punch Ins arre easier than ever with digital recording although my 4 track studio was very sophisticated for it's time and could do it. I'd be more apt to do complete solos in different takes though. Again, totally amature here.

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


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(@danlasley)
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Roy - what is the scenario? Are you recording a cover and trying to get it "right", or are you recording for an original song?

If you are working on a new song, then using the recording tools to come up with the best phrasing (a la FMac above) makes sense, but then you should be able to replicate your own solo in the future.

If you are trying to mimic a cover song (for a demo?), then just keep your best single pass, and punch in/out any glaring errors if needed.


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(@rparker)
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Roy - what is the scenario? Are you recording a cover and trying to get it "right", or are you recording for an original song?
Different scenarios. Partly why it's kind of open ended, but not fully. The scenario could be a song lengthed guitar part that I find tricky just because O don't play a lot of things like that. A most recent example is the to-the-note playing of the lead rhythm part of Folsom Prison Blues. The alternating bass line thing done on the tele. I can do each piece, but blow it up at a couple of the transitions.

I have yet to decide to use Pro Tools to come up with the best phrasing idea. I'm not that clever yet, musically speaking. (ha, or otherwise for that matter)

I have recorded a whole passage and repaired/replace glaring errors. As I move along in my music journey, I find that the definition of "glaring errors" becomes more and more stringent. I'm more apt to record a bigger section than to do a traditional 1-2 bar punch, though. Getting it natural sounding is a skill that I'm still trying to increase.

Back to the "Folsom Prison Blues" song, I did start to play unti I butchered it, back tracked, started over, played until butchered, back tracked, started from that point, etc, etc. It doesn't sound so bad, but I'd feel like such a phony if I did a whole 2 minutes of guitar tracking like that. Maybe I'll play it and ounch in bad spots......do some of that quilt patchwork thing. Don's right, though.

Jeff's story about the rumours album is one I've heard over and over again. One comes to mind is the sax solo for a popular Foreigner song. The guy played a bunch of sax and the producer and engineer created the solo out of it. TV awards show time or something like that and the guy that did the Sax had to learn it for the show.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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