TCM MASTERING: HOME MUSIC STUDIO PART 35 – MUSIC EDITING

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 35 Music Editing

So far the TCM Mastering Home Music Studio series has covered room setup,  gear purchase, microphone techniques, how to record various instruments, signal processing and has now reached the multitrack process itself, which today is at the heart of many music recordings. We’ve discussed the recording and overdubbing stages. Last week we considered the different editing functions…..copy, paste, cut, delete, erase and insert. This week we’ll look at the ‘how to’ of editing, using digital technology.

Multitrack Tape Being Lined Up for Editing.

If you still use analog tape, you’ll know that it takes time to acquire the skills of editing. Partly because the physical act of handling and cutting the tape will eventually result in the degradation of the audio if lots of edits are made. So getting it right first time is important.

If any of you are interested in how tape was edited, click here for an article which explains the process. The only thing I’d add to this article is that multitrack tape was indeed edited, despite what the article says. Other than that it explains the technique very well.

Whilst we’re on the subject of tape editing…..those of you who are Doctor Who fans (and I know there are many, both here in the UK and in the USA), may find this video of interest.

As a music editor in my first job, even if I made a great sounding edit, a client could ask me to try an alternative edit. Which meant pulling apart the tape at the splice, re-inserting the edited out section and cutting the tape again. It could get quite messy!

Digital editing allows you to make several attempts to get an edit right without harming the original audio. Consequently, you can experiment and try different versions of songs until you get the desired result.

Most systems have an ‘Undo’ function. Some early or basic systems may only provide you with one level of undoing an edit. But today’s top programmes usually give you several levels of undo. Which means you can try a complicated sequence of edits to achieve the desired result and if you don’t like what you hear, you can undo your edits to the position prior to editing. It’s also worth mentioning that if you used the Undo function by mistake, you can ‘Redo’ to reverse the Undo.

Some digital systems allow you to edit either aurally or visually. That is by either listening to the audio or looking at the waveform of the audio. I recommend systems that use a combination of both.

When editing an analog tape, the editor ‘rocks’ the tape back and forth over the playback head of the tape machine, so that he/she can hear and determine the exact point to mark and cut the tape. A similar technique has been adopted in many digital systems.

Pro Tools Scrubber Tool – Loudspeaker Icon.

For example, Pro Tools uses this technique and employs a tool which allows you to rock back and forth (or ‘scrub’ as it is termed) over the audio section you want to edit.

With the waveform visible on the edit page – as you scrub, you will hear the audio. Moving the scrubber tool from left to right will play the audio forward, from right to left will play it in reverse. The speed with which you drag your mouse will determine how fast and at what pitch the audio is delivered.You can also zoom into the waveform graphic which allows greater accuracy when trying to find a specific point in the audio.

With practice, you’ll identify the correct point to edit. It will take a little time, but eventually you will be able to listen to a piece of audio and look at a waveform and know exactly where a particular sound starts and ends.

Pro Tools Scrubber Tool – Scrubbed Left To Right Plays Audio Forward, Right To Left Reverse.

Once you have found the right point in your audio, you can either trim the audio from the front or the end to the edit point. Or you can make a ‘cut’ at the edit point. Then find your next cut or edit point which then allows you to remove the unwanted section or region (as it is termed in Pro Tools), or copy it to paste somewhere else in your song.

And remember, in Pro Tools and most other top systems this editing process is non-destructive. You can always go back to your original audio file and start again.

Reminder: We use Pro Tools in a lot of our examples because it is a very sophisticated system, reasonably priced and popular with many world-class studios and musicians.

Logic Pro – The Scissor Tool Allows You To Scrub Then Cut Audio.

Scrubbing works slightly different in other systems, but the principle is basically the same. And in some Studio-In-A-Box systems, editing functions can be quite basic or non-existent. So, if you think editing is an important feature for you, choose your system carefully.

If you are still deciding on which system to buy, these features and others are worth playing with, before you purchase.

Pro Tools is very popular for obvious reasons, but it’s not for everyone.

Let’s look at a couple of examples where editing is useful…..

Pro Tools Edit Page – Showing 8 Drum Hits.

Example #1 – The picture above shows 8 kick drum hits. Note how each hit is quite distinct from the next. If, for example, one of the drum hits had an annoying squeak from the pedal, it would be easy to edit out the offending hit and replace it with a good hit.

A Closer Look At The Drum Hits, With One Good Hit Highlighted.

All we’d have to do is isolate/highlight a good drum hit. Copy it and paste it over the bad hit in the right position.

We’d do this by scrubbing  to find the very beginning of a good hit. Then make an edit point. Scrub to find the end of the good drum hit. Make another edit point. Highlight/select the edited, good region (see the picture above). Copy it – this places the good drum hit in the clipboard. Then find the exact start point of the bad hit. Make an edit point and paste the good hit at that point. This would cover the bad hit with the good whilst also leaving the good hit in its original position.

Of course, after you have finished an edit, always listen to it. If the timing is not quite right, you can nudge the region earlier or later until it sounds like it’s placed in the right position for the song’s tempo.

Pro Tools Smart Tool (In Blue) Consists Of The Trimmer, Cursor And Grabber Tools. To The Left Of The Smart Tool Is The Zoom Tool, To The Right Are The Scrubber And Pencil Tools.

You may still hear a portion of the bad drum hit, if its physical length is greater than the good hit. If that’s the case, in Pro Tools you can extend the good hit to cover the bad hit by pulling out the front or end of the copy/pasted file until the bad hit is completely covered, using the trimmer in the smart tool.

Example #2 – When vocals are recorded, an explosive pop can sometimes be heard on some hard consonants like ‘P’ or ‘B’. You could re-record the vocal in the hope that the singer would correct the problem.

Alternatively, if the mistake is noticed after the singer has left the session, you may have to try to fix the pop by editing it out or using signal processing.

The first picture below shows a magnified, waveform graphic of a ‘P’ popping at the beginning of the word PIECE. Pictures two and three, show the ‘pop’ part of the ‘P’ highlighted. It can then be edited out and a very quick fade-in applied to the remaining word. Or, gain reduction can be applied to minimize the audible pop to acceptable limits.

The High, Narrow Peak At The Left Of The Waveform Is An Explosive ‘P’ At The Beginning Of The Word PIECE.

The Picture On The Left Shows The Pop Of The ‘P’ Highlighted. This Can Be Cut Out And A Quick Fade-In Applied To The Remaining Word. Or The ‘P’ Can Have Gain Reduction Applied (Shown On The Right), Which Should Lessen The Audible Pop To Acceptable Limits.

With digital editing technology, you can literally perform microsurgery on your music – editing out the smallest click or ‘pop’.

Next week we’ll conclude our look at the editing stage by considering the use of some signal processors as editing tools. And we’ll discuss how editing can be much more than a tool for fixing problems.

We’ve been getting some great comments and feedback for the blog series, so thanks to those of you who contact us. If there’s a topic which you’d like us to cover, have any questions about the blog series so far, or any queries about the whole recording/mixing process – get in touch, by clicking here.

Do you have a project that needs a session musician, producing, mixing or mastering? – TCM Music Group are offering some really incredible recording and online mastering packages.

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