Academy Dashboard Forum Production Recording Techniques singer/acoustic gtr tracking with inexperienced artist

  • This topic has 11 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by Jim Gahagan.
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      Perhaps one of you all can offer some advice. I tracked a singer/songwriter last weekend who is young and had never recorded before and never has played to a click. We tried the click but it wasn't working for her. I then had her track the acoustic first and then overdub the VOX. 3 of the 4 songs turned out fairly well timing wise, but one didn't as the timing changes were too numerous and varied. I had no interest in spending all day lining everything up so we are going to re-track this weekend.

      The question is: Should i forego the flexibility of having clean-no bleed tracks recording seperately (with more mixing options) or would it be best to track her singing and playing together and sacrifice the mix options?

      I had great success with the other 3 tracks using a mid/side technique which was awesome to automate through the mix and would lose that by tracking together.

      What techniques do you guys use when tracking an inexperience artist who doesn't play to a click?


        I'm looking forward to what the pros here have to say, but as a long time bass player I know that timing is everything. The problem is that playing to a click is really a crutch. A trick I learned from Steve Bryant who I think got it from Carol Kaye is to set the click to the 2 and 4 so that you can feel the down beat and 3 on your own. Have her practice like that for a week before your next session and I'll bet you see a big improvement.


          I'm not a pro, but I think performance is everything. Especially with inexperienced singers, I’ll try to make them as comfortable and be as accommodating as possible so they will focus on their performance and not the studio. Mixing a good performance is always easier.
          Here is an useful Sound on Sound article on the subject.


            Ha! +1 on "performance is everything". Can't argue with that, but to go a little deeper, don't you think that great performances are a product of great timing (among many other things of course)? And I don't mean locked to the beat like a machine, rather having a good sense of timing/feel that a musician develops through practice and performing with others that have good timing. I rather encourage the artist to spend some time practicing the song and getting the timing sussed out instead of trying to force it in the studio. With that said, I've done a few things in a pinch for newbies to the click. Replace the click with a drum machine with kick and snare, and maybe a little hi-hat. I've found that to be a bit more natural to listen for some. Be sure to mute the drum machine during playback to check the artist's timing. Also, I'll sometimes play my bass along with them, but have to be careful not to push my feel on to them.


              ...don’t you think that great performances are a product of great timing (among many other things of course)?

              Usually yes, but tempo-changes can also add to the dramatic impact of the song. Looking at the various graphs of classic rock songs: tighter isn’t necessarily better.

              I did a scratch remix for “She is so beautiful” by The Waterboys and by adding the drumtrack you can clearly notice the various tempo-changes in the 2:30-3:30m range of the song. The speeding up and down wasn’t so noticeable in the original track without the drums, and doesn’t distract me. I doubt a click-track during the recording of that track would have been made it better.

              I like the idea of playing bass along with an inexperienced performer, to help them with their timing.


                Oh no, I think there's a misunderstanding. I'm not saying you have to play precisely to a click or that you can't have tempo changes. Tempo changes can add a cool vibe to a song (e.g. raise the bpm in the choruses). Hmm, I guess I'm not explaining it right, but by great timing I mean that the musician feels where the beats are and can consciously or subconsciously play around that beat. And make it sound good and natural and musical.
                For an inexperienced musician that is having timing issues and the click still doesn't help, they just need to practice some more to sort it out. They can start by practicing to a click outside the recording studio to get used to it. Start with click on every beat and then remove click on beats 1 & 3, so they can really tighten up. If the song has specific tempo changes maybe plot it out in your DAW and bounce them an mp3 of it.
                After practicing like that for a few days or week they'll have much better timing and may possibly not use a click during recording. This is info that I learned from some serious session players which has worked for me, and hopefully it'll help others out there struggling with this.
                Cool stuff on the graphs of classic rock songs! I'll take a listen to your remix later tonight. Thanks!


                  Thanks for all of the great advice. I'll try these out tomorrow. Cheers

                  Warren Huart

                    Great question regarding playing to a click! Here's the number tip I learned about teaching people to play to a click. Identify what they are doing are they 1) playing a head of it or 2) playing behind? If they are ahead of it, slow it down slightly so the artist is having to work even harder, just a beat then bring it back up 1 after a couple of clicks. Then do the opposite if they are too far behind, speed it up 1 click for a couple of takes then bring it back down. Do not tell them! Haha They will improve the feel and they most importantly will gain confidence!! Also try using shakers and tambourines. Great drummers like Victor Indrizzo and Matt Chamberlain will play a tambo or shaker part against a click so it feels just a little random, not specifically in time but also in velocity because nothing feels as bad and a rigid sound as well as a rigid tempo! Have a marvellous time recording and mixing, Many thanks Warren


                      Those graphs are great !

                      Great advice all round too - I like to play to a drum track rather than a traditional click as I find you don't have to "listen" so hard to be on time.

                      Andy Robinson

                        I had the same problem. I recorded both playing and singing to keep all the feel an intimacy.

                        When we had finished tracking I got ProTools to follow the song tempo allowing me to edit on the grid and keep everything locked in time to the song.

                        It's worth a go 🙂


                          Check this out! I really like what Peter says about how a lot of music made today is shaped by the click track. The tempo detection sounds like a great way to let musician track without a click and then later allow overlaying a tempo map automatically for easy editing.


                          Jim Gahagan

                            I had my friend who I have been recording doesn't use or like click tracks. and I tried to add the click and he quickly realized just how off he was. and everybody told him he had great timing..... sure with other people playing. lol

                            I asked him to give it a whirl for awhile and try to practice with it.

                            Also have you tried on the more simple songs using something else other than a "click"? like track with just a hihat or a bass drum for a tempo. most DAW's I think allow you to change out the sample.


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