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4 tips to save your ass in any recording session.

February 22, 2012

With every session I do, I always learn something. Whether that be a new mic/mic placement which sounded really good or to do something in the next session to improve it further. I always find with sessions you can never over-prepare, there’s always something that’ll happen which hinders the session. Now, here’s four tips that I think are things which’ll save your ass in any session.

Tip 1: Make composites of ALL your tracks

Composites, or playlists as they’re known in Pro Tools, are just a way to create multiple takes on audio tracks. Effectively, all the takes you record are under a “drop-down bar” if you like, which has every take you just did on that audio track. You create another playlist for another take you’re about to record. These are incredibly helpful when recording, if you don’t do this in Pro Tools and record multiple takes on top of each other, it can be a bit of a nightmare trying to find “that take which had that great fill in”, or that “vocal line which was sung differently” in the regions list.

To create a playlist in Pro Tools, click on the drop down arrow next to the track name in the edit window and select “New” this will tell you to give the new playlist a name, so give it an appropriate title like “vocal take 2”. To view all the additional takes you did, click on “playlists” on the track in the edit window where the word “waveform” is. Once the musician has finished all their takes, create one more playlist and call it “vocal comp” or “guitar comp” (or whatever the instrument is). You can then splice between the different takes and use the upward arrow on each playlist to shift it to the final composite track. Tidy these up by adding crossfades and consolidate the audio by going to the edit tab and “consolidate clip” or click shift+alt+3 when the whole region is highlighted.

**To make composites for drum tracks, select all your drums and hit Command+G or Ctrl+G to group your tracks, then do exactly the same thing. This also applies to any source which has multiple mics being used.

Tip 2: Always check your tuning

It seems obvious, but typically engineers will let guitarists record all their guitar tracks with the one standard tune up before they record their parts. Guitars gradually go out of tune, especially with a new set of strings on. Tune up after EVERY take you do to ensure that your whole track is in tune. This’ll save a lot of heartache when the band have finished recording and their guitars are out of tune in certain sections and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Tip 3: DI your guitar tracks

By DI’ing your guitar tracks, you’re able to use this as a plan B if the tracks you recorded in the session weren’t good enough. If you’re a home studio owner, you’re not going to have an extensive backline. This often means you rely on bands to come in with their own gear. If you try and make the best out of a bad situation and the sound still isn’t useable, you’re able to take the DI recording you did and reamp it through a better amplifier later. That’s just saved you having to put up with a poor guitar tone.

Tip 4: Record onto an external drive

Recording onto an external drive takes the strain of dealing with all the routing you’re doing with your interface and DAW and just means that all those large audio files are put into a place separate from the main operating system. Your computer can focus on the recording side and look nice, and the external drive can focus on those large audio files which your computer might stress out over if you’re doing a lot of tasks on one machine. This means your computer is less likely to crash during that perfect take.

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