The Official KSAND Kent Sandvik Web Site

Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

Musical Precision

Posted on | October 20, 2008 | 2 Comments

cessna-cockpit-panel-005.jpgOne of the most hard things for me now when doing more music related to real instruments, guitar et rest, is that I got so used to precision based music when dealing mostly in the electronic world. With this I mean all the quantization and other tools one could use, arpeggiators et rest, that produce precision timing concerning playing music. Even if I do play the keyboard parts using all my five or ten fingers, it was always so handy to adjust and fix obvious mistakes. With a swing factor it even sounded human.

Not so when dealing with electric guitars and bass guitars. You need to really play well. Now, there are indeed tools to fix that, as well, such as going in and do precision edits inside Logic to move wave sections around. I suspect that’s what most sound engineers in the studio are doing all day long, cheaper than asking a musician to do retakes over and over. Not that really, really good studio musicians could nail down tracks in one take — especially those in Nashville.

But it is also the issue of sounding natural, precision-edited guitars get to a point where they sound artificial, sampled-triggered and so forth. There’s a balance in all this.

The other big factor for me is that I’m so used to hearing precision-based performances from the electronic world, so it means hearing less precise work is tough. I think I should hear more DeerHoof to get rid of that feeling. It’s extremely tough to sound super-precise when recording guitars. Maybe for four beats and you copy this all over, but then it sounds artificial, as well… There’s something neat about playing a track from beginning to end — in one take.

What do you think? Is it Ok to really do extensive edits to make natural instruments fit the pocket 100%? Or is this just another form of cheating, hard to replicate this on stage if the chops are missing? Do the consumers even care anymore?


2 Responses to “Musical Precision”

  1. Trey Gunn
    October 21st, 2008 @ 12:51 PM

    I think it’s OK to “fix” anything you want.

    Although, in my view “fixing” just means creating the illusion that the musicians really played together. Because all good timing is about playing together. It isn’t about lining up with a click track.

    Listen to The Roots, or Curtis Mayfield and you’ll hear some incredibly “off the metronome” playing. Do they play together? Yes. Does it groove? Hell Yes!

    Listen to The Beatles for their alignment to an arbitrary gird and you will be shocked. Do you hear music despite that? I do, unless I stop listening to the music and start listening for the alignment.

    I realize you may be referring more to material whose embryo began with a grid. So you are going to have a whole lot more “fixing” to do with even some of the best players. Nothing wrong with that.

    If is sounds bad, then it is bad.
    If is sounds good, then it is good.



  2. Kent Sandvik
    October 21st, 2008 @ 1:16 PM

    Yep. My dilemma is that I’m so used to hear everything lined up in grids so doing mostly electronic music until now has made me sensitive to timing. Even with music by Jimi Hendrix, sigh. Another curse of computer-based music.

    Another example of a drum-machine based song that is totally out of whack — but swings like crazy — is Prince’s Kiss. Not to speak of “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. But that’s where Prince is actually drumming.

    So just now I’m therapy-mode to learn to appreciate and play music without listening to note alignments…

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