auto-punch!

well, ain't that a punch in the face...

i just figured out how to do auto-punches, and it sort of saved my ass.

to explain: when you’re recording, there’s this thing you can do called a punch-in. it doesn’t involve punching anyone, though it would be fun if it did. basically, where there’s a part of a performance you want to alter/re-record without having to redo the whole thing, you punch-in at a specific spot, fix whatever needs to be fixed, and then…you…PUNCH OUT. this is some pretty heavy, complicated stuff, people.

anyway. instead of using punch-ins, a lot of people will comp things, especially when it comes to vocals. you record a bunch of different takes, and then edit together your favourite pieces of each to create a conglomeration that becomes the final vocal performance—which isn’t actually a continuous performance at all, but many pieces of different performances pasted together. this is done all the time, by lots of people, from all musical walks of life. chances are most of the music you and i own and/or listen to is full of songs that feature little pieces of different vocal takes spliced together to make one smooth “performance”…unless it was recorded long ago, before the advent of things like pitch correction software, when you had to actually have some amount of talent in order to get a recording contract, and once you did, you wouldn’t just spend most of your time making music videos that were glorified phone sex commercials. yeah. those were the days. i wasn’t even a fetus then, but they sure were good times.

me, i can’t be bothered with that comping shit. it’s too time-consuming and seems a bit ridiculous to me, though i understand why most people choose to do it and i can respect that way of working. it just doesn’t fit in with the way i work. i’d rather record continuous performances, and if they don’t work out, start from the beginning and try again. but sometimes there’s just a little flub or something that needs to be fixed, and that’s where punching in comes into play. i mean, i’m all for keeping mistakes intact, and i think i’ll always do that whole “first or second take, rough edges remain” thing to keep things from ever getting too comfortable, but sometimes something is just too ugly and needs to be replaced with something…less ugly. i generally record vocals close enough to the mixer so that if punch-ins are necessary, they can be done easily and quickly.

punching in and out becomes more complicated when it comes to things like drums and piano. i have to walk a good ten feet or more from the mixer after hitting the record button to get to those instruments, so if i botch a drum fill or a piano part, it usually means having to re-record the whole performance from the beginning.  i could probably rig something up with a foot pedal to operate as a start/stop button, but that still wouldn’t completely solve the problem. in most cases it isn’t a problem anyway…simply walk over to the mixer, start again, erase what i just did and hope the next pass is better. if after a few tries it just isn’t happening, the song is toast, and i eat it after spreading the appropriate amount of jam.

something i seem to do a lot of lately is taking a song that doesn’t feature piano as the main instrument, and improvising piano on top of it to see what happens, without bothering to figure out what i’m going to do beforehand—basically the same approach i’ve been taking behind the drums. i blame having a real piano for this. i just want to throw that thing in every crevice i can. for one song called “molly, go home”, everything was fine up until about the six minute mark, and then i hit some ugly notes. i realized i wouldn’t be able to recapture what i had done if i just tried it all again, because i was improvising everything i played. i also couldn’t run over to the piano after hitting record quickly enough to do a punch-in and only re-record from the beginning of the ugliness, because i had about half a second of dead space to work with in the area where i would punch it in. it didn’t look good, until i remembered recording my parts for tara’s album at eric’s place, and how easy my life was made by being able to play back a bit of the song before the punch-in began, having it only start recording my track at a specific point when i was adequately prepared. i figured this wasn’t something i could do, since i don’t work with recording software, but as fate would have it the trusty old VS-1680 is also capable of the magical thing that is auto-punch. it’s not just an obsolete pretty face. it does tricks! i set the time i wanted recording to start and end at, specified the tracks i wanted to record on, gave myself a good twenty seconds of lead-in time, and it only started recording at the place i had designated. i was able to keep the first six minutes intact, and get rid of the ugliness i had created thereafter, replacing it with playing that was less ugly, all while being able to walk over to the piano instead of running like a man with weak bladder syndrome trying to avert disaster.

this isn’t a feature i’ll use often, because i don’t often work that way (i prefer performances that are continuous, warts and all), but it’s good to know i can do this sort of thing if and when it can save me some time and foul-mouthed ranting. so hooray for auto-punch. you is my friend.

i have two songs i still need to record for this new album, two songs that need to be tweaked and mixed, and then if my sequencing ideas and the packaging side of things work out, the album should be finished. i aim to get that done this week. so, theoretically, if all goes according to plan, you should be able to hold it in your hands and use it as a weapon sometime next week. not that you could really do much damage with the cd, but you could at least inflict a scratch or two. be prepared, though—it’s going to be a shorter album. looks like it’ll only have about twelve or thirteen songs on it, and the running time will only work out to about an hour. i guess that isn’t a very short album in the grand scheme of things, but by my recent standards it’s a little on the lean side. oddly enough, i think it covers more ground than any of the last few albums that featured twice as many songs, and it kind of redefines/messes with my sonic landscape to some extent (though not nearly as savagely as i plan on messing with it in the future). i’m not sure it’s my achtung baby exactly, and i haven’t suddenly turned into a proper/groundbreaking “producer” or anything…but it’s definitely got some things on it that are very much new and uncharted territory for me. it’s an odd summer album. it’ll be interesting to see how people react to it.

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