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January 27, 2021

Jacquire King listening to the groove while tracking a band

In the video “Start To Finish Series Ft. Jacquire King - Episode 7: Recording The Band And Bass Overdubs,” the setup and preproduction are over. It’s now time for the guys in Oak and Ash to head into the live room of the Dangerous Room at Flux Studios in New York to record a “keeper” take for the song “Keep The Light On.”

This and That

Because they’re going to be tracking to a click, Jacquire knows that he doesn’t have to get one perfect take all the way through—although that would be optimal. He has the option to mix and match sections from different takes into a single comped version.

After the band is done tracking, Jacquire listens and decides that take two is the overall best. He’ll use it as the “master.” But after listening again and consulting with the band, he decides to use the last chorus and outro from take four in place of those same sections in take two.

After the engineer makes the edit in Pro Tools, and they listen, Jacquire changes the starting point of the edit to a little further back in take four to make the transition more seamless. (Engineering tip: make sure you have the “All Group” on in Pro Tools—or the equivalent in your DAW—for global edits like this. It’s critical that any edits you make affect all the tracks or you could accidentally end up with some out of sync. Also make sure to switch to Grid Mode.)

The highlighted section, from take four, is being pasted onto take two to make a comp for the final version.

Together or Not

It’s the producer’s job to coax the best performance from a band. One of the big decisions that he or she must make in advance of a session is whether or not the band will record “live in the studio.” Successfully conducting a tracking session where the whole band is playing together—like Oak and Ash do in the video (albeit with vocals overdubbed later)—is tricky because of the bleed issue.

Unless you’re in a professional studio like Flux, which has the ability to isolate amps or drum kits in separate spaces, you’re likely to end up with a fair amount of bleed between the mics for the various instruments, which makes mixing more difficult.

Guitarist/vocalist Rich Tuorto (left) and bassist Paul Gramigna (right) of Oak and Ash as the band is recording “Keep The Light On.”

But if you can isolate enough, or put up with the bleed, recording the band playing together is likely to yield better results from a performance standpoint. That is, as compared to a more layered approach where you record, say, just the drums, bass and guitar and overdub everything else.

When everyone plays together, they’re more likely to groove with each other. In other words, they’re listening to each other and locking into each other’s parts.

Clickety Clack

Another decision for the producer is whether or not to use a click track. There are myriad advantages to recording to a click, but some musicians feel constrained by it. It’s a very different experience, rhythmically, from a live performance where a band’s tempo can fluctuate naturally within a song. A click is unforgiving, and the musicians not only need to lock to each other but to the click, as well.

Even musicians who are used to recording to a click will sometimes inadvertently “push or pull” against it. Pushing is rushing ahead of the click, while pulling is dragging behind it. The excitement and tension of being in the studio can lead to those tempo fluctuations, particularly pushing.

Sometimes a drummer might even rush a fill. While that can sometimes add excitement to a song, if he or she lands (ends) the fill too far from the beat it will throw everyone else off.

If everyone is pushing or pulling the same way at the same time, you may still end up with a good take. But if some are pushing while others are pulling, it can sound like a rhythmic mess. The producer has to pay careful attention to whether various takes are grooving (aka “in the pocket”) or could be improved upon.

This screenshot shows bass and drums that are not locked in. The drummer (blue) is consistently ahead of the beat and the bassist (purple) is mostly behind it.

On Cue

The monitor mix is one of the key factors in whether the session will yield optimal performances from the musicians. Everyone recording needs to hear each other well enough to interact rhythmically (aka “groove” with each other). They also need to be able to hear enough of the click to stay with it.

Many commercial studios have headphone systems with breakout boxes that allow each musician to set their own mix. Those devices are beneficial in many ways but also have a downside. Most musicians and singers will turn themselves up excessively in relation to the rest of the band in their mix. When that happens, they’re less likely to dig as deeply into the groove as they might have otherwise because they don’t hear everyone else well enough.


The following examples demonstrate the importance of groove.

The first one features an eight-bar section of a song, with only the bass, drums, and two rhythm guitar tracks. The section repeats after a brief pause. The first time through, you hear the original tracks, which were recorded to a click. When it repeats, you hear the same tracks but with audio quantization applied. The quantization makes everything too regular and the feel is lost.

This time, you’ll hear the same example, but the drums are playing behind the beat and the rest of the instruments are ahead of it. In this example and the next one, the click, which is panned fully right to separate it from the mix, is audible for reference.

If the drummer is consistent in how he or she plays against the click, the other musicians will usually follow along. But drummers are not immune to rushing or slowing down against the click and can lead the band astray.

In this example, you’ll hear both pushing and pulling. For the first half of it, the band is rushing the click and in the second half it’s dragging against it.