At the beginning of 2015 my wife & I felt an urge to challenge our musicianship. We set out to record live demos of songs we had written and release one everyday on YouTube for a year. The goal was to discover a small selection of strong songs from which we could later produce into an album. We achieved 107 recordings that can be found on our site GeorgieDAN. We chose to stop the challenge as we felt we had achieved the goal of writing and arranging 15 songs that we were really proud of and felt we could take through to production.
Over the last year I have been slowly producing these 15 songs. I have started the production of each song based on the live demo recordings. Each demo contains the perfect arrangement, dynamic performance and energy that I know I could build upon in production - knowing full well that I would re-record the instruments/vocals from the live demos.
I didn't want to start producing these songs with re-recorded guide instruments/vocals as I really felt that there was some magic in the live demos that I wanted to protect and develop in production.
1. Slip Editing In Pro Tools
This video is the live demo of one of the songs we chose to produce - "Have A Heart."
I wanted to maintain as much of the live feel and dynamic for the production. The tempo of the performance felt fairly constant so I tapped the tempo in Pro Tools:
- MIDI Controls
- Conductor Track OFF
- highlight 120 in MIDI Controls with mouse
- tap T on keyboard to the beat of the song and watch the tempo reading change.
The tempo of the demo sped up and slowed down every so often yet I could tell that 87bpm was the average tempo of the live recording. I set the Pro Tools session to 87bpm and slipped the first beat of the live demo clip to the first beat of a bar.
This simple approach doesn't work. More work needed to be done in Pro Tools - you can hear in Audio Example 1 the performance tempo drift in the second half of the verse. I had to go through the entire song with Tab To Transient every few bars cutting the first beat of whichever bar started to drift from the now set Pro Tools 87bpm click. I set the Pro Tools session Grid Value to 1/4 notes making it easy for me to highlight the clip after the transient cut and Quantize to the first beat of a bar - keyboard shortcut cmd+0.
This took about ten minutes to complete. I tidied up each clip crossover with the Trim Tool and included Crossfades of different lengths so that I wouldn't get any pops on playback but to also smear the areas that slipped out of timing slightly (Listen to Audio Example 2).
The quality of the conformed live demo to the Pro Tools click sounded like it had been chopped about a bit but it gave me an organic yet strict template from which to work from.
As soon as the drums, bass guitar and keyboards were recorded I muted the demo recording and tracked the guitars and vocals. I am very pleased with the results of this song as I feel I maintained the dynamic elements I set out to achieve at the start of the production.
2. Meldoyne 4 Edit Tempo Map
Melodyne 4 was released at the start of 2016 - watch our review of Melodyne 4. The latest version includes a new feature that made my previous Pro Tools editing method of conforming live demos to click tracks obsolete - Edit Tempo & Make Tempo Constant.
When starting this production - called "I Oo", I decided to use Melodyne 4 to speed up my conforming to tempo/click process.
Melodyne makes light work of conforming a live demo to a set tempo with click with these easy 8 steps:
- Open new Melodyne session
- Drag live demo from desktop to Melodyne timeline
- Turn on Edit Tempo
- Turn on the Click
- Right click over tempo map > Make tempo constant
- Set the desired tempo - 136bpm for this song
- File > Export > Tempo Map (import MIDI to Pro Tools including tempo map)
- File > Export > Stereo Audio File (Import to Pro Tools)
Once I imported the tempo map and conformed demo set to 136bpm into Pro Tools (listen to Audio Example 3) I could start producing the song from the vibe of the demo, just like with "Have A Heart."
I am in the middle of the production of "I Oo" - You will get an idea of how working from a live demo recording set to a set tempo/click can really help keep an organic feel through a production of a song.