Recording a live band/drummer in a DAW to line up with the timing of the grid - what's the best way?

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
627
What is the best way to record a live band into a DAW so that the timing lines up with the grid in the DAW? (I currently use Cubase mainly, with the band going through a Zoom L-12 digital mixer, which doubles as an audio interface, so we can record each instrument onto a separate track). I mean for multitracking a song in the studio one instrument at a time, or recording a live gig or rehearsal with the whole band playing and recording simultaneously. How do the pros do this?

Obviously it's much easier to play to the grid when you're recording by yourself with programmed drums etc. But with a band with a drummer (playing either acoustic drums or an e-kit), it's a different matter.

It seems to me there are 3 possible options:

1) Recording the band with a click track/metronome in the DAW, so everything will sync nicely to the grid. (Obviously things can be quantised / time corrected here and there afterwards if necessary).

OR...

2) Record the band without a click track, then get the DAW to figure out the tempo afterwards and thus make the bars in the recording line up with the grid. (If this is possible, and how some pros do it?).

OR....

3) Record all the parts to a song using programmed drums, meaning everything will be lined up with the grid in the DAW. Then mute the programmed drums and get the real drummer to record their parts while playing along to the rest of the recording.

I remember an interview with one of guys from Def Leppard, and he said they usually record the drums last in the studio.

So are either of these 3 options workable, or is there something else I've missed? Thanks.
 
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kiki_90291

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,920
What is the best way to record a live band into a DAW so that the timing lines up with the grid in the DAW? (I currently use Cubase mainly, with the band going through a Zoom L-12 digital mixer, which doubles as an audio interface, so we can record each instrument onto a separate track). I mean for multitracking a song in the studio one instrument at a time, or recording a live gig or rehearsal with the whole band playing and recording simultaneously. How do the pros do this?

Obviously it's much easier to play to the grid when you're recording by yourself with programmed drums etc. But with a band with a drummer (playing either acoustic drums or an e-kit), it's a different matter.

It seems to me there are 3 possible options:

1) Recording the band with a click track/metronome in the DAW, so everything will sync nicely to the grid. (Obviously things can be quantised / time corrected here and there afterwards if necessary).

OR...

2) Record the band without a click track, then get the DAW to figure out the tempo afterwards and thus make the bars in the recording line up with the grid. (If this is possible, and how some pros do it?).

OR....

3) Record all the parts to a song using programmed drums, meaning everything will be lined up with the grid in the DAW. Then mute the programmed drums and get the real drummer to record their parts while playing along to the rest of the recording.

So are either of these 3 options workable, or is there something else I've missed? Thanks.
All three options are viable. 1) is probably the easiest if your drummer is ok with a click (it's a skill some drummers respond very negatively to because it's hard to learn). 2) is doable - most DAWs have some way of doing this, but if your timing is all over the place (see comment about drummers in 1), it can be a bit of a hot mess. 3) is also doable, but it may not sound very good without a lot of after the fact tweaking if everyone is hitting the beats solidly with the programmed drums, but the drummer does not when he/she play their track.
 
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3,344
Ask yourself why the grid matters in the first place…that will guide your approach.

If it doesn’t matter, and you’re just using the grid for a visual reference, or arranging, then just loosely tempo map what you have.

If you’re recording sequenced parts, then maybe consider starting from a click, or doing some really tight tempo mapping.
 
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3,344
It's much easier for editing afterwards, especially for correcting timing, if the music is lined up to the grid.

That’s only true if the grid is accurate. That’s the “catch 22”. Sometimes the push/pull tempo shifts are more important than having a fixed grid. You need to decide what the song needs. Does it need to be locked, or should it be free. Whatever you do, don’t try to quantize to a loose free reference; recipe for failure.

PS: The other way to do it is to play free time, figure out what the overall flow of the tempo is, and only push to the grid the parts that should be at a constant tempo. Figure out where the tempo changes should be, and let those parts shift more freely. Takes more work though.
 
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Calfee Jones

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
285
I find the tempo of the song first, use the built in metronome or I think Cubase has a tempo finder.
Set the tempo for the song in Cubase.
Then play the song to the click that is the song tempo. If the song is supposed to have a steady tempo then you can correct any small timing problems.
If the tempo is variable then playing to a click won't work easily. In that case don't use a click, Just make sure there is not too much bleed between the tracks and with some creative editing you can tighten things up.
 

Mejis

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
954
Going with click on the front end is by far the easiest if the musicians can pull it off.

Practicing/playing to a click is one of the most valuable musicianship skills IMO. If I could recommend one thing to anyone starting out on an instrument it would be to learn to play to a metronome. The part can be fast and flashy, but if it flams with everything else it just won’t work without all kinds of editing (editing that I’d rather not have to do, frankly).

Playing to a click second nature is a huge asset for studio work.
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
3,488
What is the best way to record a live band into a DAW so that the timing lines up with the grid in the DAW? (I currently use Cubase mainly, with the band going through a Zoom L-12 digital mixer, which doubles as an audio interface, so we can record each instrument onto a separate track). I mean for multitracking a song in the studio one instrument at a time, or recording a live gig or rehearsal with the whole band playing and recording simultaneously. How do the pros do this?

Obviously it's much easier to play to the grid when you're recording by yourself with programmed drums etc. But with a band with a drummer (playing either acoustic drums or an e-kit), it's a different matter.

It seems to me there are 3 possible options:

1) Recording the band with a click track/metronome in the DAW, so everything will sync nicely to the grid. (Obviously things can be quantised / time corrected here and there afterwards if necessary).

OR...

2) Record the band without a click track, then get the DAW to figure out the tempo afterwards and thus make the bars in the recording line up with the grid. (If this is possible, and how some pros do it?).

OR....

3) Record all the parts to a song using programmed drums, meaning everything will be lined up with the grid in the DAW. Then mute the programmed drums and get the real drummer to record their parts while playing along to the rest of the recording.

So are either of these 3 options workable, or is there something else I've missed? Thanks.

Throw 3 out the window unless you're working with a very experienced studio drummer. You really want those drums down first so everyone can build on that feel.


Between 1 and 2, depends a lot on the drummer. Being a good drummer, and being a studio drummer are two very different things. It also depends on if the tempo "flow" is an important part of their tunes. If it is, record the songs and use the daw to create a grid.
 

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
627
Throw 3 out the window unless you're working with a very experienced studio drummer. You really want those drums down first so everyone can build on that feel.

I remember an interview with one of guys from Def Leppard, and he said they usually record the drums last in the studio. This makes sense, as the arrangement can be changed throughout the recording process, but if you record them first it's set.

How is it possible to record drums first anyway? Does the drummer record them in isolation? Surely they'd need some sort of guide track to play along to so they know where they are in the song?
 

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
627
I wouldn't dream of playing without a click live OR recording. Just makes things so much easier and quicker to put together.

I find it really off-putting playing to a click live. Instead of just focusing on the music and the performance, the focus goes to the click. It's not satisfying at all. I can see the merits of using a click in the studio, though.
 

DunedinDragon

Member
Messages
1,496
IMHO anything other than a click track is asking for a hot mess somewhere along the line. The chances are very good that if the drummer has a problem following a click track, his tempo is changing more than once and is slowing and speeding throughout the recording. The only other way to do this is let nature take it's course and forget about your tempo grid along with all other features associated with it (like quantization). But it's probably easier and better to just get a new drummer that can play to a click track.
 

Mejis

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
954
I remember an interview with one of guys from Def Leppard, and he said they usually record the drums last in the studio. This makes sense, as the arrangement can be changed throughout the recording process, but if you record them first it's set.

How is it possible to record drums first anyway? Does the drummer record them in isolation? Surely they'd need some sort of guide track to play along to so they know where they are in the song?

Usually we do an acoustic guitar track to the click, and the drummer plays over that with the click going at the same time.

I’m working on a project now where we’re adding drums at the end. It’s possible for sure, but relatively difficult.

Normally, if the arrangement changes after the drums are cut it’s not a dealbreaker. Snipping and moving drum tracks around isn’t too bad. Acoustic guitar is a pain in the butt though! Much harder to make seamless edits.
 

cmath

Member
Messages
226
Do you have the ability to route the D.A.W. click track so the drummer is the only person who has to listen to the click? I don't think the rest of the band wants to hear a sharp loud click in their headphones while doing a take...with exception if an acoustic guitar starts the song...that person can Q off the drummer's foot or stick clicks or daw click.
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
3,488
I remember an interview with one of guys from Def Leppard, and he said they usually record the drums last in the studio. This makes sense, as the arrangement can be changed throughout the recording process, but if you record them first it's set.

How is it possible to record drums first anyway? Does the drummer record them in isolation? Surely they'd need some sort of guide track to play along to so they know where they are in the song?
You can, but that is certainly in the minority of how people generally do it. It also requires a drummer with very good studio chops. Also, that may have been a result of the production process. Hard to say. Even then, they still probably played to a drum machine.

How to do it. Nowadays it's especially easy. Have the band come in all together. Bass di, guitars use modelers if you have them, or mic the amps playing quiet. Singer isolated. Just make sure nothing bleeds into the drum mics. Then just have each individual come back and track their instrument alone. The added advantage is you can focus on getting the best sound and performance out of each player.

Just make sure you love the drum track, as you're essentially married to them.
 

mikebat

Member
Messages
12,099
#2 is a serious no go for me. There are just too many variables that could go wrong and artifacts from the time stretching.

As well, I do not like to record guitar and bass to a click, then add drums. The groove doesn't lock down correctly. It is drums, then the rest. Everything hinges on the drum groove/feel.

Currently, of your three options, I am doing #3 (record all instruments with programmed drums, then recording acoustic drums and editing them). Though we are recording the drums against the demo vox, guitars, bass and keys, I am 100% willing to re-record the other instruments and voice once our drum tracks are well recorded and mixed if the groove/feel is not there.

It is important not to get demo-itis or be too precious about your demo recordings/takes. You should be able to recreate the performances as good or better should you need to. If there was magic, you can do it again

Giving the opportunity, I would go with #1, recording the drummer first with a click, editing what needs to be corrected, then recording the other instruments to the freshly edited drum track.

Though we are recording the drums against the demo vox, guitars, bass and keys, I am 100% willing to re-record the other instruments and voice once our drum tracks are well recorded and mixed.
 

ericdrmz

Member
Messages
854
what's the song structure ? just straight ahead 4/4 'beat' no tempo changes?
then a daw click could work, but also, the drummer could 'tap' /record his own
click track with more subdivisions / accents, to add his 'feel' to it..
this could also be a 'better' sound, like 'closed' hihat with accents on the '1's
or add some other percussive accents, if this is all 'rigid' structured, then
he could use this as a guide track, or the band could even make a 'drumless' track
 

slayerbear17

Member
Messages
4,460
I find it really off-putting playing to a click live. Instead of just focusing on the music and the performance, the focus goes to the click. It's not satisfying at all. I can see the merits of using a click in the studio, though.
A lot of drummers I've come across including me, find it hard to drum to an actual click track, so what I do is a drum beat as the click. Less forgiving, and the sustain of the beats helps.

I've always told my drummers, "wait for it" sounds wrong but too many guys get ahead of the beat.

My clicks or drums tempos are always on another track so play back we just mute the track and the drummer and drums are the source of the timing.
 

Dubious

Member
Messages
2,220
If the band wont / doesnt want to use a click I'll fix the timing afterwards. Its very easy to snap audio to grid in Ableton live - across multitracks (ie the entire band).

How tite you want to lock it depends often on the genre. I will typically check tempo at the top, middle, end and average it out. Or if the chorus sounds a bit better faster I will have the grid timeline change for that section.

when doing drums first Ill usually have the guitarist rip a scratch track alongside using a DI method (amp sim / pod whatever) and replace it later.
 




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