When tracking for your record, you may have to go through loads of takes to get that perfect track. In the old days this meant cutting up a lot of tape and pasting the right takes together — a time consuming and difficult effort. Now, in the world of wonderful digital technology, you can just cut, copy and paste to your heart's desire, without having to worry about super-expensive tape that you could ruin with your next knife-cut. Who wants to become a surgeon when all you have to do is copy and paste?
What is Comping?
Comping is short for composition. It involves recording many takes of one instrument, whether it be a guitar solo or a vocal track, picking the best parts from each take and pasting them together. That way, if you sang the first phrase perfectly on your first take but the last phrase was only good on your seventh, you are able to “comp” them together, making one perfect performance.
In this tutorial I am going to show you how to record multiple takes on top of each other in the same track and then editing the recordings to make one final performance out of them. There are a lot of ways to do this and many programs offer a different method. Here we are using the easy and comfortable method offered with Logic Pro 8.
Step 1 - Start Loop Recording
The comping in Logic is really intuitive as you can just record on top of the previous one without destroying your last take. Logic saves all your takes in the same track and region so that when you think you have recorded sufficient material you double click on the region to see all your different takes lined up.
If you are recording alone in your bedroom jumping from computer to microphone, it is most efficient to make a loop recording, so that Logic automatically plays back the section you want to record. That way you just stand and sing different takes until you think you have enough material. You just drag the locators on the top of the screen so the green bar at the top only covers the part you want to record.
This is also a good way to record if you are dubbing movies. The movie business in Spain and Latin America, for example, has a huge section devoted to dubbing all the characters in Spanish. Using loop recording and comping is very useful way to get that perfect performance out of an overdub actor.
Step 2 - Visualizing the Regions
In this screenshot you can see the verse we are working with. This is the first verse of a track called The Sun by acoustic home studio duo The Bitchin' Roommates. As you can see by the vertical white lines in the region, the verse is made up of four different takes.
Listen to the verse here:
If you double click on the region all the takes show themselves. The top region with the black top bar is not a region in itself except when it is the only region. Now you only see it as representing the regions I'm using below, clearly stated by those being blue and the unused ones being white. And as you can see I am using two parts of take number three, a phrase of take number five and the first phrase of take number six.
Step 3 - Listening to the Regions
When you are done recording and you double click the region you normally see that Logic has only selected one whole region. It normally selects the last recorded region, but I selected the first one before the screenshot. It is up to you to listen to and choose the ones you like the most. By putting your cursor at one of the extremes it will change into two arrows with a double bar in the middle. That's the tool that you use to select only the parts you want to use in your selected regions. Using this tool, you can minimize or maximize the regions and which phrases you want to hear from each one.
It's a good idea to listen to each region in it's entirety so see which ones are complete keepers, and which aren't so great. That way you have a general idea of which ones you will concentrate on before heavy editing. Some instruments and takes need way more editing than I am demonstrating here.
Step 4 - Selecting Parts of Each Region
Below you can see how I have dragged the first region from the right extreme so it only selects the first sentence of the verse. Now, if I click on the phrases in the regions below, Logic deduces that
I'm only working with that phrase and selects only that. Also, as you can see, because I haven't chosen the rest of the phrases the blue master region is only showing the first phrase.
Listening to the first phrase I hear that my tuning is way off and I need to find a different take to represent that phrase. Normally you go through each and every one critically deciding which one is the best. I already know that my sixth take is the best so I choose that one.
Listen to the first phrase here:
If we continue and click on the next phrase in any take it will highlight the rest of the whole region. That's because we have only edited the first part. We have to go back to the right edge and drag the region so it only selects the part we want it to represent. In these examples I have pretty clear phrases with pauses in between so it's easy for me to pick and choose, but sometimes you have to really zoom in and find the zero point (the point of silence in the waveform) so the comp edit isn't audible. Audio editing is an art and this tool in Logic is just one of the brushes in the editor's palette.
Step 5 - Making Your Comp
In the end, by dragging and selecting the regions I like the most, choosing bits and pieces and puzzling them together I end up with the same bits and pieces I showed you in the beginning. After critically listening to all of them, weighing the intonation, feel, musicality and whatever criteria I thought was shining through these were the ones I chose.
Step 6 - Using Leftover Tracks
When you have your master take but you still have a lot of material that you thought was great you can easily make a double track. Double-tracking vocals is a well known technique and is a much better technique than automatic double tracking via plug-ins. Running through the tracks one more time I chose completely different takes and played them together with the first take. Now you have two valid master tracks that can be used however you like. You can mix one under the other to give the main vocal a bit more depth or you can mix them at equal levels and hard pan them left and right for contrast to name a few options.
Listen to the verse with differently comped takes:
Here both takes are playing in unison, neither one being the main vocal. This would not be a final vocal mix but shows us an illustration of the subtle differences double-tracking makes.
Comping tracks has many uses, and don't be fooled into thinking it's only good for vocals. The guitar solo on this same song (that you can listen to in it's entirety at
Bitchin' Roommates Music
) is made up of about five different takes. Artists and recording engineers comp tracks all the time to create that perfect track. The guitar solo on Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd is one example of a very artsy and beautifully crafted composition. In the end it is just a tool to make your work easier, more versatile and creative — and you aren't destructively recording, meaning you keep all your work and are able to manipulate it later on.
I hope this tutorial was useful to you guys. I believe you can make good use of it in your future editing projects. If you like it, please feel free to leave a comment, share it with your friends, or submit it to StumbleUpon.