Mother Production Overview:

lennon

 

Below is a list of all the articles I have written to co-incide with the re-recording of the John Lennon’s song “Mother.” This includes all the background research into the different producers I could have chosen as well as a me recomposing the song in MIDI, recording and mixing down to the final song.

The list is as follows. (I recommend loading this up in different tabs.)

Producer Analysis Part 1:

Producer Analysis Part 2:

Mother Pre Production and Re-arrangement:

Mother Recording Part 1: Drums

Mother Recording Part 2: Guitars and Bass

Mother Recording Part 3: Vocals

Mother Recording Part 4: Mixing

Thought this would make it easier to navigate between the different stages.

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Mother Recording Part 4: Mixing

Click on One of the following links to see the different parts of the recording process.

Part 1: Drums

Part 2: Guitar and Bass

Part 3: Vocals

So now that the recording process had been completed,It was time I mixed it down so I could then present it and explain why I think it could be commercially viable.

Overall I had 22 channels with 3 Auxiliary Inputs, broken down as follows:

No: Name I/O Notes:
1. Click No input/Out 1-2 Click Track
2. Drum Bus Bus 1-2/Out 1-2 Aux Input: All Drum tracks bussed to this channel.
3. Kick PG No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio: Kick Drum Shure PG52
4. Kick 57 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio: Kick Drum Shure Sm57
5. Snare 57 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio: Snare Drum Shure Sm57
6. OHLC1000s No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio: Overhead Left AKG C1000s
7. OHRC1000s No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio: Overhead Right AKG C1000s
8. HiHat MK2 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio High Hat Oktava Mk 012
9. HiTom Pro 25 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio High Tom Audio Technica Pro 25
10. Mid Tom Pro 25 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio Mid Tom Audio Technica Pro 25
11. Floor Tom Pro25 No Input/Bus 1-2 Audio Low Tom Audio Technica Pro 25
12. Bass No input/Out 1-2 Audio DI
13. Liam Guitar Bus Bus 3-4/Out 1-2 Aux Input: all distorted guitar tracks bussed to this channel.
14. Nt2a No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar RODE NT2a
15. Nt2a Overdub 1 No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar RODE NT2a
16. Cad No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar Cad M179
17. Cad Overdub 1 No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar Cad M179
18. Sm57 No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar Shure Sm57
19. Sm57 Overdub 1 No-Input/Bus 3-4 Audio Electric Guitar Shure Sm57
20. Lead Guitar Overdub 1 No-Input/Out 1-2 Audio Clean Guitar Shure Sm57
21. Vocal Bus Bus 5-6/Out 1-2 Vocal Bus: all vocal tracks bussed to this channel.
22. Misc Vocals No-Input/Bus 5-6 Audio Vocal RODE NT2a
23. Vocal Take 1 No-Input/Bus 5-6 Audio Vocal RODE NT2a
24. Vocal Take 2 No-Input/Bus 5-6 Audio Vocal RODE NT2a
25. Harmonies 1 No-Input/Bus 5-6 Audio Vocal RODE NT2a

 

I did add extra tracks later during mixing, but this is what I started with.

Drums:

The first place I started with was the drums, as they would play a key part in emulating my producers signature sound, ultimately revolving around the snare. I began by listening to the kick track isolated, and EQ-ed them differently so that the Kick PG would have more of the “Thud” or “Body” of the kick, while the Kick 57 track had more of “attack” of the beater head, bellow are the two frequency analysis’ of the kick tracks:

1 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Kick PG track I boosted between 20-50Hz by 5.5dB as a way of emphasising some of the lower frequency range to make the kick sound boomier.

While on the Kick 57 track I dropped from 3Khz to 20Khz by -12dB to lose some of the bleed from the other parts of the kit, as well as increase around the 99.8Hz mark by 8.3dB to add more weight behind the attack of the beater pedal. Now I had a basis for which to build a kit around, so I moved onto the snare, which was probably the most amount of processing, I have done to a drum track in this mix.

I started off EQ-ing the snare drum by reducing between 20-100Hz by -8.3dB, as this eliminated some of the bleed from the kick, and boosted the 100Hz to 400Hz region by 3.4dB to accentuate the body of the snare being hit.

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Next I sent this signal out of Bus 7 (mono) to a new mono audio track, Pre Fade at 0dB from Send F. On this new channel was a signal generator producing white noise at -20.0dB, which was then being sent into a compressor/gate side-chained from the pre fade snare signal. The reason the snare was send pre fade to the gate was so that way I could balance the gated white noise and the original, letting me layer them to get a fuller sound.

4 5 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here it was just a matter of tweaking the settings on the gate to make sure the white noise was only being heard mainly in the mix when the snare was being hit, making it have more of a “rattle” in the mix. The signal chain was then bolstered by another EQ so I could shape the white noise to sound more “snare” like. I did this by reducing a lot of the lower frequencies while boosting the lower to mid frequencies (100-500Hz) and higher frequencies (10Khz onwards) so the white noise had the body and rattle of the snare, complimenting the existing one.

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I added a Bomb Factory 76 Compressor so that everything I had done above in the signal chain would then be further compressed exaggerating all the processing I had done to the original signal.

8

 

 

 

 

 

Now the snare had been doubled over in the mix with a white noise created one, I then decided to have another version of the snare with reverb on to blend in with the existing two. I created a new auxiliary channel and used the same Pre fade send of the original track as the input, also allowing me to change its level in the mix without changing the original.

For the Reverb I set it to be a large plate, with the pre delay set to 0 milliseconds, and the high frequency cut and the low pass filter turned off, so that all of the snare sound was being played with the reverb back with no editing except the EQ on the original, with only the new sound being played because the Mix was set to 100% wet.

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then decided to emphasise the reverb more by compressing it with another Bomb Factory 76 Compressor, tweaking to make get the right balance in the mix.

The only other part of the kit I modified before I went to the Drum bus was the high hat, as due to poor mic placement on my behalf meant that I was getting a lot of the “whoosh” sound that comes out when the high hat was open, which was sticking out a bit in my mix. I corrected this by reducing 200Hz downwards by -12.0dB, losing a lot of the other parts of the kit and this horrible sound in the first place, as well as boosting the 700Hz-2Khz range by 5.7dB to get more emphasise of the ringing overtones of the high hat.

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I then adjusted the faders for the rest of the drum tracks so that the snares where the loudest in the mix, followed by the kick and the overheads, while everything else was sitting round the -12dB mark. Next on the Drum Bus track I added a Compressor to act as a limiter, so that the overall volume of the Kit wouldn’t rise about a certain level. I then panned overheads hard left and right, to exaggerate the stereo image, and then with the hi hat and the toms, pan them respectively so that they represented the distance they where from the kick and the snare. After this I moved on to the Guitars.

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Guitars:

For guitars I panned the Cad M179 recorded guitar tracks to the center as this formed the trebly, gainy sound of the electric guitar in my mix, due to it being recorded on axis to the speaker cone, while the NT2a tracks had one panned hard left, and the other at about 32, and the Sm57 takes I panned one hard right and also one panned at about 32 to the right.

12

 

By doing this I had layered the guitars on top of each other giving me a bigger guitar sound than if I had done just one take, as one of Mutt-Lange’s techniques was to overdub multiple guitar tracks to get a more dense stereo image. I had all of the electric guitar takes sent into an Auxiliary input, where I put a limiter on it to stop it clipping and overloading the channel. By having a fast attack and release, it doesn’t really affect the overall sound, as it stops the clipping but releases before you get a sort of “pumping” sound.13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this I put a low pass filter on the Auxiliary, with the frequencies up to 200Hz being reduced by about -10.2dB, as mentioned before when I was recording the guitars, some of the bass and guitar frequencies overlap, so by reducing them on the guitar, it makes the bass and kick drum have more room in the mix, while making the guitars sound brighter.

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I chose to leave the clean guitar out of the Guitar Bus since I wanted it to cut through the mix more, by not having it in the bus it meant I could have more control over its level, any effects I chose to put on it, and it wouldn’t be effected by the low pass. Giving it was a clean guitar with no distortion; I had to increase the gain on the channel in the mix to balance it out in comparison to the Guitar bus.

Also at the start of the song I automated the volume for the guitar track so they came into the mix in pairs, with the Cad being constant followed first by the Sm57 Tracks, and then the NT2a’s. I chose to do this so as the song builds the guitars slowly get more and more apparent in the mix, adding a sense of progression to the otherwise fairly simple song.

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Bass:

Another one of Mutt-Lange Trademarks is using a synth bass even if there was an actual bassist present, for the genre of song I had recorded, a synth bass would of be too overpowering, and wouldn’t quite sit in the mix, though If I didn’t include one, I wouldn’t be emulating his style as much as I could.

In the end I compromised with using a sine wave synth arpeggio as an opening and ending to my song, as it adds another layer to the song, and doesn’t conflict with the existing bass.

17

For the actual bass I record it directly into an audio interface, so I could have the dry signal which I could then affect as I needed to. I chose to add a compressor to flatten out some attack given by strumming with a plectrum. Between the increased clean guitar, and the compressed electric guitar sound, I had the bass sitting in the middle level wise, so that everything could be heard amongst the vocals and drums. ­­
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Vocals:

Next up was the Vocals, where I had the two main vocal takes on separate channels, with a 3rd Harmony vocal, and a 4th Misc vocal. I had the two main vocal takes panned at about 2 and 11 o’clock to give more of a stereo image, with the gain reduced on them by about -4.0dB, so that they could sit well with the harmony vocal which was lower in pitch.

I then put them through an Auxiliary Input so I had control of the overall volume, as well as putting a compressor mainly as a way of limiting them so they didn’t overload the channel. In addition to this I sent the vocal out of Send F on Bus 8 pre fade to be then the input on an auxiliary input, which I put a reverb plug in on.

19The reason I didn’t put the reverb on the bus itself was so that I could control the amount of reverb I had on the vocals, plus still have the dry signal playing, letting me balance it just like I did with the drums.

 

For the settings on the reverb, I tried to keep them similar to the drums, as this gave the impression that they where in the same place, however I didn’t bus them to the same reverb because I wanted to be able to change them if they started to get undistinguishable in the mix.

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Lastly I automated the master fader so it fades out towards the end of the track and added the Maxim plug in to it so I could boost the levels of the song before I bounced it down.

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Maxim has two controls, the first of which is threshold level, this controls what dB volume peaks will be limited, and therefore wont go any higher than the set threshold, while the second control is Ceiling, which controls how loud your mix will be overall, I set it to -3.0dB and then bounced down.

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The finished track can be heard below:

 

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Mother Recording Part 3 Vocals:

Click on One of the following links to see the different parts of the recording process.

Part 1: Drums

Part 2: Guitar and Bass

Part 4: Mixing

 

Now that all the instrumental parts of my Arrangement of Mother had been recorded It was time to record the vocals.IMG_0816

Again I chose to record the vocals in the same room as I had done for the drums and the guitars, as though initially I had thought that it would of been a bad idea to record in an open room, through the use of a cardioid type microphone and facing the vocalist again a set of diffusers mounted on the walls, It would absorb some of the reflections in the recording space.

IMG_0817

IMG_0819For vocals I chose to use a RODE NT2a, as it frequency response would fit the sort of range my vocalist would be singing in, and favoured against the use of a pop-shield, as I made sure the vocalist stood far enough back so that the more aggressive syllables wouldn’t be as prominently picked up.

I set up talk back so I could communicate, and then got him to sing to both the instrumental tracks and the click track together, this way he could keep in time as well as get a “feel for the music.” I recorded these tracks into a playlist, and even though the song was quiet repetitive, except for the verses, I encouraged my vocalist to try different, subtle variations each time he sang the chorus, emphasizing certain words more or creating more dynamics with his voice.

After I had the bulk of the song recorded, I got my vocalist to do some harmonies with himself, as this was a trademark Mutt-Lange feature, as well as giving the vocalist some creative license by recording him listening back to a mix which contained both his original take, and the instrumentation, to give me some more textures to work with.

 

Vocal

I also rounded up some of my fellow engineers to do some gang vocals, doing a phonetic version of the main guitar progression, which fitted the more Pop-Punk style that my song was being record in, which will appear toward the end of the song. I then seperated this playlist into 2 full vocal takes, which I could fade in and out as I saw fit, a Harmony track, and a miscellaneous track with the gang vocals and my vocalists creative licenses. All these where then sent to an auxillary input so I could adjust the levels and modify them individually but could control their overall level in the mix.

I also had to warp some of the harmonies to keep them the same length as the original, (article here on warping) adding more sustain so they harmonised for longer, as well as some vocal deliveries being too slow, so I lined up some of the syllables.

Harmonies

 

Finally It was now time to move on to mix and creating the finished track.

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Mother Recording Part 2 Guitars and Bass:

Click on One of the following links to see the different parts of the recording process.

Part 1: Drums

Part 3: Vocals

Part 4: Mixing

 

I decided to record the guitar in the same room I recorded drums in, as I thought it would be quite dead, not picking up as much echo in the room, allowing my guitars to sound crisper.

 

IMG_0813 I recorded my guitar through a vox vt50 amp on the UK Modern setting which is based of something like a messa boogie style amp. This gave me the crunchy distorted punk like tone which fit the genre I was recording in really well. I took out a lot of the bass frequencies on my amp, as this gives the bass some more room in the mix. Ive grown accustomed to listening to my guitar tone without the bass in the eq, as a lot of guitarists have a lot of bass in their tone, which they do out do habit because they don’t have a bassist around to take up the lower end of the spectrum. As a result, I’ve had to eq a guitarist’s tone to get rid of the muddy area where the bass and guitar overlap.

 

I used a three mic-ing technique on the amp, which I put up on a stand and faced toward the middle of the room, meaning I would Limit my proximity effect, as well as have a less bass heavy tone. My channel list is bellow.

 

 

Channel: Microphone
1. Cad M179
2. RODE NT2a
3. Shure Sm57

 

 

  1. Cad M179

 

IMG_0809The cad is a very versatile condenser microphone as it has multiple different pick up patterns to switch between, including cardioid, figure of eight, and omni directional, as well as a dB boost and a low cut. I placed the cad on axis to the speaker cone, a couple of inches away from the middle,

as this would pick up the higher frequencies which are exaggerated by the microphones boost between 5-7Khz.

M179Cardioid

 

  1. RODE NT2a

 

Like the cad, the NT2a also has the option of cycling through different pick up patterns as well as also featuring a low cut and a dB boost/Reduction. I placed the large diaphragm condenser off axis to the amp pointing it 45 degrees. I also moved the microphone back from the amp in accordance with the 3:1 ratio to avoid phasing issues. While the cad was picking up the higher frequencies, the rode would be picking up the

mid and lower frequencies so in mixing I could blend it together.

RODE NT2a

 

  1. Shure Sm57

 

IMG_0810The 57 was sort of an experiment, as I used it to mic up the back of the amp, to get the sound of the speaker cone and get some reflections of the sound, giving it almost a natural low pass filter. However I found out that the speaker cone on the vox amp could only be accessed from the front. So to see if I could still emulate the effect I placed the microphone so it was looking over the amps controls, as I hoped this would give a similar effect, as its cardioid pick up pattern would pick up the most of the sound coming out from the top of the speaker.

I also then did some more overdubs in a smaller room using a Sm57 on axis to the speaker cone, a couple of inches back, playing some more pop punkish elements like octave chords and some little arpeggios to complement the main guitar progression.

Tracking.

 

IMG_0811I choose to route guitar so I had the amp in the room, mic-ed up, while I had the guitarist in the control room, this meant that I didn’t need to set up a form of talk back. I achieved this by plugging in my guitar using the balanced cable into the headphone 1 slot on the Pro Fire interface, as when this cable is unplugged it becomes unbalanced and it comes out of the jack level input in the live room, so it essentially becomes a long unbalanced 1/4 inch jack to jack connection.

 

I did two takes through the song, and recorded them into a playlist, after which I separated the takes so overall I had 6 guitar tracks. Due to the nature of my composition, where the amp gain was set very high resulted in some strings resonating more than they should of, I corrected this by setting up a Pro Tools group (see this article for setting up a Pro Tools Group) so I could edit them all together rather than individually, cutting these sections in-between riffs to make it sound more polished. I then set them up going into an auxiliary input, so I could adjust the tracks individually but the aux input would let me control their overall level in the mix.

 

Bass:

Bass was tracked after I did the guitars, going in on a Direct Input, since this gave me the cleanest signal which I could then choose to re-amp if need be, or keep the way it was. Since a trademark of Mutt-Lange’s recording was to have a synth bass also put into the mix, I thought I would keep this bass simple, so I could then experiment with something more like an. analogue moog-like synth bass.

I Tracked the bass last, where I ultimately decided to follow the main rhythm of the song, will throwing in a couple of variations, such as the build towards the start of the first chorus and the end where I just play each note up the scale so the song resolves itself on the last bar. As far as the synth bass was concerned, I thought that once I started hearing my mix come together a complex synth bass would be overpowering, So I opted for a simple arpeggio on a sine wave sampler to add some atmospherics.

Sine_Wave

MIDI

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on this article to find out how I recorded vocals for my mix here.

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Mother Recording: Part 1 Drums:

Click on One of the following links to see the different parts of the recording process.

Part 2: Guitar and Bass

Part 3: Vocals

Part 4: Mixing

After doing all the pre production and arrangements for my rendition (link to previous article here.) It was time to start recording for my cover. I decided to record drums first, as they are one of the most prominent parts of a Mutt-Lange produced recording.

Set-Up:

Untitled

 

Trying to follow his production style as closely as possible, I chose to record the drums in a smaller space, this would mean that I wouldn’t get as much ambiance or have as many reflections picked up when recording. At this point you thinking “But doesn’t the drums in Mutt-Lange productions usually have a really big 80’s drum sound?”

And you would be right, but by recording in a smaller space means I then gain control of how big I want the drums to sound by how much reverb and compression I add later on, as its easier to change the ambiance of the recording later, rather than taking out the ambiance to begin with.

I set up a Pro Tools Session with a 44.1Khz sample rate and a 16Bit depth; once this was created I created 9 mono channels and click track, with the overall tempo of the song set to 160BPM.

When it came to mic-ing up the drum kit, I chose to mic up everything, as this would have been the norm in the 80’s, plus it gave me a lot of options for mixing as I could take parts out or have them slowly fade in later during the mixing process.

Microphone Choice:

My Channel List is below:

1. Kick (Resonant Head) Shure PG 52
2. Kick (Beater Head) Shure SM57
3. Snare. Shure SM57
4. Overhead Left AKG C1000S
5. Overhead Right AKG C1000S
6.Hi-Hat Oktava MK-012
7.High Tom Audio Technica Pro 25
8. Mid Tom Audio Technica Pro 25
9. Low Tom Audio Technica Pro 25

 

  1. Kick (Resonant Head) Shure PG 52.

IMG_0757Normally I would of placed this microphone inside the bass drum. On axis, a couple of inches away from the inside of the beater head to get the attack of the kick, however on the drum kit I was using it didn’t have a hole cut out.

I could of taken the resonant head off the bass, while all though it would give me access to the beater head, it would also make a more boomy kick drum sound, so I chose to mic up the resonant head as well.

I had the PG52 on axis to the drumhead but to the lower right, since that way it would pick up more of the “body” of the sound, while the Shure SM57 of would pick up more of the attack.

I chose the PG52 for a number of reasons, It was a Dynamic microphone so could handle the sound pressure where it was being placed, it has a boosted range between 50-100Hz, which is well suited for the 60-80Hz areas that the boom of a bass drum usually occupies, and also has a cardioid pick-up pattern so would only pick up with was in front of it.

PG52

2.Kick (Beater Head) Shure SM57.

IMG_0753As stated above I used the SM57 to pick up more of the “attack” of the kick, which I placed off axis to the drum by about 47 degrees to the left of the pedal, since obviously I couldn’t place it directly behind the kick.

I chose this microphone for the same reasons above being also dynamic and cardioid, but also because the 57 has a boosted range between 5,000Khz and 10,000Khz which the “attack” of the kick drum usually sits in, being anywhere between the 2-6Khz mark.

3.Snare Shure SM57.

I placed the SM57 on the snare overlooking the rim, pointing towards the center, this was the most practical way of getting the attack of the snare. I thought about double mic-ing up the snare, with a 57 underneath on axis to the resonant head, but I then realised that the 57 on the Kick would pick up some of the underside of the snare due to its distance from the drum and its pick-up pattern.

The main hits of the snare sit around the around the 240hz mark, and the ringing out of the snare wire is about to 2-5Khz, the later falls in the range of the 57’s higher frequency boost, while the 240hz can be picked up unexaggerated as well.

SM57

4 and 5 Overheads AKG C1000s

IMG_0752Since a lot of Mutt-Lange’s drum recordings sound huge, I decided to use a pair of C1000s in a spaced pair configuration, with each one being at least about a meter back from the kit, which given the size of the room was almost the entire width of the room.

This would give me as much stereo separation as I wanted, letting the cymbals ring out with an excellent sense of depth of field. I chose the C1000s due to their cardioid pick up pattern, as they both where pointed at the drum kit from either side allowing it to hear the whole kit, with a boost between 2Khz and 8Khz as well as between 8Khz to 11Khz which fits the frequency range of the ringing overtones the cymbals produce. (1-6Khz)

C1000s

6.High Hat Oktava MK-012

IMG_0755I decided to mic-up the high hat so I could add a bit more clarity to my mix, as well as giving me more of a stereo image. I placed the Oktava underneath the high hat on axis to get the resonance of the cymbals together without much stick noise.  The Oktava has a boosted high end between 5-10Khz, which fits the sizzle of the high hat which falls between 7.5-12Khz.

mk012

7,8 and 9 Toms Audio Technica Pro 25’s

IMG_0758I placed the Pro 25’s on the rim of each of their corresponding drums, and had then facing the center of the Toms to get the most attack with its Cardioid pick up pattern. Since my arrangement included a Tom roll, It gave each hit clarity, allowing it go from high to low on the recording. I chose the Pro 25’s for their lower frequency range boost between 60-400Hz, which captured the body of each hit.

pro 25

Recording:

Because my Drummer only had a limited amount of time that he could record in, he was unable to place the song from start to finish, so instead he played to a click track and laid down the main beat of the song, then we recorded the chorus section, and finally he played some fills so when I had put it all together, it would sound coherent.

files

when I listened back, though the majority of it was in time, other parts where not, and as a result I had to cut parts and loop the bits which were in time. I also had to warp some parts to make them fit.

Warping is a technique where Pro Tools examines a waveform and picks out where there are transients and allows you to move them either freely or to the grid. However too much warping will take away the “Human” element of a performance as its the slight off timing which makes the track come to life.

To warp a waveform, You must have elastic audio turned on, which can be selected on the audio channel underneath the Track view Selector and the Automation Mode selector. Once selected select Polyphonic from the drop down box, the track view selector will have the warp option available.

polyphonic

Now on the corresponding waveform, when you zoom in you will have a series of lines where Pro Tools has identified a transient, and by double clicking on it becomes a warp marker. (also double clicking will remove a warp mark) Now there are two types of warping that can be done.

 

Kick

Telescope warping is where you drag a warp marker without setting another warp mark as a boundary, this moves everything else the corresponding distance the sync point has been moved by, stretching the entire waveform.

Accordion warping is where you drag a warp marker between two already established warp markers, therefore only the audio between the two will be affected.

Once the segments of the song where rearranged into the correct order I consolidated the clips so that they became 1 waveform on each channel.

Next up is guitars and bass.

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