Garageband Tip: Work Behind the Beat

So I’ve been in the Mac World for over a year now, but I’ve just now entered the Garageband World or recording and the whole idea of recording on a computer. I know what you’re saying, “Welcome to the ’90s!” I know. I know, but you see as much as I’m interested in technology, I also have this reverse energy working. I call them “mental blocks.” In the early ’90s I got a 4 track cassette recorder. I think it was $500. Couldn’t make it work. I don’t know why. I just couldn’t.  Then I bought some multi track software from the local music store. Looked fancy. Only $50. Couldn’t make it work either. I just couldn’t get decent sound into the damn thing. I don’t know what it was. A PC, the drivers, the technology? I don’t know. Just a lot of buzzing.

Finally in 2001 I got a stand alone “DAW” one of those little BOSS BR things, and FINALLY, something I could simply plug in and play, and though its woefully small GUI (I wouldn’t even call it a GUI) would make the normal musician drive to the local bridge and jump off, I could actually record multi track sound that sounded clear, and a drum machine to boot! I was hooked. My creativity jumped. Then in 2005 I bumped up to the BR-1600, spending $1200 and thought I was in heaven. Even better Pre Amps, better sound, and the ability to program real arrangements, bass lines and customized drumming. I thought I had my studio. So I’ve been working with it ever since, thinking I had it all. All I needed at least.

Finally though, especially with this gorgeous 20″ iMac screen, I just couldn’t live with the little 1×5″ GUI. I never wanted to do editing because it was just too painful. So I was stressed with every take because I felt I had to get it perfect. I did, because I wasn’t willing to cut and paste or even punch in and out very often. Pain moves folks to action.

So finally I entered the Garageband world a few weeks ago, cutting my first song on it, “The Darkest Hour Comes,” just recently. Loooooove it. The colors, seeing all the tracks. The loops. Dragging and dropping edits allows one so much freedom, that one can relax and get into the groove.

So, since I don’t have an interface yet, I’m recording guitars and vocals into the BR and importing the .WAV files into Garageband. (Of course that little pain will have me down to the Guitar Center getting a Presonus Firebox very soon!)

But in the meantime I’m working on a new tune. Now with the freedom of Garageband (And computer based recording in general) I discovered I can just record away over and over again, not worrying about mistakes, because I know that I can cut and paste the best parts on the desktop and arrange the song with relative ease.

So finally here comes my tip. I’ve been working on the guitar track today, cutting and pasting away, and I’ve noticed one thing: Even though I’m working with a click track, you’re almost never exactly on the beat, especially at that crucial juncture of the first beat. You’re either a millisecond ahead or behind it. That’s one of the things that makes it sound natural. But if you cut and paste a section that comes in ahead of the beat you’re going to cut out an important part and also hear a little clip. If you cut and paste those sections a little behind the beat, then everything sounds seamless.

When you’re recording, you can’t consciously decide to be in front or behind the beat, but knowing that you have the freedom to make mistakes does allow you to relax and get into the groove. So if you just keep the tape rolling and make multiple passes (I recorded 6 minutes of passes for a 4 minute song last night) you’re going to have enough material where you have as many backbeats as frontbeats, so you’ll be good.

Then, when you’re editing look for those sections that have a backbeat to cut and paste with. It’ll make your life a lot easier. And a lot more fun. And when you record enough passes, every once in a while you’ll even be right on the beat.  Those moments are rare (unless your a good musician) but they feel like Luke finally getting those laser torpedos into that right whole of the Death Star.

The “Death Star” of your anti creative complex explodes and you up your anti to a new level. Oh, shit. I feel Pro-Tools and Logic on the horizon coming forward.

Comments, Questions, or Suggestions? Love to hear your thoughts.

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