Editing and Improving the Groove of an Acoustic Guitar

Hey, guys. Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com/members, and mixthru.co.

Welcome to editing, part II. We are going to be looking at an acoustic guitar part, and we are going to go over some basic editing stuff, as well as discussing the idea of feel, which is of course a paramount concept any time we’re talking about music production.

[mix playback]

So, okay listening to this acoustic guitar part, my feeling is this. Overall, it’s generally on beat. It’s in time. The feel is just a little bit rushed in a few spots. It’s generally edging on the rushed side, and maybe a couple of spots where it’s distinctly hitting ahead of the beat.

We have a pretty metric beat. Our kicks — our downbeats, our kicks on the one, pretty much lined up on the grid, and our snares are on the 2 and four pretty much lined up on the grid as well, so we can use the grid as a reference, but ultimately, we always have to use our ears. That is the most important thing.

So. First thing I’m doing is this is a multi-mic capture on the acoustic guitar. There’s the main acoustic capture, there’s an augmenting supporting mic, and then there’s a spring reverb return.

So I’ve selected all of them and hit Open Apple+G which allows me to group them, and I grouped them together so that whenever I’m moving anything, I’m selecting all three tracks together.

Another thing that I’m doing, and your DAW may have this, your DAW may not, is I’m selecting the multi-user tool, because that just allows me to move a little bit faster. In the middle, I’ve got my selector, towards the bottom here I’ve got my hand for grabbing, and once I start doing region splits, I’ll be able to do a quick crossfade, which will be very helpful.

The other thing I recommend doing is before doing an edit, select everything, hit Command+Copy, create a new playlist, and copy it over. So this is actually what I did. That was the original playlist we were looking at. This is one that I already did a little bit of editing on.

So it’s always good to have the unedited version, because once we have our edits in place, we’re going to commit them.

So okay, now let’s start listening to things and picking them apart.

[mix plays]

So the first thing we have to do is we have to identify the feel of the groove, right? That sentencing is really important. “Bah, bum bum. Bah, bum bum bum. Bum.”

So it’s supposed to be punchy, punchy, punchy, and then a little bit of anticipation, or a little bit of something that’s going to catch — or make the listener pull into the groove a little bit.

So if we look at our gridlines here, for example, we’ll see that we’re pretty much on beat for the most part. Even going up through the first sentence.

But if we use our ear, to me, this very first landing here for the sentence, even though it looks like it’s on the grid, it feels like it’s a little ahead of where it should be.

[song plays]

It should be, “Bah, bah, bum… BUM. Bah, bah, bum…” Right? It’s kind of going, “Bah, bah, bah…. bum. Bah, bah.” It’s not quite right.

So even though we’re on beat, what I’m going to do here is I’m going to select this little area here, and I’m going to hit Command+E, and I set my nudge tool to 100 samples. I find that sizing really works, and I’m going to nudge it forward a couple of times until it’s just a little bit past where the beat marker is.

Now, for fixing up the edit, I’m going to drag out my previous region as far as I can until I start seeing the transient of the next hit, I’m going to drag this back over so that it covers it, and then bam, put in my crossfade right there. Nice.

Now let’s listen to it.

[mix playback]

So, that to me is a little bit better. If maybe I’ve gone a little bit too far in the other direction, I can actually slide this all back over just one little nudge, but now the next couple of hits to me are sounding like they’re also showing up a little bit on the early side.

So I’m going to split this next region, and I’m going to shift this a couple of times here. Then once again, drag this out. Give it a little crossfade. Maybe a slightly bigger crossfade.

I tend to like pretty narrow crossfades actually, for most of the editing that I do.

[mix plays]

And you can hear how that feels really good.

[mix playback]

And like, you can hear on that landing that landing is not totally punchy enough either, because it’s landing a little early, and when it lands early, the groove kind of becomes mushy, and it becomes a little less defined for the listener, and once again, and here we can see that it’s a little bit on the early side.

So we’re going to split it. It looks like some of these hits are coming in on the early side too, so maybe we’ll grab all of them. Alright.

We’ll just sort of go to the grid. I may even need a little bit more than that actually.

Let’s try that.

[song plays]

Let’s listen to the whole thing.

[song playback]

Yeah, that’s starting to sound pretty good.

I mean, we can even get pretty, you know, micromanaging, but I think that leaving things a little bit loose and a little bit human is a good thing. You know, we don’t want this to sound like the guitar was played in on a synthesizer. We want it to sound like it was played by a human being who just happens to have exceptionally good timing.

So that’s been an overview of editing some acoustic guitars. I hope that you picked something up, and until next time!

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.
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