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Ethics of "touching up" Live concerts?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by falkon2, Apr 28, 2003.

  1. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Recently me and a fellow group of (relatively) inexperienced musicians threw a concert... (It was a sort of farewell for three of the band members who were going overseas to study) and we got it recorded.

    Naturally, with a time frame of one month to prepare 10 songs, there were more than a couple of slip-ups during the performance. Slightly unsteady drums at some points; out-of-tune vocals; and the fact that I managed to screw up two soloes.

    Question: How much studio touching-up would be considered unethical? (if at all?). Where's the line between removing blatant mistakes and retaining the "Live" feel of the recordings? What about totally rerecording some parts? Does genre matter in this case?

    I know these questions are highly subjective but regardless, I'd like some input, especially from similiar experiences.
  2. Chris Thom

    Chris Thom Guest

    Well, what would be considered unethical would be a matter of personal choice and convictions.

    I personally know of dozens, if not hundreds, of "live" CDs that have been majorly reworked in the studio. If you read the credits you can see where they added additional vox or will mention the studio there the ODs were done. Actually, it's almost standard practice to fix things these days.

    Usually, what happens is that they will record several performances in order to have a few choices of the best take, go back fix and splice the tracks together with some crowd noise.

    Since this is not an option for you I would consider you try to go back and touch some things. Maybe not a huge about but mostly the things that make you cringe every time you hear them. This way people who purchase the CD will remember you as that great live bad, not the band that screwed up a lot. It's all about perception my friend and honestly no one will know the difference unless you tell them.

    Also, make sure that your engineer can match sounds or else it WILL sound fake.
  3. robchittum

    robchittum Guest

    I say "sweeten" and "fix" however you see fit. When you record live, you do the best you can to sound the best you can, and when you make a CD you do things to make it the best CD you can make it. You can always write in your liner notes that the recording includes some editing after the performance if that makes you feel more honest. I don't think most people give a flip about that though - they just want a good sounding recording! Good luck.

  4. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Guest

    I'm with Rob on this. What you want to accomplish is to get people back to that special night. Whatever gets them in the mood and delivers an experience close to the actual event is IMO cool (I'm talking emotionally, not note for note). Ironing out little mistakes is fine since most people never noticed them in the first place when they were in the audience.

    As Rob said, if you want to feel honest just put a remark in the liner notes ...

  5. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Fix it up!

    The people that saw you, only remember the good stuff.

    Don't remind them of the other stuff!
  6. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    The key is to make your own rules.

    If you choose to say “this is a recording that captured who we were on that night”, then you might not feel the need to “fix” any thing. It will be (warts and all) what truly happened at that place in time. Most people don’t go back and air brush pictures of themselves at age ten to look more like their grown up self. The picture represents what they looked like the day the photo was taken. This recording represents what the band sounded like the day the recording was made.

    If you choose to say “this is a ‘live’ recording and can only be made up of ‘live’ material” then you can use recordings of your band on other nights and splice them together. Frank Zappa has many “live” recordings where they used the drums from a show in June and the solo from a show in April and the vocals from a show in September, etc. all within the same song. Or it is common to record several nights in a row and choose the best take of a particular song.

    If you choose to say “this recording needs to be the best I can make it” then you should feel at peace making modifications. Your goal then is to deliver to your audience the most error free version of a song as possible. Matching tones is helpful to keep the listener from being distracted. You want them to focus on the great live energy, not wondering why that solo was different sounding. You may choose to say in the liner notes that it is a live performance and that additional material was recorded. You can choose to do that to ease your conscience or because some of us are interested to know what the band went through to bring us the music.
  7. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    I think the only live albums I ever liked were Show of Hands from Rush -these guys really know how to play-
    And Kiss Alive 3. No beat detective at that time - lol
  8. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Ahahha, right now my "Beat Detecting" method is taking a screen cap of the kick/snare clips at iffy areas, then taking the image of one bar (or a couple of bars) and resizing that to 800 pixels - all the beats should fall on multiples of 50.

    Sounds stupid, but it works, to quite a good extent. Of course, I DO realize I'm trying to pull a cart uphill, but meh.
  9. Bobby Yarrow

    Bobby Yarrow Guest

    I think on most live records they try to keep at least some of the original overheads . . .

    For my part, you've crossed the "ethical" line only if you find yourself ripping crowd noise off Live Rust and mixing that in between songs.
  10. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    I say: go for it. Make the necessary changes to provide a satisfactory listening experience . You have your names on this; make it something you can live with. Be subtile & discreet. In other words do it, but do it right!

    Little Feat's "Waiting for Columbus"
    Grateful Dead's "Europe '72"
    The Band's "Rock Of Ages" all were "fixed up" & are very well considered today.
  11. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    I don't do any reconstruction of the event, just because of my minimalist micing techniques, and the environmental issues.

    I do add crowd noise and applause. I take it from unused sections, or copy it and use it multiple times.

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