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I need a new way to mark takes! Suggestions?

In on-site classical sessions, I like to:

1. start recording
2. voice slate the take.

Then the players play. At the end,

3. I stop tape and label the take (the file, that is) with the right take number.

In this way I build up a bunch of files with their own take numbers as their names, making it easy to find individual takes later. But many sessions move too fast for this method, and at those sessions I can't stop tape while the musicians are onstage! In some cases, even voice slating won't work for the conductor.

So I am looking for a method of marking long takes on the fly with markers or whatever that will allow me to find all the individual takes quickly later, when the clip may not be on the timeline any more.

I use Pyramix. I have a friend who uses Sequoia. He links markers to specific spots in the audio so that when a clip is taken offscreen the markers stay with the clip, but this tool is not in PMX (yet). If it were, I might try that...

What methods do (non-Sequoia using) engineers on this forum use to deal with this issue?




DavidSpearritt Mon, 05/01/2006 - 04:33
We run a paper log, which records Nagra V file number and backup or multitrack tack nr (from genex) against the written description of bars played in that take.

We then burn take CD's straight from the Nagra V files to give the artists. Markups of scores, for editing, are done from TakeCD track numbers which we have cross referenced with the paper take log.

Our sessions always move too fast to even slate announce or dictate take or file labels. We would rather not interrupt the musicians flow. Most of the time, we never announce takes, we just start the recorders when the musicians pause and start again. Each recorders own auto filenames are written down in the paper log.

The pre-record on the Nagra is a blessing for this, we can start the machine after the music starts and still get three or four seconds of silence on tape before the playing started.

In the bad old days, we used to announce takes and interrupt the musicians with audible markers, all this has gone by the wayside now. It upsets the flow of the session too much.

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 05/01/2006 - 05:43
I too use the paper approach but I also go back and do some post session markup of the session when I can take the time to drop markers where I want them in the file and in some cases take out the false starts and the interruptions that come as part of the recording session. Then I burn a CD for the performer and have them listen to it. I provide them with the log and the marked scores. So far it has worked well. We will still try and slate the takes but sometimes in the heat of the session things start going to fast for us to interrupt the flow with making a voice announcement. Our log has the piece name, the section we are covering, the start time of the take and the end time and a section for comments. We use a lot of shorthand that we have developed over the years. OK means what it says, FS means a False start, NC means not complete, MT means multiple takes of the same passage with out stopping, A * means the performer thought it was a really good take, We spell these out on our take sheet so the artist knows what they mean.

Recently we have been recording our session in multitrack for backup and going directly to two track for the mix. So far, loud sound of Tom knocking on wood, we have not needed to do anything off the multitrack but it is there "just in case"

Best of luck!

larsfarm Tue, 05/02/2006 - 22:33
Exsultavit wrote: Any other folks with thoughts on this? I am getting some great pointers!

I'm eager to learn what others do as well.

My method has been similar to yours. I use a Mackie SDR. (1) start (2) voice slate. I've let let the conductor do the voice slating - that way they'll have to be well aware that "it's now" (3) music. Then I keep a paper log similar to Thomas (SDR project#(one per piece of music), take, start/stop time, status{OK, FS, etc} and remarks).

The thing I'm most worried about. That I'm most likely to mess up is recording over a previous recording. I'd like a way to automatically (put the recording at | label the recording with) date+time of day. I want to just press rec and not have to worry about where (on the imaginary tape of the SDR) it ends up. Especially if we have backed up and listened to the latest take.

I also need a better way to notate what happens during the music (bar13 tenors flat, soprano entrance late in bar19, etc...). I note this in the log, but it is too slow. I need a faster system. I would like to make notes directly in the music, but then how do I keep notes from different takes distinct?

best regards

DavidSpearritt Wed, 05/03/2006 - 03:20
Worrying about recording over something is a non-issue, now, with hard disc recorders. Append only, is the preferred mode.

Regarding score notating, we write the file number in pencil next to a bum note, with a little cross. When they successfully cover that same defect in a subsequent take we scribble the file number and a little tick to show its covered. Scanning ticks and crosses works well across the whole score before moving on. Sometimes we scribble a ring around the note with pencil, if there is one bum note in a chord, for example.

We generally rely on memory for the exact nature of the defect, there is no time to write "flat soprano", and sometimes the scores go back to the artists, but the fact that the scribble is next to a top note in the soprano score is a good hint. Sometimes we write ens (for crappy ensemble) or int for intonation problems, but memory tends to be pretty good for this sort of detail.

Cucco Wed, 05/03/2006 - 12:16
This is a GREAT topic. I love it.

I have to admit, I'm a tad spoiled by Sequoia in that, when I'm working on multi-take recordings, I simply drop a marker at a retake. On paper, I notate the marker number and what measure numbers are contained within that marker. One other approach within Sequoia is you can do a Stop/Start. Doing so automatically labels takes for you within the software. This is a big plus!!

Then, I make any comments that I deem necessary. I have check boxes for: False starts (which I include anything from errant musicians to wrong notes on the first measure and so on), bad/wrong note(s), and pitch issues. Also, I have a blank for the measure number in which the error takes place. Finally, I have a check box for "Good." This means that this is an overall good take and we can effectively move on to the next section. This box doesn't get that much use as, quite often, good takes are assembled from numerous pretty good takes.

Similar to David's approach, I notate in the score with a circle (small) where a problem existed. If the problem has been corrected, a line or 'x' goes through the circle. This way, I know when I can move on easily.

Typically, I have 3 people sitting at the control desk.

1 - me. I engineer. That's it. Sometimes, if I catch something the producer doesn't, I'll chime in. I can also act as the communicator to the conductor sometimes.

2 - intern or part-timer. This is my assistant engineer. Primarily, he/she is responsible for making the notes on the paper form.

3 - producer. Typically, notes in the scores are made by the producer. Also, they are usually the ones who do the most communication with the conductor.

I have put up a copy of my paper forms on my website at:

(Dead Link Removed)

It's very sweet and simple. The font was selected so it could be easily read under poor conditions.


FifthCircle Wed, 05/03/2006 - 12:49
I too keep a paper log with start and end times for each take. I use Sequoia and have it set up to put each "take" in its own file (every time I hit record). When there are multiple takes in a file, I drop markers. All file names and markers are documented on the take sheet (along with the start time for each take).

After the session is done, I will turn all those markers into CD Track marks (a simple click of the mouse in the marker manager) and burn a reference CD for the client. That way, if they reference CD Tracks and times on their edit list (something I hate, but they do anyways), I can reference it exactly to the session.

I will add that I don't give the client a choice on verbal slates. Verbal Slates save everybody's collective butts and I have yet to find a session that can't spare the couple seconds it takes to put it down. For those that say "it makes it seem too much like a recording session..." I usually respond to a slightly more polite version of "duh.... What do you think it is?"


JoeH Sun, 05/07/2006 - 00:42
I can second most of the above, including the usual Sequoia tips.

One thing I'm very clear on is: We record everything, all the time. With modern HD recording, there's no longer the issue of saving media space. Announcing takes and slating works is good for voice recognition back at editing, but there's no stop or start on our end, unless it's a definite break for the musicians.

For new clients, I give them the same speech: The recording is "ON" the whole session unless we announce otherwise. There's no stress of the "red light" coming on and off, it's entirely up to them for getting good takes, and most prefer the freedom to work at their own pace. We can communicate as we go, but our MO is to remain as unobtrusive to the creative process as possible. Stopping and starting can drive some folks crazy, so we don't. All that time wasted asking: "are we rolling yet?" is a thing of the past.

mdemeyer Sun, 05/07/2006 - 17:19
Since most of my recording is concerts, the ability to re-take is limited. :wink:

But for non-performance work I'm with Joe on rolling except during musician breaks, at least within a single work (or movement, if the structure of the session is to work one movement at a time). I generally start new files for each piece (or movement). My primary index for paper notes is, therefore, elapsed time from start of the file.

Vocal slates tend to be picked up from the dialog between the conductor or lead and the group without the need for 'formal' slates. Sometimes a seperate mic/track helps for this purpose.


larsfarm Sun, 05/07/2006 - 23:24
DavidSpearritt wrote: What do you use if for?

I don't think you miss anything.

I use a Mackie SDR hard disc recorder. It's a 3RU thing with 24 line or ADAT in and out and a nice meter bridge. It looks like a tape recorder and has the controls of a tape recorder (stop, fwd, bwd, play and rec). Each track has an arm track button. There is a window with a time code for the "current location" (on imaginary tape I suppose). This can be controlled by an external SMPTE source. By default it starts at 0 and measures time. It records at the current location. So I record for a while. The counter goes up. I stop. We decide to listen, and then ... where was I...? I need to get back to or past that location. This has tought me the hard way to use strict discipline. Write the numbers down before pressing any button.

There is no append mode and there are far to few location markers to be of any use (4). When recording concerts it is in rec for a long time, then I use an unused track as a sort of marker. During record I can turn tracks on/off individually by pressing the "arm track" button, so that is wha I use for markers. Primitive, but at least something. I mix in the computer, These short clips from the "marker-track" works reasonably well as markers, but that is during postprocessing in the computer. Not on location.

best regards