The tyranny of tempo in modern recording?

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Perhaps it's because I'm an old git in my early 60s but I often find that this modern form of recording with DAWs really places so much emphasis on defining and sticking to a set tempo as part of the workflow that it sometimes really gets in the way of making music. The track windows with their timing grids geared towards quantisation distract sometimes from just the urge to play and make music. It's  nice to let a song speed and slow down naturally in accordance to its own vibe. I know many DAWs support temp changes during a song, but I don't want to have to sit down and try and plan with a calculator what bpm I need to slow or speed up to. 
In the 'old' analogue days of recording on tape machine I/we never used to use click tracks etc. It was just a count in oh the recording track and off we went. It was a much more organic and natural way to record a song. 
I do try hard nowadays just to set a rough tempo on the Reaper, then remove the metrone and time grid but sometimes I feel like I'm swimming against the current beause of the nature of DAWs.
Anyone else ever feel the tyranny of the tempo.. or is this just an old fart problem?  :)
(pronounced: equal-sequel)   "I suffered for my art.. now it's your turn"
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Comments

  • You can use a DAW just like a tape machine if you want. Turn off the click. Hit record. Get the first chunk down. Rewind. Get some pre-roll going. Record the next bit. So on and so forth, and indeed, fifth.

    Bye!

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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 14759
    tFB Trader
    You certainly don't get much stuff these days like Sabbath where speedups and slowdowns are part of the song.

    I tend to think quantising the swing out of things and pitch correcting everything is even worse

    Rick Beato is good on such subjects.
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  • KeefyKeefy Frets: 1327
    Although I find it very convenient to work with a tempo grid, when l listen back to my recordings I can hear that my timing is often ‘off’.
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 6230
    equalsql said: ... the tyranny of the tempo...
    That’s a quotable phrase!

    Does working to a click irritate me? Yes and no. Before lockdown I was working with a singer, just her voice and my guitar. we would move the tempo around significantly through a song. It really added light and shade to the performance. Playing with a covers band is a different challenge. We've got keyboard sequencers, guitar effects, and lighting which need to be locked into the same beat.

    What does irritate me is that so many songs are recorded by numbers. Last week I checked the timing of 16 songs which we are considering. Many of them were recorded to an identical tempo: 120bpm. It was almost a relief to find a Lady Gaga song at 119bpm, but then every other song of hers which I clocked was also at 119.

    Don't get me started on autotune.
    Known here as Old Misery Guts or the Big Bad Classified's Sheriff. Also guitarist with  https://www.undercoversband.com/.
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  • If you're interested (and there's no reason you should be), the way I do it (in Logic Pro X - I'm assuming most DAWs do the same sort of thing differently) is to record a simple guide rhythm guitar with Smart Tempo turned on. This follows what I'm playing and sets the grid to what I've just played. It works better if I let it do it when I'm recording the track, but it can be added to a track later. Afterwards, I can edit it to make sure that it's right. Then, I can fix the tempo map to make sure it's right, and then play with the tempo so it's what I want. At this point I have a tempo-mapped song that never really sits still, tempo-wise, and it makes Drummer tracks (I suppose EZ-Drummer to everyone else) sound less mechanical. It's also fun to lock a tape delay plug-in to the tempo, as it sounds like someone playing with the speed control all the time. 
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 1077
    Paul Davids has a useful video on this topic:



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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 7100
    edited October 2021
    I think like anything that is overdone, it can get tiresome either way really. When I've done stuff with tempo changes I've generally just played it a few times without any tempo track to find where I slow down or speed up, made notes on it, then recorded via midi on a piano sound or whatever at a consistent tempo. Then gone through the tempo track to slow it or speed it up at different rates until it sounds how I want it, then mute the midi track and add the guitar or singing it whatever along to that click track.

    However I'm willing to accept my mind probably doesn't work the same way competent recordists or musicians minds do
    www.pianomatt.co.uk - Wedding and Event Pianist in the West Midlands
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  • Afterwards, I can edit it to make sure that it's right. Then, I can fix the tempo map to make sure it's right, and then play with the tempo so it's what I want. 
    Looking at this again this morning, I realise that this doesn't make any sense. What I meant was:

    1. Compare the guitar track and the click to make sure that they line up, and fix if not. 
    2. Check the tempo map to see if there are any weird glitchy tempo changes, and if so, fix them. At this point the guitar track retimes with the tempo track. 
    3. Make sure it's the tempo I want it to be (not to fast or slow overall) and adjust to taste. 

    I can then add in section markers and generate a Drummer track, after which I can play along with the Drummer track (having got the feel of it to what I want). 
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  • WhistlerWhistler Frets: 154
    equalsql said:
    Anyone else ever feel the tyranny of the tempo.. or is this just an old fart problem?
    Personally, I have never tried farting to a set tempo. I prefer, as you said, to let it happen "naturally in accordance to its own vibe."

    As far as playing and recording music goes, I see a metronome as a great training aid to learn not to let the tempo drift up or down. I completely understand those who prefer to use a DAW as a tape machine, it makes a lot of sense for those who prefer to work that way.
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  • If you're interested (and there's no reason you should be), the way I do it (in Logic Pro X - I'm assuming most DAWs do the same sort of thing differently) is to record a simple guide rhythm guitar with Smart Tempo turned on. This follows what I'm playing and sets the grid to what I've just played. It works better if I let it do it when I'm recording the track, but it can be added to a track later. Afterwards, I can edit it to make sure that it's right. Then, I can fix the tempo map to make sure it's right, and then play with the tempo so it's what I want. At this point I have a tempo-mapped song that never really sits still, tempo-wise, and it makes Drummer tracks (I suppose EZ-Drummer to everyone else) sound less mechanical. It's also fun to lock a tape delay plug-in to the tempo, as it sounds like someone playing with the speed control all the time. 
    I'm going to give that a go. Thanks for highlighting it. I use Logic but don't really know it - IYSWIM.

    I've been trying to edit the tempo manually to get the right feel for a song that starts slow and then speeds up in the transition bar before the verse starts (in real life the drummer makes this happen with a single stroke roll that gets faster) and it isn't easy for me to program and have it sound convincing. 
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  • Back in the days of tape recording some drummers played to a click, so it's not really a modern thing. For the likes of The Who it was because of the pre-recorded synth parts of the likes of Won't Get Fooled Again, for others, I guess, it was the producer's choice if he thought the drummer altered tempo too much or was just OCD about tempo-drift.

    When I got back into home recording, I recorded each instrument in complete takes as I did on the old four-track, which included drums provided from keyboards or drum machines as I had done before. I think playing along to a drum machine would be much the same as playing along to live drums tight to a click.


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  • NerineNerine Frets: 1402
    Too much quantisation makes mixes sound smaller. 
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  • NerineNerine Frets: 1402
    Also, a lot of the time I record delay on guitars that is completely out of time with the song. Sometimes it’s locked to the session tempo. 

    Just depends what I am trying to get across in the music/mixes. 
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  • I think a lot of the tendency to lock things to a grid is actually because the performances aren't up to par and its way easier to correct when you can be objective about time rather than having to work around an element of feel.

    The bar for recording drums is lower than ever but the average standard of production for hobby bands has never been higher so you combine those 2 things and you get lots more substandard performances being edited into something acceptable.

    In metal at least the actual technical standard of parts has been increasing over the years too.  
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 31155
    Some bands do not record to click tracks.
    QOTSA are an example.
    I think Clutch are too.

    If the band is well rehearsed then you don't need to use one.
    I often do not.

    A trick that people might not know, you can use a half time or quarter time metronome, which gives you the ability to more loosely track a session tempo whilst still maintaining some reference to a grid.
    So for a 120bpm track set the session tempo to 60 or 30 bpm.

    Jazz musicians use it on the offbeat so you can swing.
    You can do this by setting a half bar count in and playing on the off beat.
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  • fretmeisterfretmeister Frets: 16727
    This is one of the reasons why I love live albums so much - especially old ones where there weren't any tape backing tracks that required a click.

    It's not just DAW related though - it's also that so many people play all the parts themselves at home - there's no opportunity to feed off other musicians like you get in a live room.

    In an old band we used to record it live and then bin most of the guitars and all the vocals. Always kept the bass and drums, and if it was clean enough as much of the rhythm guitar parts as we could too.

    Then the rhythm section's little ebbs and flows were preserved for layering the rest on. Sounded so much nicer - like an organic living thing rather than soulless perfection.

    One of the best things about playing with other people is that interaction - when you feel a tune as a group and everyone knows what the others are going to do. 

    Perfection is a crap idea.
    Humans will swim in the sea even though there are many corpses in it.  They will not swim in a pool with a corpse in it. 
    Therefore all humans have a water / corpse ratio that is acceptable to them.

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