Home Recording Lessons – How Many Takes Does it Take?

Here’s another lesson I’ve learned about home recording.

You don’t always get it in two or three takes, much less one.

Now so far I’ve only done three songs so maybe my thoughts on this will change.

The first song I recorded where I used my acoustic kit I did it in one take and prior to that I did a version of the song on my electronic kit and that took two takes.  Also prior to getting the one take with the acoustic kit I had a number of rehearsal runs to get levels so it’s not like I sat down and hit record.

Now I don’t do any punch ins with my drums.  I go for one continuous take.

I do this not because I have some aversion to using this method or consider it cheating.  No it’s because I suck at engineering and just haven’t learned how to properly do it without destroying what I have already laid down.

I am working on that but even so I still strive to do it in one take.  I’m trying to capture a performance.

The second song I did was on my electronic kit and took two takes after several rehearsals.

I also did a quick demo for a friend on my electronic kit and that was two takes as well.

The last song that I have been working on I decided to skip the electronic kit version all together and go right to my acoustic kit.

As usual I spent some time on rehearsing and getting my levels so I probably ran through the song 5 or 6 times prior to deciding to actually record.

However when I hit the record button for some reason I suddenly put pressure on myself to get it right, you know like time is money and you can’t afford to sit here all day trying to get a good track and waste everyone’s time.  But that does fade as I say to myself; hey it’s my studio, my kit, my time so just relax.

This third song that I wrote had a bridge with some syncopated rhythm which took some time for me to learn. I was surprised that I had some difficulty trying to play the drums to something I wrote.

So I blew it on the first take and stopped and rehearsed this bridge 10 or more times and then felt ready to roll tape (so to speak).

First take, second verse, mistake, let’s try it again.

Second take, tricky bridge, mistake, let’s try it again.

Third take, tricky bridge, again another mistake, let’s try it again.

This went on for probably another 11 takes or more.

I’d stop between takes and rehearse the part until I felt comfortable then try another take and make another mistake.

So after about the thirteenth take I was wondering if I should just say it’s not happening today and go do something else.

But I had spent so much prep time, rehearsal time and I really didn’t want to come back later and start all over.

Besides it could be another week or more until I have the time and the right situation to record a live drum track,

I put down my sticks, got up and walked around.  I grabbed my can of soda and sat down in my big office chair, took a couple of swigs and just cleared my head.

I thought about something totally unrelated to what I was doing.

This took maybe five minutes.  Then I said to myself let’s give it one more try and if it doesn’t happen I’ll stop for today and try again some other time.

I sat back down at my kit and without any warm up just hit record.

I got it.

I guess my frustration grew with every bad take as I had expectations that weren’t realistic.  I was expecting it to happen right away like the previous sessions.

Every time I had to do another take I got more frustrated, more away from the song, more out of the moment.

Not until I said screw it did I let go of the frustration and get back in the moment.

So my lesson is there is no set number of takes, it happens when it happens.  Sometimes you get the track and sometimes the track gets you.

And when the track gets the best of you just let it have its way.  It won’t hurt.

Then go back after it.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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