Live multitrack band recording with no click--workflow?

Hi all

I have Cubase 7, and I’d like to tighten up my live band recording. I’ve been muddling along, trying this and that, but I wondered if there was a standard workflow for situations like this.

I’ve worked out that I need to create a tempo track, align the drum tracks and tighten everything up (so that the guitar strums coincide with the piano chords, etc.). But what’s the best order in which to do everything, and which tools should I use?

I’ve read and watched various tutorials about beat detection, tapping-in a tempo track, VariAudio, hitpoints, you name it…but each feature is explained in isolation, and it occurs to me that someone must have come up with a master plan by now!

The tracks are all Audio, no MIDI.

Thanks for your time!

Hi nichollsj ,

I’m afraid, C7 ist not quite the right tool for this, Nuendo would be more appropriate - but you can do it with C7 too.

If you have recorded the gig with a multi-channel interface, you should have all tracks alligned as they have beehn played / sung by the band members.

I would recomend you split the tracks at each brake between the songs (easier to handle than very long audio files.

If you wnat to tighten up the tempo and tuning variations, set the tempo for each one of the songs individually.
If you want to have them in one go (so a whole set without brake), you eill have to create a temp track and change the tempo at the beginning of each song.

Edit the first track (double click) and select Audio Warp and Free Warp.
You will see the wav curve and the timing grid. If you zoom in, it will get finer.
With the mouse you can select the peaks and pull them on the grid.
You can try to work with hitpoints too but I have not used them yet.

the problem is that you can fix just one track at a time (at least what I know) in C7.
Nuendo is much better suited for this so if you want to make a business model form live recordings, consider purchasing Nuendo. As far as I remember (I do not own it but I heve seen it in other peoples studios) you can see and manupulate multiple track simultaneously.
You can download the trial version of Nuendo 5 here: give it a try.

Best regards


C7 will do just as well or bad as Nuendo. From all the reasons to get Nuendo, this is none of them.

First thing to check is if there are bleeding over from the various instruments - e.g. the drums are heard on the guitar tracks or the bass bleeds into the vocal etc… - solo each track and check.
If you have bleeding don’t waste time on it - you can’t manipulate the tracks individually and you are stuck with what you got.

This is the primary use of Cubase for me from SL 2 to C7. Anything I have recorded live as a performing quartet or larger, due to the room and or my basement studio, makes it impossible for good isolation and bleeding is so bad it is essentially creating a mix within the record activity of fixed design based on mic location during the record process.

I can eventually manipulate tracks but it is not a simple event and would be significantly improved if it was better isolation.

Track alignment is fine as it is either in time or not

If there’s any bleed between multiple audio tracks, then I’m afraid that most of the warping and re-timing techniques available to you in Cubase (or most other DAWs) will force you to make the assumption that timing inaccuracies in one part will be time-coincident with the inaccuracies in another part. Either that or you’ll create a huge mush of out of sync tracks and phasey noises.

Trouble is, you need to somehow create an end-to end referece time base for your edits to follow.

In my experience, the sloppy guitarist rarely follows the idiosyncrasies of the inconsistent drummer, who speeds up after every turn-around. The problem with so many players is that they don’t listen to, or watch, each other - they’re just off in a world of their own, with no consistent time-base between them - often with their eyes (and/or ears) shut. All in the name of ‘feel’…yeah, right.

One pushes, then the others catch up…once (if?) they’ve realised what’s happening. The excited heart-rate effects of inexperienced live performance usually means that much more rarely does somebody drag, followed by the others - hence why so many live performances tend to speed up.

Even simple physics facts of life, like the speed of propagation of sound, make a noticeable difference - especially on a big stage, where the players are not close to each other. Being equidistant from the drummer, or having good, close monitoring can help a lot here. In ear monitors anybody? Headphones? At least some wedges with a click, or the drums in there. Record ‘in the round’? Make sure that there’s not loads of reverby wash or slap-back echo coming off the walls - hence why studios usually have dead/treated areas.

The fact that you think you need to tighten the tracks up suggest that bad playing timing was the cause of the problem in the first place?

I’d be inclined to spend my time getting the errant musicians used to playing in time…preferably with a click, so that your Cubase grid can stand some chance of lining up with the beat/bar boundaries of the track in question.

I know, you’re probably going to tell us that this was a live recording…

There are some other ways to crack this problem.

  • better inter-track separation
  • record track at a time
  • get tighter players
  • do it all in (tightly quantised) MIDI, from the off
  • charge by the hour for clean-up work
  • get the offending musicians to sit in and understand your clean-up efforts. If they know what you have to do, they might want to do something about it. It’s so brutal, A/B-ing between raw and processed material. Hear the out of tune/time singing and playing solo’d, and against a reference beat/pitch.

Sorry to appear flippant, but the saying “it’s a tape recorder, not a magic wand” rarely seems more appropriate.

I’m so familiar with spending days on end, tightening-up just three minutes of poor playing across many tens of tracks. If only the musicians had spent that long, playing along with a metronome before they decided to record.

Like I said, if the client is happy to pay, then knuckle down and humour him.

…and maybe spend some of your profits on a copy of Melodyne. At least you’ll then enjoy some aspects of it in future.

The ‘artiste’ loves his audience to think that the mastered CD is how he really sounds. Generally, I find that the real talent comes from the editor who had the patience to keep going until the money/time ran out. Long after the talentless players have gone down the pub.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention things like eliminating tiredness, drunkedness, not having basic playing technique, and not knowing the songs from the equation.

Or you can just put it in the ‘Jazz’ category.

/Rant over - you really hit a nerve here :unamused:

A prerequisite for live band recording is that they should be able to play the music! You can splice together a performance from the best bits of several takes, but there’s GOING to be bleed, and the various tricks you mention don’t really work. Spend the time in rehearsing, until they DO play together.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention things like eliminating tiredness, drunkedness, not having basic playing technique, and not knowing the songs from the equation.

Or you can just put it in the ‘Jazz’ category.

WOW…that really says most of it right there

Hi nichollsj,

in my opinion the most important thing is to get a grip on what’s really going on. For that I’d create a tempo map using the warp tool. This video seems to show it nicely: - YouTube
I don’t try to make this too tight, typically I’ll try to catch the downbeat BD every 2 or 4 bars. The trick is to watch the grid move while you move the reference point, it should ‘lock’ with the drums. You can also leave the tempo track window open so that you can see the tempo changes you create, if the change get’s too big you might be on the wrong path.
Once you have the tempo mapped out, you have a grid to reference all the instruments, individually to the grid and also relatively to each other. Look at it, see what happens, try to understand what is ‘good’ musical interaction and what is just someone crapping out.
Maybe the track needs some global cuts if there are ‘jumps’, I’d fix them first. Then I’d probably check the drums, tighten as much as needed, tighten the bass to the drums, check the other instruments with drums and bass and then hope for the best that the leakage on the vocals doesn’t sound funny. You might get away with a lot, but always listen back to everything together in order not to loose the big picture. And don’t overdo it, you might end up with boring perfection if you get lost in the grid :wink:
Also don’t be afraid of tempo changes. Maybe load in some late 60s / early 70s stuff, create a tempo map on some songs and see how much they sometimes change when a new part starts and how steady they are otherwise. That can be helpful to get a perspective.
If single tracks suck badly, just get the artist in and have it redone on the fixed playback - it’ll probably sound way better than some wild editing and will take less time.
Just to be clear, by editing I mean cutting, moving and xfading, I’d normally stay far away from timestretching.

Hope this helps,


Wow, that’s a long quote, but I have to say its right on the money… well said. :sunglasses: Get the band to play to a click on stage is one glimmer of hope, a bit messy, and chances are some of them never heard one before :laughing: , oh and then find a club that allows giant gobos on stage, banish the audience! In the studio, you need the same number of booths as players.

That said :unamused: , there is still hope of tightening/smoothing things out, but if there’s significant bleed, the deal is indelibly bloodstained! :smiling_imp: :smiley:

Thank you all–I’m going to attack this project again tonight and you’ve given me some very useful ideas.


Just a couple of extra points… And my workflow… Key commands etc…

First, it’s mostly manual legwork and it usually has to be done manually, no other (automatic) way to get it as precise as you need for a professional product - usually.

The second point is that ProTools’ Best Detective is the best product that I’ve used for tightening drums, so you might consider getting this done in a suitably equipped studio. I’ve got no allegiance to either PT or Cubase (I own and use both) but I take my tracks to a local studio where the chap’s an expert in tidying up drums. It saves me time and gives me a better product in the end, well worth the cost.

Then, having a session with tight drums I create a tempo map. I start by using the tap tempo tool to get a rough start tempo, then add in a tempo point at the start of the song (or gig), then use the warp tool while playing through. Using the F key (follow on/off) to start and stop scrolling I can pretty much add warp points on the fly while continually playing through, so it doesn’t take me much time longer than the whole session to get it all tempo mapped. There’s usually a little tightening later tho, but that’s not too much of a problem.

The next thing I do is go through each and every instrument track and tighten it up manually using slice and slide. Key commands are your friend here because you can use the mouse with your right hand and keys with the left. It’s a boring job! I have set the ` key (on the left of the keyboard) to be slow rewind so I can quick audition what I’m doing (saves me reaching over to the keypad). Using scissors (3 key), crossfades (x), shift clip contents (ctrl-alt-drag on the waveform) I can move things in time pretty quick. Also I get to audition the tracks at this stage to see that there’s no clicks/pops or wrong notes. I put auto-crossfades on rather than using zero-crossing cuts. I’ll copy bits from other places if I find a dodgy bit!

But I don’t tend to use audio warp unless it’s a demo because it introduces too many artefacts, so I’m always cutting, sliding and (auto)crossfading.

A final word - I do the tempo map to help me align things, but I also might use midi and that allows me to quantise, being lazy when it comes to pads and the like. Guess you could use this for audio warping if you want.

I was doing all this recently with a full live multitrack, and try as I might to use the Tempo Detection tool, it never got it right for more than about 1 minute of music. I tried about 6-7 times over the whole 2 hour gig, but each time I went back to my manual method with audio warp cause in the end it turned out quicker. It’s a pity because this type of function has got better and better but it’s still not quite there yet, I hope it gets there soon.


Check out the first 3 videos…

Hope these help :slight_smile:


Oh man… I couldn’t disagree more. Cubase ROCKS in this area. I mix live recordings all the time and use the built in Live Drum Quantizing. I’ve used Beat Detective in Pro Tools for years but it doesn’t touch the Cubase version. Cubase is SO much easier to use. The key is to try to have the band play to a click. If you can do that you’ll save yourself a lot of headache. Most bands now a days play to in ear clicks.

There is a handful of ways to tackle this sort of thing, like said just spend time to make each song a separate project, do rough mixing then see where your at.

Then figure out what you need to do. Don’t assume Cubase will ‘lock’ to a live tempo. You can map a grid to a rough song easily, but it may be good for some purposes it will not be for others… If you don’t require having sample accurate perfection then just stick to basic cut and pasting audio I think.

Turn warpaudio off, it’s useless for this task IMO.

If you want to try to map a grid then mix a stereo file (mono capable) that accentuates the rhyhm, spend the time to make the rough mix as perfetly ‘rhythm’ oriented as possible and remove parts that don’t help the situation.

Bounce that mix to new track and solo it.

Then use the cubase map to audio function, that is usually good enough in most cases and you should also be able to cut and paste/remix audio at that point and be creative.

It all depends on what you want to accomplish, new production or simply mixing and mastering and general clean-up.