Record first, or practice first?

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When I write a song I try to capture the first moments of it, as writing it, -- not practice it then "record". I always save the first pass(es).

What I then try to do, is then "practice" it to *keep* the first moments freshness in it.

Because, for me, if I then practiced it allot then "recorded" it, to then be itself, -- many more would sound alike than may already. I know I/we-all have a sound, but doesn't mean self-cloning, etc. (E.g., Led Zep wrote "when the levee breaks", once, never again.)
-- "Happy accidents", lost... with to much practice.

In all the folks I've known or "studied", observed, -- they create then record nearly immediately, (chop out songs from hours of tape/demo/jams (i.e. the Stones), then practice for "tightness" and other if even comes together; they don't write, play'em for a year then release them.

So, what? Good question Crazy

I don't see this discussed; actually, I don't think I ever observed it discussed. Maybe it doesn't need to be discussed Smile , however, I like looking at the brutally obvious, not talked about, and wonder what others think about it; if anything at all Wink

-- yOu?

I never practice. Next question? Smile

i never practice either. i start recording the song even before i fnish wrting it, and usually go through 10 to 30 passes at it before i get a take that i can stand listening to.then i post it and forget about it until somebody leavesme a coment. then i listen to it again in order to understand what they are talking about.

I seldom practice before recording a demo. But in the past I would try to get good takes. I find when I do full band productions , even if just demos, I spend a lot of time getting takes down. This year I have focused on G&G (guy and guitar) takes. Often posting the very first time I played all the way through the song. It’s really widened my time. I much more prolific.

The only negative I see is that I don’t write in the harder rock styles as much without the distortion and drums. But there will be time enough for that whenever I get around to it, whether in 50/90 or not.

Since my music is made on a DAW track by track, I practice each part as I come up with it, then record it.
The happy mistakes do happen still. A lot of melodies and bass lines come from that. Motifs that I otherwise would not have done if I were trying to come up with something.
I think my biggest flaw is seeking perfection. Doesn't work out most times and I end up walking away from 100s upon 100s of tracks due to frustration and anger.
Record first...I've tried in the past but I have never been able to do it. I respect those that do this.

Interesting question... I get the bit about preserving the spirit of the original recording, but for me I sometimes only hear what the song wants to be after I've laid down a few tracks, and I have to go back and fix the bits that don't fit with how it's turning out. It happened to me this afternoon doing this one:
The original chorus was completely different, and I redid the guitar solos in the bridge and at the end because the guitar sound was wrong. I'm glad I went back and fixed it, because I was really pleased with how it turned out.

And I tend to get obsessed with doing "just one more take" to see if I can come up with a better guitar line than the one I've already got...

Good question! Past few weeks I've been fine tuning my 50 songs of this summer (yeah, I haven't posted any on here yet) and normally I am a bit timid and tend to revere the 'energy of the first take' but my new method is just to fearlessly resing, replay, rearrange, and ruthlessly cut bits out --- and you know, not once do I miss the original first takes. Not once. Quite an eye opener for me. It also has given me confidence that I can reliably repeat a take (by which I mean a few bars) and in fact continue to make it better and refine its composition. Usually by simplifying it or just taking the time that I never normally take.

So, my answer is both -- I record first, then later practice (like two or three times) and re-record.

I hit the record button the moment I have an inspiration, I then try to capture what I have in mind changing and re-changing, re-shaping, getting it wrong, getting fed up, trying again and again, often going totally away from the original idea and spending as long time as I need, often then listening and deleting it but sometimes keeping if I like it. There were occasions when I would make a mistake in my recording going different from my original idea melody and liking it more. It's often an experiment but not an improvisation, rather work on the material and trying my best to make it work the way I hope. If I use fl studio I'm able to re-shape my ideas swapping the parts and not having issues with the recording but if I'm using upright piano it's much harder to cut/paste anything without losing some quality so I prefer to keep starting from the beginning till the end rather than changing parts. I suppose I practice during the recording but there are occasions when I practice before the recording. Possibly depends on the material and whether I compose instrumental or music to lyrics. For creating music to lyrics I'd try to practice before and often sing the lyrics before I can come up with the piano/instrumental backing.

Hmm. Maybe that's why I'm not so prolific.

I have an iPad mini. Theoretically I can write and record anywhere. In practice, I can't record vocals because I need to be quiet, need to hear something else, or am in a noisy place.

I often sing my vocal parts mentally while I'm writing lyrics, and try at least to notate the shape. If/ when I can finally record, it helps me remember. I may sing a chorus in my head for a couple days. If I have time to record, I may totally improvise.

I don't practice the song a lot before I record because I just don't have time. Song \s that I like, I practice after and try to work up a good performance version. However, when I record a song I sometimes do a lot of takes before I get it sounding the way that I want. Technically, that is practicing.

I have to play through the song enough that the melody is fully developed and I can remember it. Then I start doing takes. If I don't do enough prep the melody is different in the first verse from the second, verses are different lengths, spaces between are out of whack.

I practice stuff a couple times before recording. Except in skirmishes, in which I often just let it fly and whatever comes out comes out.

For me, songwriting challenges are about, well, songwriting. As a result, the posted demo is a rough sketch documentation of how the song could go. So I generally record without practicing first.

Yeah i dont practice. My only practice is messing with my guitar. Soon as an idea is showing itself its a write and record.

It has to roll around in my head for a while before I record, and sometimes I have to actually teach myself how to realize it on my instrument. It's the only way to get the sound out of my head.

This summer I havent had as much time to devote as in some previous years, and I feel less pressure to really polish each recording (not that any of my stuff is so polished or perfect, of course)... alot of my songs this season have been recorded quick, mostly guitar and vocal , live, and most of the time I do it in one or two takes.

I do a second take many times if i feel i really didn't phrase the vocal (or play guitar) quite the way i wanted to, but lately I haven't done much more then that lately. I should say that my performance skills are a bit better then they were 10 years ago, say, so , I don't perhaps need as many 'takes' to 'get it across' as i perhaps used to.

I'm thinking of taking the 'best of' this season's material and once again assembling an album to be put on bandcamp.- the big question i have (for myself, i guess, but feel free to let me know what you think) is.... ---Do i do a bunch of re-recording, overdubbing (maybe some other instruments on there as well) to polish it all up (which will of course take time) or, --- just use some of these somewhat lo-fi demos? and get it 'out there' quicker... (some of the stuff is somewhat time-sensative topical things too)

part of the answer , I guess, depends on how much of an audience there is for this stuff.. seems to be a bit less and less every year, but....that's ok, too.

anyway, there ya go.. Smile

I've been following this thread and enjoying it, but didn't know how to respond. I just wrote a long explanation of my process and then deleted it. I will add that the combination of practicing and recording I do of my multi-tracked songs has to take an hour or less or I lose interest. And I'm pressed for time more the last couple 50/90s and FAWMs than I have been in years past, which helps with use of my time and accepting what I can come up with in that time.
I do wish I had the time and inclination to practice certain instruments (banjo, mandolin, slide guitar) outside of just using them for challenge songs. But I have too many other interests and obligations.
[@mikeskliar] - After a full year of having a Bandcamp account and doing nothing with it, I've decided to just put up there the versions I've already recorded. But I haven't started yet - it's on my post-50/90 to-do list. I know myself well enough to know I'm not doing any re-recording and overdubbing!

I almost never rewrite songs, so I spend a lot of time tweaking the lyrics as I go. That makes for practicing the song lots while writing it. And then like @katpiercemusic I'll do lots of takes when recording to get it presentable, so that's practice too. But like @ustaknow said, there's often an illusive magic that can be soon lost if the songs isn't recorded very quickly after writing.

I'll usually do a run through of vocals before tracking at least once or twice. The song itself is usually recorded in the moment as I go along.

I have so many rough songs! Many of them are from skirmishes here at 50/90 or FAWM. But I never have the time to give in order to go back and record/produce them again. So I am def in the record first/practice never category.

With that said, I do have a few that I have taken extra time with such as a FAWM song from a few years ago, Taking Me Down ( But even with this one the extent of my "practicing" is recording a bunch of tracks and then comping them together to make one coherent performance.

It's funny how many first fresh perfect takes got lost because of muting or forgetting to press the rec button... I think they all live on a planet and smile at our attempts to get it betta! It's obvious that you could never play&sing the same song in the same way twice, There's probably guys that come very close to this, but that's not what life is about. In my opinion when you got the song "right", "done" or "half-baked" whateva that means - it will find it's own suit in a couple of takes... But the samurai cuts only once. I wish I could follow...

@lowhum said "the samurai cuts only once" because he always measures twice!

Sometimes I don't even know how I'm going to end a song when I'm in the middle of recording it.
A lot of my stuff is pure improv.

Yeah, I've forgotten to write the intro or the ending or even forgotten a part I had written in the middle of recording. Sometimes I rerecord. Sometimes the song is what I recorded because I forgot the original part. Sometimes.

I record before I even write the song. That's one of the benefits of improvising. Wink

When I go for a more structured approach, I improvise until I find a verse or chorus melody I like, then switch and do the other. Then I tweak and adapt lyrics to tighten them up with the melody. It still isn't music-then-lyrics as my early drafts are mined for lyric material, though I sometimes need to work them to fit the current melody.

I record rough drafts just so I don't forget the melody or what I liked. However, I still have to practice a lot to even get a half decent take on it. That's why I can't seem to get past about 20 songs each time.

I like how kat puts it, the third leg of the stool, "practice after and try to work up a good performance version".

-- Yes indeed.

I think I spend, when I refer to my one year wait time with my songs, -- doing just that. That's the "trick", --capture the freshness and playing it years later as you did that first when writing it period.

I listen to some of my "demos" ... and as much as I might like to indulge, (all the overdubs and etc., multi-layering), -- I love to just jam with my 1v1g paradigm... and if someone backing me wants to rip into a 10 min face melting solo, OK. Crazy And, it does change the song/"record"... but, that foundation is there. The Stones "Wild Horses" comes to mind... even half ass played... it's still WH, and the listener fills in many of the blanks at some point.

With music, part of why I am the way I am is because, in so many places/time, someone would ask, "hey, grab that guitar and do one of yours now"... and I'd see so many say, "well, it would not be that song w/o the band" and etc., so didn't. (Usually means, "Autotuning" Wink ) And, actually, I know those folks didn't care... it'd be like any artist asked, Swift, Jagger, Nash, Mitchell, White, Money, Allman, Strummer, etc..., "sing something" and they didn't. A producer friend of mine asked to stop asking this one band to "jam" (any "band"), -- he explained, "...every step on stage, Note, inflection is so rehearsed, they are not capable of jamming and would be afraid to...".

-- That's not what it's about for me; "It might get loud", video comes to mind, -- where they sat and jammed a bit, and White was teaching Page how to play a chord... -- wonderful; and all sounded a bit "krappy" too, --outstanding Crazy and no one cares/ed (like the video or not).

It's a weird thing... I rarely do, but sometimes now I bring parts of my songbook, (paper can't loose batt pwr, and etc.), throw it in the suitcase... because, I jam 'till the cows come home, all night long, but can't remember my own songs w/o a leadsheet, -- always been that way (everones got a mic stand helper, so I know I am not alone). One time, someplace, at a well equipped and rolling along thingy... I was asked to jump in, but not to jam, do 3-4 songs... and I didn't have any Leadsheets with me, not online (would not have helped then anyway, wifi/internet access, really? Smile ), anyway, -- nothing..., it was not only a missed opportunity, they were, surprising to me, kinda pissed. (I've always been surprised, just how I am, any great thing in life surprises me since just do not presume anything.) Anyway..., not that it would have been life changing, --it is a different memory than it could have been. -- Jump in and jam, sure... give me your lead-sheet even better, make up a song in the moment, why not... good at some, not at other... just how it goes.

-- For that, "Practice" does not help me Crazy hahhh...