Recording in long takes vs recording in short takes

recording in long takes vs recording in short takes

In the modern DAW, we have the option of recording in both long takes, and short takes too. So short in fact, that you could record an instrument verse by verse, or even note by note if you wanted to.

Whilst the ability to record a short take of no more than a line or a few words gives us the opportunity to correct tiny mistakes, I personally prefer to record in long takes where ever possible.

I’m an advocate of recording in long takes when ever I can.

I prefer to record in long takes when ever I can because in my experience, recording parts in lots of short takes leads to two problems. The first problem is that when your parts consist of a large number of small takes, editing the session becomes a huge task. Even with the ability to use things like playlists in Pro Tools First which makes the process much easier, editing lots of small takes together requires hours of work. Each of the takes has to be auditioned to find the best one. The best has to be patched into what will become the final take. Each of the takes has to be edited to fit together seamlessly.

Avoid loosing continuity by recording in long takes.

There’s a second problem with recording lots of small takes too. You see, when your tracks are made up of lots of small takes, you will often loose continuity. Your tracks can feel disjointed and clumsy. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t always happen. A lot of the time you really can’t tell. But there are times when tracks which are made up of lots of small takes just don’t feel right. Not even when they’ve been edited really well!

Personally, I prefer recording in long takes when ever I can. I only resort to short takes when I really need to. Generally speaking, my approach is to record 2 or 3 full takes of drums, bass, guitars, vocals etc. From there, I’ll cut between these takes for 1 of 2 reasons. Reason 1 is to find the best performance. Reason 2 is to fix a mistake.

Finding the best performances when recording in long takes:

When it comes to finding the best parts of a take, one of the takes will generally stand out as being better than the others. Perhaps one take is great on the whole, but one part of it isn’t quite as good as a different take. No problem, I simply patch a better part of another take into the original one.

Fixing mistakes whilst recording in long takes:

When it comes to repairing mistakes, 9 times out of 10 a messed up drum fill or an out of tune moment from a singer can simply be swapped out for part of a different take. In my experience, its rare that a musician will have made the same mistake on all of the recorded takes.

That said, it does sometimes happen. We all know that even the most well rehearsed performers can sometimes hit an obstacle during the session. In that case, I think its fine to go ahead and record a short take. A few small punch ins here and there are absolutely fine and will generally blend fairly well with the rest of the larger takes. The problems only seem to occur when an entire track is made up of endless amounts of short takes. The same is true if the rest of the take is fantastic, but there’s just a small mistake and its not worth loosing the rest of that great take for.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong way, and I’d love to know your approach to this. Do you find that you run into problems when you record in short takes? Or do short takes work for you just fine? Do you favor short takes and generally avoid long takes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to know your approach to this.


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