The Curse of Latency

How many of you are recording or listening to digitally recorded music? AreĀ  you aware of the problem of latency? It is making us very anxious and crazy and sick and no one seems to be aware of the ramifications; Latency is when you record an instrument in Protools or any other digital computer system and when it is played back it is slightly faster than what the player intended it to feel like. It is recorded a microsecond faster than it was performed. Engineers know about this and they think it is acceptable. IT IS NOT ACCEPTIBLE!!! If you think playing to a metronome click track will fix this problem, think again. When you record say a guitar to a click track, then you play it back to overdub a bass for instance, the guitar will be very, very slightly ahead of the click track creating a sense of anxiety in the listener. It is so very subtle that engineers just live with it. But it has killed real music. As a percussionist, I have realized how dangerous this technical phenomenon really is. Each time I overdub a percussion instrument it is slightly ahead of the last track I recorded. It gets worse the more overdubs I do. Each track is slightly ahead of the last take. Most engineers don’t care. Producers don’t care. The listener is the one who is affected; creating a sense of impending doom and anxiety because the tracks are not matching up like in the old days with analog tape recording when you could overdub a percussion part and it was spot on where it should be, thus creating a magical groove that people could fall in love with. This is so subtle that only a percussionist would be able to notice the traffic jam pileup of takes that were supposed to interlock like clockwork, after several overdubs. Each track feels like it is running away from the tracks recorded before it. The original instrument sounds too slow by the time you have overdubbed a whole band. The solution is to slide each track downstream a fraction of a fraction of an inch. Stretch out your time line and slide the original first track downstream just incrementally. Then slide the rest of the tracks downstream one at a time. The song starts to relax! Engineers are terrified of doing this insisting that everything has to match up with the click and the measures. They do not match up with themselves unless you go in and physically move them back in time. This is why digital music sucks. Try this experiment; Record a song using a click track or a drum machine part. Save it in two versions: one version as is. Save the second version after sliding the guitar or piano or whatever instrument you initially compose on downstream just a tiny little bit. Then overdub your next instrument or vocal or whatever. Overdub on the original with no sliding, then save that as your first version. Then overdub on the one you adjusted and save that as your second version, slide down each instrument just a smidgin(really! very, very slightly) downstream and continue to save that as your second version. Continue this procedure until you are finished with your masterpiece; both takes will be the same song but the second one will have a better FEEL. Better yet.. throw your digital recorder over the side of a bridge and find an analog recording studio and make real music that feels GOOD!!! Don’t believe an engineer that says their digital recording studio system has zero latency. They’re lying. It is inherent in the design. It is making us sick on a very subconscious level. Good luck. Long live real music.

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