Live recording - to fix or not to fix


Here’s an interesting philosophical discussion…

So, I’m mixing a multitrack live recording. There’s the obvious tasks of EQing, getting the levels right, riding the faders, volume evolutions for the solos, etc.

Then there’s editing out the clicks and pops.

And maybe the twiddles between songs, and general noises.

And then maybe editing out the pauses between tracks while beers get swigged and the singer talks to the audience.

Then, fixing the mistakes OR even re-recording a few tracks or adding some.

So how far should we go? Should we leave it warts and all or should we clean it up and sort it out?



Hi Mark A:

Great topic for discussion…
That topic… to me… should be discussed with the rest of the guys on that stage… when putting a live concert production to project…

To me that’s the real part of entertainment…
(the interaction) with your audience…
Of course, your audience is there for your music…
your audience is your feedback/interaction…
without them you don’t have a job/stage…
among other things… That’s just my opinion/observation…

Somebody on the stage coughing on the mic…
You don’t want that…


Hi Bill,

My feeling is that it depends a lot on who the target audience is for the cd. A “punter” isn’t going to want to hear the “in jokes” at that particular gig especially if there’s 30 seconds of whittering between songs. So I’ve left some banter but edited out lots of it.

I’ve also fixed the glaring mistakes where I can but left the others - afterall I want to be able to listen to this without cringing.

Perhaps the most difficult decision will be regarding the bass track on one song. A “guest” bass player played bass on one song and quite frankly it was dreadful. Sure it was fun at the time but the timing is all out and half the notes are wrong. Three minutes with my P-Bass and it the problem could be banished, otherwise the song is not worth having on the cd IMO.

I suspect a lot of editing goes on on pro live recordings.


Hi Again:
You are so correct… I have a live recording of a concert done in Dallas/Fort Worth by three groups at the Football stadium back in I think '92… It’s Jackson Strait and Jimmy Buffett… What a great live CD… However, if you listen closely you’ll hear the tracks that have been re-worked in the studio, before it was let out for distribution… BUT… there’s no substitute for live tracks recorded before a live audience, however the mistakes… Well… But again, you have the opportunity to correct whatever, mistakes you find from the track session on the stage… It’s nice to have that at your disposal… I would fix that bass track, if I were you…


I dunno…I agree that taking out the in-jokes and stage coughs etc, needs to be done. But, once you start replacing tracks the whole live thing becomes an issue for me. However, Dave Gilmour took 5 years to ‘mix’ the live ‘Pulse’ album and DVD, so what do I know :)

philosophically (since i’ve never been tasked with mixing a live show), i would balk at the replacing tracks point. the fiddling and nonsense between songs can be edited out, and if you make breaks between songs on the disc then it might be easier. but if certain instrument tracks are that bad on a certain song or two, maybe be more selective about which songs actually make it to the finished disc.

that’s my own ivory tower opinion.

Depends on what the recording is for. That does take into account the target audience.

If it’s just for you and friends then leave every clunker in there. Years later it’s really fun to hear goofs and laugh about them. For that matter it’s fun to hear out idols making real goofs on stage. Most stuff posted to websites for fans of the band should need no or little fixing.

That said, if the recording is for a more general audience, like releasing to CD or DVD or even posting on a more visible website, then some touch ups might be needed. You may not want a mistake to live forever on the only recording of a song. If a song is otherwise a great performance except for a flubbed note or little timing thing then fix it. years later you will have a great recording and not have to make excuses every time someone hears it.

Rerecording whole tracks, or overdubbing parts that weren’t there is more of an artistic thing. If trying to get a great recording then play it a few times, even if live. There’s nothing wrong with enhancing a performance for artistic reasons.l The way to make to wrong is to pass it off as 100% live.

The need to completely redo tracks could be that the instrument wasn’t recorded originally for whatever reason. No keys because the mic failed for example…or someone didn’t set the mic up properly.l Backup vocals are the usual thing that need fixing. Turning off the backup vocal tracks and redoing the parts can go a long way to cleaning up stage volume bleed and won’t have any affect on the resulting performance as being listened to.

Frank Zappa recorded most of the Mother’s stuff live every performance, took the tapes to the studio and built songs from the jams they did on stage.

Ask this again later…


I am recording every service at church. What we are after is a dozen or so “keepers” to put on CD to give away. Every once in a while we have a set where everyone is pretty tight and these are the ones I work on. The ones with serious “clunkers” in ‘em usually hit the recycle bin.

You will also find that many boo-boos can be hidden with volume envelopes and nobody but you will notice. The two that I put up links to are “warts and all”… not too shabby though IMO. I still have work to do on them but it’s gettin’ there.


In the liner notes from his (absolutely stunning) double live recording “Peter Gabriel Plays Live” - Mr. Gabriel says: "Although this album was compiled from four concerts in the midwest of the United States, some additional recording took place not a thousand miles away from the home of the artiste. The generic term of this process is “CHEATING”. Care has been taken to keep the essence of the gigs intact, including “human imperfection”.

So, I think the issue is plain. Adding additional tracks is “CHEATING” but is justifiable if it allows the recording to better reflect the essence of the gigs. If a particular track is marred through some technical problem in capturing the performance and that track can be made to better reflect what attendees at the performance would have heard then add the tracks. If it is being done merely to make the track “sound better” then it is not justified.

I’ve tracked lived shows for years. Sometimes you get gold, sometimes you don’t. It all depends on how good the band is.

If your making a CD or DVD to sell, there’s no shame in taking advantage of the technology to fix mistakes. If you enhance a live tracking, thats a little dishonest.
Especially on a dvd, nothing is worse then hearing those huge strings from a band with no keyboard player, or bongos, tamborine and a maracas from a 4 piece guitar band(hey, who’s playin that cowbell??).

If you’re making a promo cd to sell the band there’s no harm in fixing things to make it your best performance.

I’ve gotten some amazing songs, that, after remixing, are unbelievably good. Other musicians cannot believe it’s a one-take, live performance. I’ve also got some real clunkers, that sounded good at the time.

Hey, great posts guys.

Here’s what I’ve concluded…

It’s ALL cheating.

If I listen to a cd of a live band it’s cheating because I wasn’t there and I’m only listening to a “poor” representation of it (I can’t feel the bass or smell the tubes).

If I turn the EQ controls on my HiFi, it’s Cheating - I’m altering it to suit my tastes and not hearing it like the artist heard it.

If I record a band and they make a mistake, stop, and do another take, it’s cheating because they are having another go.

If the guitarist adds chorus or reverb to his sound on stage he’s cheating because there’s only one of him and he’s not in a cathederal.

If the singer uses a mic he’s cheating because that’s a louder version of his voice - it’s not what I’d normally hear.

So since it’s all cheating, I’ll fix as much as is sensible to suit “me” and make me feel happy about the recording. I will fix that bass track by rerecording it so I can enjoy that song. :slight_smile:

Cheers guys,


Hi Mark A:

Great reply…
It’s all your creation as I see it…
Without your equipment there, it would still be on the stage…
Let the guys know what you intend to do with the tracks…
and what you’ll do to add to the tracks and then post us a likeness of your mix…
I’m interested in how you portray what your creation sounds like…
That’s if it’s O.K.
with the guys…

It’s pretty hard to recreate the energy created when a group plays live…
in the loneliness of a studio-and-mic…
However, each musician can relive his track and re-create what happened on the stage… I describe doing that as “Ghosting” tracks…
It might be interesting to get each guy on the stage to re-record his track and replace it from the Live Session…
so-to-speak… to preserve the live feel…



It's ALL cheating.

If I listen to a cd of a live band it's cheating because I wasn't there and I'm only listening to a "poor" representation of it (I can't feel the bass or smell the tubes).

But you were there - just in an alternate reality


If I turn the EQ controls on my HiFi, it's Cheating - I'm altering it to suit my tastes and not hearing it like the artist heard it.

So who saw Starry Night correctly - Van Gogh?


If I record a band and they make a mistake, stop, and do another take, it's cheating because they are having another go.

If you change your answer on a test - is that cheating?


If the guitarist adds chorus or reverb to his sound on stage he's cheating because there's only one of him and he's not in a cathederal.

What if he really is in a Cathedral in his mind? And wants you there as well?


If the singer uses a mic he's cheating because that's a louder version of his voice - it's not what I'd normally hear.

Sometimes you need a light to be seen in the dark


So since it's all cheating, I'll fix as much as is sensible to suit "me" and make me feel happy about the recording.
I will fix that bass track by rerecording it so I can enjoy that song. :-)

It's all vibration