With many projects this is perhaps the most painstaking part of the process. The producer and/or myself listens through the session material and marks up the score with take numbers and edit points. Frequently some tweaking is necessary during the actual editing process to ensure the joins are ‘seamless’ – subtle variations in nuance between takes can result in the predicted edit point just not working. At this stage if I spot any sore thumbs previously missed I’ll deal with them.
A capella choral music presents a further challenge in that even the finest choirs very rarely maintain sufficiently precise pitch within and between takes to avoid the need for pitch correction. Every take segment has to be carefully checked against a pitch reference and adjusted prior to editing. Typically this doubles the length of the editing process.
On the subject of pitch, a common issue is where one part is mistuned relative to the choir as a whole, so it cannot generally be dealt with using an overall pitch adjustment. In most instances the problem lies with just a few voices within the part singing under the note, and thankfully it’s possible to use what I call ‘audio microsurgery’ to filter out the unwanted frequencies.
Usually there will be at least two rounds of editing. One’s perception of performance tends to be influenced by its context, and once all the more significant issues have been eliminated it becomes easier to spot any remaining minor blemishes. I have occasionally known the first round to get full approval, but it’s not entirely unknown for there to be 5 or more proof stages – this is more likely when several pairs of ears need to be satisfied!
Another issue which can rear its head during editing is spurious noise. Quite subtle variations in ambient noise level can become highlighted at edit points, and it’s not unusual to resort to some judicious filtering to achieve a seamless join. The ear will generally accept constant noise at a modest level, but is quick to spot changes in that level. For that reason I almost always arrange for the basic ambient noise of the venue to be present throughout the disc.