Opinions on layering

Opinions on layering

Hey everyone, this has been on my mind for a while and would like to find out what everyone thinks about this.

Many newer albums and tunes (possibly only in more modern music, as that is what I listen to most) incorporates a lot of layering. This means, for example, that if a lineup only has one fiddler, they may record a few different melodies that get played over each other, essentially meaning that there are three individual ‘fiddlers’.

A good example of the difference between layering and not is from Talisk. Their first album didn’t use layering and their second one did. I personally prefer the second album (though they’re both fantastic), however I sometimes can’t help thinking that they couldn’t perform these tunes live as they are on the album.

I don’t have any issues with people using either method, but I would like to hear if this has crossed anyone else’s mind, or it is just me 🙂

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"however I sometimes can’t help thinking that they couldn’t perform these tunes live as they are on the album"
Why not? This is done all the time with live music nowadays. Plug your computer in and off you go.

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The use of backing tracks and "Invisible" musicians is widespread. ITM, whilst way more "live" that most genres, is not excluded. I saw a "Well know" flute player at Sidmouth close out his encore with a massive feck-up and just the backing track playing…hilarious as I’m not a fan, well deserved and about as unprofessional as it gets…at least have the decency to rehearse and do it with honesty I say…

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You can also use a harmonising pedal or similar to double-track yourself live with (limited) harmony, avoiding the use of pre-recorded backing tracks. Commonly used to create multi-layered performances in conjunction with looper pedals.

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I think it would be silly to limit one’s album production to what you can do live.

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Ailin, I agree, as far as actual albums are concerned.

However, I appreciate a live performance without backing tracks and over clever technology. With "our kind of music", it can be resolved to a great extent by just recruiting some extra musicians or "friends" for the gig. Of course, some electronic input may also be necessary if it’s relevant to the piece. That’s different though.

Of course, I understand that there will be times when engaging extra musicians will be impractical or even cost prohibitive but it’s just what I prefer.

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What genre of music are you all discussing.

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Unless you are trying to produce an accurate rendition of what you do live then I would say that, whatever the genre of music, "layering" is fine if you are trying to be creative in terms of music production. The studio set up allows this.

If you are a solo musician, whilst some like an album of solo fiddle or solo voice, others might like to hear how your compositions can be fleshed out with accompaniment, simple or complex, to give a perhaps more interesting and moving listening experience.

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‘Layering’ and multi tracking is fine and fabulous fun if one is making an album/ recording. Even if you are using Trad (maybe Irish) music as ‘the material’.
But you can never, no matter how sophisticated the ‘studio’, make it sound as good as sitting in the pub playing live in the moment with your mates.
You’re doing ‘something else’. Trad is live in the pub with your mates. Recordings ain’t!

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Spot on Yhaal, Irish music is not about gimmicks and studio tricks, electricity is not needed to play any of the instruments, or to listen to it.

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"electricity is not needed to play any of the instruments, or to listen to it."
OK, so 78s and a wind up gramophone? The sound with bamboo needles can be remarkably good.

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Unfortunately, at the moment, the only instruments we can hear without electricity are our own.

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I think it’s common to consider pub sessions as superior to recording music. Doesn’t make one better than the other in every case. It depends on many variables.

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The albums I’ve bought by prominent Irish trad artists in the last few years don’t have any actual multi-tracking that I can hear. No doubling or layering, in the sense of more musicians than are credited on the track. There may be some light editing of individual instruments to correct a single flubbed note or chord, but when done well, it’s almost impossible to detect that kind of thing. It’s fairly common with commercial projects.

One thing that does bother me in some of these recordings is when a "set" is edited together from different recordings, instead of played through continuously. It might be because they have several takes of the same set, but they’re selecting the best individual tunes within those sets and pasting them together. Again, when it’s done well you might not even hear it, but sometimes it’s noticeable. Especially with an instrument switch that couldn’t be done that quickly in real time.

For example, the first track of the Triad album by Padraig Rynne, Donal Lunny & Sylvain Barou is a three tune set. The transition from first to second tune is a little too abrupt, possibly edited from different takes. But then they go into the final tune, and Sylvain switches from flute to pipes without missing a beat. You’d have to be superhuman to do that in real time. It probably wouldn’t bother anyone who doesn’t actually play this music, but personally I find it jarring. It’s still great music, I’d just rather hear a more seamless arrangement that *could* have been played live.

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Johnny Jay, the op did not address the use of backing tracks, so neither did my response. Records and live performances are two different experiences and I would never equate the two. I do not expect the use of backing tracks in a live show. How acceptable it would be depends on how much of the show contains it and the purpose it serves when used.

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I don’t agree with backing tracks in any situation. Recordings should replicate what the players are playing and not use, or include electronic tricks. Its not what Irish music is about.

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Music started losing its dignity and respect the day(s) recording and radio were invented.

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"Music started losing its dignity and respect the day(s) recording and radio were invented."

It’s the difference between playing for fellow musicians or the dancers right in the room, or shaping the music for a wider audience. Once the goal becomes selling the largest number of recordings or live concert tickets, you start thinking about what the non-musician audience at large might like, and not just your fellow musos.

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I’ve recorded several times in studios, and have done the recordings both ways.

Ideally, (personally) doing a live take with everyone playing together is the easiest and quickest option, especially if you play exclusively in an ensemble setting.

However, if the instruments are all mic’d up, there’s the chance of bleed, where you get the sound of one instrument bleeding into another’s microphone. When that happens, it’s harder for the engineer to adjust the relative volumes of each when you get to the mixing stage.

Sometimes layering is necessary - eg one or two musicians are unable to be present at the recording (for whatever reason), so they can add their parts later, playing while listening to the original recording.

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Reading the OP, I’m not altogether sure what’s being discussed.

"layering…his means, for example, that if a lineup only has one fiddler, they may record a few different melodies that get played over each other…"

The example given for layering is "different melodies" played over each other. I remember a trad Irish album that had that, where a whistle player does a slow air while at the same time a fiddler plays a reel, but those players could well have been playing simultaneously in the studio.

I’ve done loads of studio work, it’s standard operating procedure for the various musicians to come in at various times and put down their tracks, to be mixed later.

As we know Donal Lunny was doing "studio tricks" 40 years ago.

One thing people were talking about above seemed to be "punch-ins" where the musician does several takes and whoever mixes the recording can pick and choose. What sounds like a single take might have a number of punch-ins, for example if the best take has an obvious flub that’s removed through that method. It’s also been used to remove the player taking breaths on a wind instrument: a brass player friend played in a brass ensemble that recorded Bach organ works, obviously the pipe organ doesn’t interrupt phrases to breathe, and this was achieved with the brass ensemble through punch-ins.

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Kinda like Photoshopping people you’re mad at out of your wedding photos ….

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I agree, there’s nothing better than great, simple products, e.g. fresh cod, cooked gently, with bit of butter, a sprinkle of salt, new potatoes and runner beans….

once the products are of quality, there’s no need to dress it up, hide the truth and complicate it…

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Sure there’s some clever stuff that can be done with computers and looping and pedals, but a big turn-off for me was seeing a well-known trio come on stage, then, without a word of greeting to their audience, 3 heads bent over the same computer, deep in discussion. I didn’t last long at that concert: fortunately at a festival where I had a season ticket and could move to another concert in more traditional format and with a bit more audience rapport, nearby!

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Theirlandais,

That’s my view on food and music.
I’ve lost count of how many fancy restaurants and even many bog standard ones trying to be to clever where perfectly good food is presented in combinations or with extras etc which spoil the overall appeal. Some can be very accommodating and will prepare/present dishes to my taste but, in others, the chefs and management often get offended.

So, it’s the same with recorded and live music. The basic "food" is fine but the recipe doesn’t always suit. Sometimes, there’s too much or too little of something. Or some ingredient which is missing or shouldn’t be there at all. Unlike when in a restaurant, I can’t really negotiate re what I am served up. Of course, I can still choose to go elsewhere.

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Layering is good for pizzas.
…oh and possibly studio albums, whatever. But I’m in agreement with Yhaal and Goose. Give me a half-decent pub session any day.

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Michael Eskin why would you want to spred disease.

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Mind, since we’re on the subject, it’s interesting that there seems to have been an uptick on this kind of approach to live sound, which I first noticed someone doing a couple of years ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCUj0elQof8

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Melody on a chaunter, I see!

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Calum - you’re saying there’s some over-dubbing here? I don’t hear it. I could be missing it, but tell me what you hear.

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> you’re saying there’s some over-dubbing here?

No, quite the opposite: notice that there’s a single microphone for the whole stage.

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One thing about that clip with the Daymark band, is that the piper Will Woodson makes his own pipes, and they’re made to be quieter than usual. My S.O. and I hosted a house concert for those guys a couple of years ago, and Will’s pipes are the quietest ones I’ve ever heard. In an un-amplified house concert it makes for a nice mix with fiddle and guitar, but it probably also makes it easier to use a single mic approach.

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I think layering is great!

Was that weird?
XD

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For myself, I think if done well it can make for a really nice recording, and can give a musician a chance to express more of the music they want to make but can’t manage live, having only one pair of hands.

I tend to expect a different listening experience from a studio album, a live album, or a live band performance. And sessions are a different thing altogether, the in-person, participatory thing doesn’t really translate well for me to a recording.

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Michael Eskin, that synth track is what I imagine would be playing in Hell.

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It’s only really traditional if its recorded on a tapestry.

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Martyn Bennett is one of my gods - he has lifted me higher than any other Diddly I have listened to live…and I’ve listened to an awful lot 😉

His live sets were unwavering honest, but it was all his music, that’s what really maters. Most sessions are, at the end of the day, reproduction ???

Just my opinion, not for everyone - but I never miss a chance to give him a shout out ..