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Home » What Is Comping? The Audio Editing Technique All Engineers Should Know

What Is Comping? The Audio Editing Technique All Engineers Should Know

The artist is ready, so you set the microphone up and press record. The first take wasn’t great, so you repeat the process. But after a few takes, you realised you won’t get a perfect take from the artist, what do you do? This is where comping comes in handy.

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What is comping?

Comping is a process where you use the best parts of multiple takes and piece them together to make one ‘perfect take’

Being the imperfect beings that we are, capturing a ‘perfect take’ in one go is not always possible. 

Audio engineers remedy this by recording multiple takes, compile the best parts to make a single performance.

Although comping is done on any instruments, it a technique mostly used when editing vocals.

Vocal comping is a vital part of commercial music production as it’s the most central aspect of most popular songs.

It’s unlikely that the vocals on the songs you’re listening to today are not comped.

How do you comp

Record a couple of takes.

Try not to have too many because it will get confusing and time-consuming.

You also don’t want to have a small number of takes.

For me, I like to have 5 to 10 of the best performance.

While tracking, pay close attention to the performance, making note of the ones where the artist makes fewer mistakes or the ones you like the most.

This way, when you are ready to edit, you can quickly locate the best takes without having to listen to dozens of clips you won’t use.

Dividing the takes

The easiest way is to subdivide the takes into phrases.

Usually, there are moments between phrases.

Creating a crossfade where there is no audio won’t introduce any artefacts, which makes the transition less noticeable.

There are times when you may have to comp individual words or syllables because they sound better on one clip than the others.

Issues at a word or syllable level are best-taken care of during the recording session.

If you find that the artist is having a difficult time with a word or syllable, it is your duty as the engineers to work with them to get it right.

This will not only make the song better but also makes your work easier at the editing stage.

Matching tone and volume

When you choose a phrase, word or syllable, you want to make sure that the tone matches the edit before it and the one that follow it.

You may not see the significance of tonal matching until you add an EQ and realise that the phrases or words don’t blend well together.

If there is a phrase or word that you want to use in the final edit, but it is out of tune, you can use any pitch correction plugin the make adjusts.

The volume level of phrases or words doesn’t always have to match because you can easily adjust it as well.

Just make sure you do to have a consistent final audio recording.

Comping in DAWs

Most DAWs today includes a comping feature, some more intuitive than others.

This includes recording multiple takes that are stacked within the same audio track.

Ableton Live and Logic Pro X allow you to record loops of multiple takes without breaking your flow.

In Pro Tools, you need to stop the recording and create a new playlist on the same audio track for every new take.

However, when making comp edits Logic Pro X and, Pro Tools make this task less complicated to do.

In Logic Pro x all you have to do is swipe over the sections you think are the part and, they will reflect in the master track.

Comping Tips

1.Keep track of best takes while recording:

Make notes of the best takes when you a recording.

This will help you a whole lot when it’s time to edit. Instead of sorting through and listening to recordings, you won’t even use you can go straight to the takes you know are best.

2. Don’t record to many takes

You will get frustrated going over too many takes and, you may even miss the best performance.

If after a dozen takes and you still haven’t gotten at least three ‘best takes’, maybe the artist isn’t ready to perform.

3. Divide between silent moments

Dividing between silent parts makes the transition transparent and final edit won’t sound like two or more different takes.

4. Listen for double breaths

Creating a comp edit between the vocalist breathing is what is called ‘double breaths’.

Sometimes the breathing isn’t very audible or apparent within the waveform, so it’s an easy mistake to edit between it.

Double breaths sound unnatural so avoid it.