If You Have to Re-Record, Do This First

by Andre Gonsalves

Okay so you’ve made a song you think is good but then you start second guessing yourself.

Maybe you even got your song mixed and mastered and are able to hear yourself clearly for the first time.

And you really start second guessing yourself. LOL.

So what do you do? Some give up at this point and by give up I mean they quit making crappy music and some push on to the next song and some commit to the dreaded re-record.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

I’ve recoiled at the thought of doing a re-record and do my best to finish my own songs in one session.

Because I find something gets lost when you try to re-record your vocals on another day, especially when it’s not the next day and the next time you’re able to record is weeks or months later (yikes!).

And even though I’ve felt this way for a long time, I never could articulate why this happens or what you should do until now…

So here’s how you can salvage a re-record.

(1) Re-record the part of the vocal at the same time that you recorded it previously. Because our voices change throughout the day and we all sound way different in the morning than we do before bed, we want to be using the same voice. So don’t be punching in with morning voice when the other vocals were recorded with midnight voice (and vice versa). And no, mixing can’t turn morning voice into midnight voice.

(2) Re-record with the same settings in your DAW. Yes this is obvious, but sometimes you may have accidentally turned up your microphone gain or even your headphones and are now hearing things differently and therefore will project your voice differently.

(3) Stand the same distance from the mic as you did when you recorded earlier. You could even mark the floor with tape where you stood before or just make a mental note because we all know you’re going to finish this song later.

(4) Now this is the most shocking of all but how about you re-write the part you want to re-record! Many times I’ll leave a filler second verse with just gibberish and flow ideas because I’m spent doing the verse and the hook, and the next day I’ll come back and completely re-write the second verse.

I find this works a lot better because we’re not doing a paint by numbers thing where we’re just saying the lyrics with no feeling or faking the feeling we first had (and yes the listener somehow knows when we’re faking it). 

It’s the same intuition you have when you read something that is complete garbage.

It’s why you’re still reading this, because your heart knows I’m writing from the heart.

The same thing happens when we listen to a song we love, our hearts connect with the artist’s heart, even though they are not physically in the same room as us and they recorded this song months or even years ago. 

But what they captured was their present moment, which is irrespective of space and time.

So when you re-write your lyrics you’re coming back into the present moment and are able to add some more freshness to your song. You bring that aliveness back into your music and because you have the energy you can re-write something better than you did the first time around.

Optimizing For Feel

What if you don’t want to re-write new lyrics? Then you better make sure the feel is similar to what you had the first time you recorded, because that’s what re-recording puts in danger.

A great example of this is Taylor Swift re-recording whole albums, which is not only an amazing story of an artist figuring out how to stick it to the machine but a masterclass in re-recording.

I did an A/B of Taylor’s song Love Story, comparing the original version to the re-record and I actually enjoyed the re-recording better because her voice sounds more mature and not like a little kid. But I am not a Taylor Swift fan (I know hard to believe), but I know someone who is, my wife!

So I played both versions for her and the funny thing is, she couldn’t tell the difference!

That’s just a reminder that the average listener cannot hear the things we go nuts over. LOL.

All that matters is the feel the song gives us and if re-recording certain parts takes away from that feel then it is not worth it to re-record and it’s better to just live with the earlier takes.

This song isn’t going to make or break you, it just is. 

And optimizing for feel rather than perfection such as clearer recording or pitch perfect notes, will likely take away from the feel you first had (remember you can only have a true feeling once).

You can only have a true feeling once? What?

Yes, say you’re happy right now, this happiness is different than the happiness you had previously, because this moment is completely different than the previous one.

First of all, it’ll never be the exact date and time as it is right now.

So what we are doing is just capturing what we’re feeling at this moment, so don’t worry if you messed up on capturing a previous moment, because there’s always another moment to capture such as right now.



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

One Comment

  1. Sounds like good advice , I’m not great at recording but just starting to get used to recording with studio one 5 and B I.A B , If I want to record a balad I find that the morning is better as my voice is deeper .

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