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I found a couple of pages that all suggest classical recordings range from slightly to extremely spliced:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remote-possibilities-acoustic-music-location-recording/389092-editing-life-out-classical-music.html

http://www.classicalmedia.co.uk/post-production/music-editing/

https://www.quora.com/Are-classical-music-recordings-heavily-produced-like-pop-music-is

I wasn't sure how seriously to take these sources though, since I have no way of knowing if they're really accurate representations of industry standard.

Are there any reliable sources discussing modern professionals' editing practices? Are recordings usually one continuous take? A doctored take? Several takes?

When I say modern professionals, I'm talking about people that are easily world class (Marc-Andre Hamelin, Yo-Yo Ma, Martha Argerich, Joshua Bell, take your pick), and I mostly prefer answers about solo or small ensemble works, but of course I'm curious about huge philharmonics too.

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    I'm not a professional musician or audio engineer, but I've been part of several orchestral recordings. They were all spliced as much as the music and the time would allow. Usually due to the nature of the music, you can only splice large sections between points of silence, but once we used a click track so the engineer could cross-fade without a gap. Other times it's been a live recording of a concert, but the engineer has managed to edit out particularly bad mistakes. – MattPutnam May 2 '16 at 3:46
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    AFAIK a few recordings of works for organ and orchestra have been made by recording the orchestra and organ separately at different locations - i.e. the same way that most popular music is recorded. Often the only possibility for recording organ music in a location like a cathedral is to do it at night, when there is no background noise. Because of the cost (literally millions of dollars for a large instrument) very few concert halls and even fewer recording studios (i.e. none!) have pipe organs that are suitable for large-scale 19th and 20th century works for organ and orchestra. – user19146 May 2 '16 at 5:51
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    It is standard practice when making "live" opera recordings to record the whole performance on several nights, and then splice together the best takes - and to skip the parts when somebody in the audience forgot to switch off their cellphone. – user19146 May 2 '16 at 5:56
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    Yep. This is standard operating procedure for most if not all classical recordings. A friend of mine who was involved in a recording of a notoriously difficult French Baroque duet for two pardessus- the tiniest viola da gamba- and he said that they were literally splicing in eighth notes. Thus, parts of the recording were almost sampled rather than played. – Scott Wallace May 2 '16 at 8:21
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    Maybe some of the above should be answers rather than comments? – topo Reinstate Monica May 2 '16 at 8:34
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I am afraid I don't have reliable sources discussing modern professionals' editing practices.

I can only share what I know from interacting with 2-3 professional pianists who have recorded a number of CDs.

From what I gathered, yes, each track is typically the result of mixing a number of takes.

Some musicians go to an extreme in literally splicing every measure or so in the most complex sections. Nothing prevents you from doing so from a technical standpoint--it's actually pretty easy, identifying which track is best often taking more time than the actual act of splicing.

However, this is looked down upon and not done by most professional pianists as far as I can tell. More common is to splice every page or so, or even less frequently, but obviously this will depend both on the difficulty of the piece, the skills of the musician, and how much care is given to the editing.

  • Would you be comfortable sharing the names of the 2-3 professional pianists? – blaineh May 12 '16 at 18:13
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    Me, yes. Them, I don't know and I don't see them on a regular basis anymore. Think pianists with a 2-3 CDs with music labels. I.e. good enough to live from classical music but not a name you would likely recognize in case that helps qualifying the answer. – Lolo May 12 '16 at 20:43
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Yes editing takes in some manner has been and still is big part of the production of record music in nearly all musically genres. In the liner notes J.S. Bach Two- And Three- Part Inventions, It is written that Glen Gould confessed to the Columbia manager Ronald Wilford in 1973 "A good session will consist of 2.5 to 3 minutes of music per recording hour ...". This statement made back in 1973 before any digital technologies were available in the recording process. Today the technologies for editing are faster, better and much more seamless than back in the 1973. Producing high quality recordings of any kind requires a large amounts of recorded material and then an editing process which selects the what is the best material to provided to for the production which will please the target consumer.

  • I appreciate citing Glen Gould (definitely in the obviously world class category ha) but I feel this still doesn't quite answer the question. It seems pretty obvious that recording involves producing a lot of music to choose from, but the core of the question is whether or not individual tracks of the finished product are complete takes or several takes edited together. – blaineh May 12 '16 at 18:17

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