Cheating in music videos

Edited: November 7, 2018, 6:27 PM · First of all I'd like to say that to me this sounds like an amazing recording and the sound is just heavenly. However I think they should not advertise digital concert hall using fake recordings. If you look at 0:07, the violist doesn't vibrate the 4th finger but you can clearly hear it. At 0:20, the violinist starts the vibrato later than the audio suggests, and the audio also sounds wider.

This is supposed to be a live digital concert hall for people who want to hear a real concert but don't have the means, not some commercially 'perfect' recording. This really left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Ok so I'm pretty sure none of the 21,000 viewers noticed that. But what about the following video at 0:17, where the audio blatantly doesn't match the video? I mean if you want to cheat, then at least make it believable?? Yes, I know I can't play better than these guys, and this is simply the direction the music industry has gone, but I miss the days of a good old honest take. I don't care about mistakes, I just want to hear a complete musical journey through the piece!

Replies (29)

November 7, 2018, 6:09 PM · no answer to your broader question (although honestly editing in this manner doesn't bother me particularly), but re: the digital concert hall clip, are you sure your ear isn't getting fooled by another instrument's vibrato? The sound seems to match up with the movements to me, but at 0:07 the cello is vibrating and at 0:20 the viola's vibrato is much more present in the audio than the violin.
Edited: November 7, 2018, 6:11 PM · Is it possible that they recorded the sound and the video using different devices and then recombined it? It could be that it just didn't match up perfectly when they put it back together. I can't say for sure though, but as for the second video you posted, I didn't see anything funny looking. I can say that Mr. Zalai is a great player. I definitely think he can play that caprice in his sleep. If he happened to make a small mistake that bothered him, he'd probably just do it again and get it on the next try.
Edited: November 7, 2018, 6:24 PM · For the first clip, the viola plays an A using the 4th finger, and that note definitely sounds vibrated.

Second clip at 0.17, Zalai plays a major 7th (G+F#) which has vibrato in the audio, however his fingers remain motionless.

I appreciate the comments, and the questioning is very good since I would look rather bad if I were falsely accusing people of cheating!

November 7, 2018, 7:00 PM · The recording was probably digitally edited for mistakes with another take being spliced in at places for the audio
November 7, 2018, 7:45 PM · Lyndon you are right, I was surprised to find out how normal this is when my daughter did some recording work recently; music was essentially assembled from multiple takes.
November 7, 2018, 8:10 PM · The art of performance is slowly being lost. Replaced by "perfect machines".
People don't realise that when you make a mediocre recording "perfect" in post, you lose what made it so special to begin with...
Edited: November 7, 2018, 8:54 PM · Basically everyone is doing it. James Ehnes did that in homage DVD, Gidon Kremer did that in his Bach solo recordin, along with many many other big names.

The first one has glaring difference probably due to being a live performance, and that bit is probably from a different night of the same concert program. There were probably just 2 nights and no many takes to choose. Or probably a take from rehearsals.

PS: Any chance you'll be coming to Ms. Lai's place to perform again someday?

Edited: November 8, 2018, 6:49 AM · Reminds me of something I heard on the radio in the Seventies - someone had written in to the station to say that he had been listening with his mother and she had remarked of a piece they had played "that must be a recording - it's too good to be a person."
November 8, 2018, 7:14 AM · I agree Cotton, the digital age has gone too far now... Anyway I know everyone edits nowadays and it's completely normal, my point was that I didn't expect the Berlin Phil of all people to do it too, especially with something they advertise as a concert hall :/

Casey: Yes I hope to visit again next year!

November 8, 2018, 9:11 AM · I'm set to perform Theme from Schindler's List with orchestra in a month from now, so have obviously studied some live performances by Perlman that can be seen on YouTube. They are much more "sloppy" and less "perfect" than what you hear on the official soundtrack CD. It actually gives me a lot of confidence :-)
November 8, 2018, 9:12 AM · Why is anyone surprised? All the pop stars are lip-synching, and even that trio that played at the White House a few years ago played to a recording. None of this is new.
Edited: November 8, 2018, 9:42 AM · That's why I generally don't trust that a player is legit until I hear them live. Some recordings are so glossed out that it's like they had too much plastic surgery - some uncanny valley stuff.

I will never buy anything off the Hyperion label - Every CD I've bought has the most inert and surface level performances - But I don't know that that's what they are actually doing, since Marc-Andre Hamelin is on Hyperion, and hearing him live, he just doesn't make mistakes - Still, he's not exactly my style. I think putting all these takes together just kills the music.

Although on the second video you posted, they clearly asked him to do a bunch of takes for the video so that they could shoot different angles. It's not apparent to me that the audio would be spliced together, which would be pretty weird for a short piece like that, even if it's difficult. It's just a music video.

November 8, 2018, 10:24 AM · I'm pretty sure those are clones of the real musicians.
November 8, 2018, 10:34 AM · It's just part of the larger battle between perfection and authenticity playing out in multiple areas of life.

Those that want (or think they want) authenticity are known as "hipsters," and they fetishize old film cameras with those 1970s-style straps, single-speed "fixies," and fully-mechanical watches. And then everyone else demands digital perfection, knowing full well it's often fake.

Classical music, with its (perfectly understandable) obsession with virtuosic perfection, is a victim of its own success. We all demand and expect an unreasonable degree of perfection.

Personally, I'd just be happy if the burger that arrived actually looked like the beautiful, appetizing one on the menu board.

November 8, 2018, 11:21 AM · "If you look at 0:07, the violist doesn't vibrate the 4th finger but you can clearly hear it. At 0:20, the violinist starts the vibrato later than the audio suggests, "

-- I have to say, I couldn't notice either of those things after watching each of those points 5 times. Are you sure you're not hearing vibrato in some of the other parts and thinking it's present in those specific lines?

Edited: November 8, 2018, 11:50 AM · I couldn't tell either Chris. I agree with the overall sentiment that James is expressing, but I don't think this example is particularly illustrative, but maybe I'm just not as sensitive to that kind of nuance.

People talk about Hillary Hahn's playing as being robotic or conspicuously perfect, which I don't quite get. She plays very cleanly, and I disagree with her approach to solo Bach, but I find it resonates with me as music. I kind of feel about James Ehnes how people talk about Hahn - I respect his skill, and it's not like he does anything bizarre like say, Kremer, but his playing leaves me oddly cold. I can't quite put my finger on it, although I doubt Ehnes would need any patching on his recordings.

I like Midori, who plays at an incredible level technically, and with expression and very thoughtfully, and who also sounds incredible live. Maybe a few people on Earth can have it all.

Sometimes it's nice to go to student recitals - It feels like I'm rooting for them, whereas with a big name soloist, sometimes I find myself picking them apart a bit, except Sonnenberg and Josefowicz, who were so bad live that there is no possible context for it.

Edited: November 8, 2018, 11:56 AM · I really don't care. The interpretation is the thing. My favourite oboist is Heinz Holliger. He was always fabulous in the recording studio (in the Seventies before much of the technical wizardry was invented) and mediocre live (I saw him once in the Barbican doing Mozart's oboe concerto, and the final movement was way too fast)
November 8, 2018, 12:44 PM · Ya even in classical music , there is a lot of editing. How much will depend on the artist / producer. Some do less than others : Gary Karr comes to mind. He does his best and purposely leaves certain imperfections there.

Basically, they record multiple takes of the same piece, and splice takes together to get the “perfect” take.

November 8, 2018, 12:59 PM · "Scott, you have a long wait for that beautiful, appetizing burger. "

Someone tell me: why do they insist on squishing the burger? Are trained to squish? If they didn't squish it would probably look good.

November 8, 2018, 1:06 PM · The story I like about a world famous pianist of yesteryear - Horowitz, I think it was - was when he recorded the Chopin Ballade. He did several takes of it straight off in the studio and told the producer to choose the one he thought best for the disc. Horowitz apparently didn't want any editing.
November 8, 2018, 1:42 PM ·
Scott, that's probably why they make us pay before giving us the burger.

The final editing decision might not always be up to the artist. I don't believe it happens often in classical music. The guy that accidentally cough snorted during the quiet passage. That might be edited.

November 8, 2018, 3:14 PM · I've been told by an insider that the amount of splicing that goes on in the studio to make these near-perfect recordings is unfathomable.

I've now made an effort to get older pre-digital age recordings because of this. Especially for solo Bach and other similar work.

One of my favorite recordings has very clear mistakes in it - and it was made in the 2000's. I remember reading an old post here where members were lamenting mistakes in recordings (of professionals).

November 8, 2018, 3:50 PM · Ok guys I really get it now that editing is very normal today. I guess what concerns me more now is that people still didn't notice even after me giving timestamps and specific details about the notes and the timing... I would not be making this post if I weren't 100% sure. So I invite you to use the slow down function in the youtube settings function on the bottom right corner of the video and reduce the speed to 0.75. If you are still unable to tell, or you think that I am delusional, then I guess it's simply something we can disagree on :)
November 9, 2018, 5:59 AM · What this does for me is enhance the value of live performance.
November 9, 2018, 7:31 AM · Recordings have been aggressively edited since magnetic tape (1950s). Move along--there's nothing new to see here.
November 9, 2018, 11:31 AM · I read up on some of this out of my own curiosity. Here's a few links from a respected ME online recording community.

Many of these guys actually do this kind of work. Interesting to read how they view it. Editing is a part of the process itself on one level.You need noise removal, fade in, fade outs, dialog removal and so forth. The very way the music must come out in the recording often demands general editing of the entire work. Cut and pasting parts though, yeah that sure seems like cheating to me :)

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