How to Chop & Stutter Vocals

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You can use your home-recording software program to edit audio recordings in many ways. Some processes, such as mixing and mastering, add clarity to the sound. But the various editing tools can create outlandish and interesting sound effects, too. Chopping up vocals tracks creates an intense, percussive stuttering effect. Will.i.am's vocal on the Black Eyed Peas song "The Time (Dirty Bit)" is a prominent example of this effect.

Things You'll Need

  • Audio production software
  • Computer
  • Open your preferred music sequencer program (Logic, Pro Tools or Cubase, for example). Double-click the desktop icon or open the program from the "Start" menu. If using a Mac, double-click the icon or open the program from the "Applications" folder.

  • Click "File" and select "New Session," or "Open Recent" if the track is a work in progress. If starting a new session, click "File," select "Import" and browse for the vocal audio track in your library.

  • Open a second audio track. Once you select an audio file, your program automatically opens it in an audio track, which appears in the production software interface. Click on the channel strip to highlight it and click the "+" icon to open another track with the same settings.

  • Click "Sample Editor." The sample editor lets you view the audio as a sound wave. The large peaks in the sound wave represent loud sounds, such as singing. The small peaks represent quieter sounds, such as the intake of breath between lines.

  • Click the "S" icon on the channel strip control panel of the original audio track. The "S" denotes "solo." Soloing a track mutes everything else.

  • Click "View" and select "Zoom In." This gives you a close-up view of the sound waves representing the vocal audio. Hit "Play" and let the track roll until you reach the part where you want to apply the stutter effect. Hit "Pause" when you get to that point.

  • Click "Tools" and select "Scissors." Click the scissor tool five or six times over the sound wave. The scissor tool cuts the audio track into separate files. If you leave it as it is, there will be no audible change, but you now have the option to move, mix and edit each of the small, separate vocal files.

  • Click "Tools" and select "Pointer." If you don't select "Pointer," the scissors will still be engaged and anything you touch with your cursor will get snipped.

  • Drag half of the newly snipped vocal files down onto the new audio channel, leaving gaps in the original audio track. Click the "M" icon on the new channel to mute it. The gaps in the original track are now silent, which creates a "stuttering" effect when you play the audio back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Press "Ctrl + Z" to undo any edits you don't like.
  • Copy the original audio track to a separate track before you edit so you always have an unedited version.
  • Reverse the entire edit by moving the chopped vocals back to their original place.

References

  • Photo Credit Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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