The stutter edit (a form of granular synthesis) is a musical production technique, most often known for its use in electronic music, in which fragments of audio are repeated in rhythmic intervals. Stutter edits not only occur as the common 16th note repetition, but also as 64th notes and beyond. Stutter edits can go beyond 2,048th notes and can be measured in milliseconds. Above a certain point, these repetitions transition from rhythmic to tonal frequencies, making musical notes out of the repeated audio. These extremely short, fast groups of notes are often placed into the spacing of an eighth or sixteenth note in an otherwise “normal” bar, creating rhythmic accenting and patterns that call attention to a particular section. These patterns can be placed at the beginning of a bar, or towards the end for a more syncopated sound.
Electronic musician Brian Transeau came up with this "technique", and later made it into a plugin when making his album "This Binary Universe". The audio plugin is named "Stutter Edit" and was co-released by iZotope and Sonik Architects.
Due to the extremely rapid rhythmic bursts, after a certain rhythmic point—i.e. the 128th note—some stutters begin to sound like a tone rather than a short percussive beat. Traditional stutter edits splice percussive vocals or drum loops because they begin as rhythmic rather than constant tones. These percussive, on-the-beat areas are known as attack transients, and are usually no longer than an eighth note. The splicing of percussive samples results in a more attention-getting sound than it would with a single sustained pitch. Stutters also often reduce notes within bars, beginning with 32nd notes, then reducing to 64th and 128th or something similar.
Stutter edits involve such minute numbers that they cannot be created within one program. Often, separate plugins are necessary to tweak the edit to the desired level, and then import it back into the primary program, known as the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). It is in part due to this that the stutter edit is such a time-consuming process. Along with splicing and cutting the individual sample, the sample is often taken out of the DAW, sometimes to a differently formatted program or plugin. This means that upon importing the edit back into the DAW, further editing is required to achieve the desired effect.
Programs and the glitch edit
As a relatively new technique, for most, the stutter edit is a trial-and-error process. However, there are new programs and plugins emerging to make creation faster and simpler:
- Stutter Edit: Stutter Edit is a program designed to automatically generate stutter edit "cuts" through the creation of "gestures.". The goal is to allow stutter edits to be performed in various live applications. In January 2011, Stutter Edit was released by iZotope, Inc. along with BT's software company, Sonik Architects.
- Break Tweaker: Break Tweaker works in the composition field, allowing for more crisp formation of very small notes, called micro-notes. Break Tweaker simplifies the micro-note creation, thereby simplifying the time-consuming trial-and-error process involved. It was created by electronic musician Brian Transeau (better known as 'BT') and was used heavily on his 5th studio album This Binary Universe
- ReCycle: By software company Propellerhead, this program can change tempo independent of pitch. Unlike the slow, deep bass or fast chipmunk speak that often results from simple tempo changes, ReCycle allows pitch to stay constant, making it useful for stutter edit creation.
- ACID: Sony’s DAW, like ReCycle, keeps time and tempo separate from pitch. In addition, the latest ACID has the ability for multi-track recording, looping, and MIDI sequencing, three essentials in electronic composition.
- Mix Craft: This program enables you to create stutter effects with your mouse pad. By paying attention to your timing you can create professional sounding stutter edits. It has the potential to be time consuming since you are doing it piece by piece, but you should be able to professionally re edit a 5 minute song in 45 minutes.
- Buffer Override: This program compresses buffer size, resulting in the desired stuttering sounds, especially those similar to the sound of a vocoder.
- Memory: This VST effect allows you to vary length of a delay buffer (on beat)
- Glitch: Intended for the cousin of the stutter edit, the glitch edit, this audio manipulation plugin splices sound into defined patterns. The program is highly malleable, and can accommodate many different styles and choices. However, because of its range of effects, it is recommended either for the very patient or the more experienced user.
- Fruity WaveTraveller - FL Studio's "WaveTraveller" tool can be used for stutter edit effects.
- Gross Beat - Image Line's "Gross Beat" can produce stutter edit as well as glitch and scratching effects by buffering a real-time audio stream and applying manipulations.
- Kyma - Symbolic Sound's Kyma allows users to perform real-time stutter edits on sample loops or other audio sources. Unlike a dedicated stutter edit program, users must design their own Kyma sound for doing stutter edits, which can be accomplished through use of the Sample and/or Sequencer prototypes and clever CapyTalk scripting.
The glitch edit is less about rhythmic synchronicity and intended more to jar and “wake up” the listener. Glitches also use sustained harmonic samples, as opposed to the percussive samples used in stutter edits. Usually in short bursts of sound; the glitch is almost always syncopated, placed on weaker beats to grab attention.
- Harrington, Richard. "Reveling in the Human Side of Electronica". The Washington Post.
- "Waveformless: Review: iZotope Stutter Edit". Waveformless. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- "Realtime editing and Performance of Digital Audio Tracks".
- McConnon, Brian. "iZotope and BT Release Stutter Edit". Music Marcom. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Alexander, Jason Scott. "Fractal Tendencies".
- "iZotope and BT release Stutter Edit".
- Apple - Pro - Profiles - BT, p. 1
- Harmony Central - Signal Processing with Propellerhead's ReCycle
- Sony Creative Software
- Glitch beta demo available for download