The stutter edit is an audio software VST plugin, implementing forms of granular synthesis, sample retrigger, and various effects to create a certain audible manipulation of the sound run through it, in which fragments of audio are repeated in rhythmic intervals. "In plain English, a stutter edit contains a single segment of audio repeated a number of times, giving a performance a decidedly digital flavor." 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. One example is in the second verse of "Drop It Like It's Hot", Snoop mentions a DJ followed by a stutter edit and turntable scratch in reply.
'Stutter' edits, which are commonly used in a variety of pop music, including dance music and hip-hop, slice and dice clips into pieces and then reassemble them in a different order.
While electronic musician Brian Transeau developed the specific plugin, coined the phrase, and later released it as a standalone plug-in, various forms of this type of editing have been utilized by composers like Aphex Twin, Xanopticon and older modern classical composers for decades. The majority of stutter edits were created through deliberate manual editing techniques rather than automated processes such as the eponymous plug-in. 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 beat—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-grabbing 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. There are instances of stutter edits that use logarithmic curves rather than relying on musically locked timings giving the impression of a "speed up" or "slow down".
Programs and the glitch edit
As a relatively new plugin, 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.
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- Anderton, Craig and the Adobe Creative Team (2013). Adobe Audition CC, p.218. Pearson. ISBN 9780321929532.
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- Glitch beta demo available for download