Clipping Isn’t Just For Aggressive Sounds

Clipping could very well be the next big thing to bring aggressive, ferocious depth to drums, screams & so much more. If you’re not using some type of clipper plugin on your heavier mix elements, you’re actually pretty late to the party.

If you’re behind – no need to worry. The first step toward integrating clipping into your mix workflow is to actually know what the heck you’re talking about. While clipping has had it’s name covered in red paint in the digital age, it’s important to note there are two very different forms of clipping in your computer.

The first type is the one everyone’s throwing a hissy fit about: unwanted digital clipping. The type of harsh, unforgiving distortion that occurs when you record too hot or turn something up too loud in your DAW. It’s the stuff that makes your monitors sound like a garbage can full of fighting cats.

Then there’s the harmonically pleasing, intentional clipping that can be achieved using a plugin like JST Clip (aptly named “clippers”). These plugins act to saturate and clip your signal’s peaks well before they max out your meter. They maintain your audio’s transients while giving your sound the confidence boost it needs to shine.

To learn more about the basics of clippers, check out our Beginner’s Guide.

Don't Get Stuck In The Mud

While clippers have found their home adding crack to snares and punch to kicks, they’re not one-trick ponies limited to transient-loaded sources. They’re also not made to overdrive everything they touch with saturation (there are other options for that). Clippers are capable of adding subtle clarity to clean instruments too!

Instruments like acoustic guitars, strings & even soft vocals can all benefit from the process that happens behind the scenes of a clipper. You see – clippers might be acting on the peaks of your signal, but given a high-fidelity source with plenty of headroom, they can be as transparent as a window on your final product.

When To Reach For The Clipper

If you’re noticing inconsistencies in the recorded performance, especially when it comes to levels, you’re probably going to reach for a compressor first. Once you’ve compressed (or if you decide it’s not needed), you’ll occasionally be left with a sound that’s clean and consistent, but for whatever reason can’t cut through.

Check out how Fluff treats clean electric guitars with JST Clip:

Sometimes it’s just in the performance. Other times, it’s competing with another element of your mix. Rather than start over or going back to the compression drawing board, a clipper can step in and give you a bit more compression by peak clipping your audio.

Too Much?

If you find that your clipper is too obvious in your mix but you love the color that it’s adding, reach for the mix knob before backing off of the amount of clipping. By adding just a bit of your unaltered source audio back into the clipper’s output, you end up with parallel processing that makes the effect less pronounced. Start around 80% and back off even further if needed until it blends perfectly.

Parallel processing can trick even the most trained ears into questioning how you achieved the sound. It’s a great feeling when your band or friends listen back to a mix where you’ve got that sound they just can’t put their finger on.”

How Are You Clipping?

Have you fallen victim to the trend of using clippers exclusively on loud tracks, or has your clipper found a place to shine on softer elements? Either way, you’re not alone. Clippers have a lot of power and we’re still learning all of their applications.

If you’re an everyday JST Clip, come let us know how you’re using it in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum. There, you’ll find thousands of other engineers, producers & musicians talking about the tools that give their mixes “that sound.”