If you’re looking for one of the easiest advanced production techniques to learn, you’ve come to the right place. By the time you finish reading this blog, you’ll have all the tools you need for advanced stutter editing which can be applied to any instrument in any genre.
While our discussion today will focus on rhythm guitars, you should know that a well placed stutter edit can be the perfect way to spice up a mix with tons of instruments. In the past, we’ve covered how something as simple as a straight 32nd note stutter can add complexity and depth to a guitar solo. Today, we’ll go over how you can achieve something even greater without any additional plugins required.
A Disclaimer On Stutter Edits
Before we dive in, you should know that simply knowing how to create an intricate stutter effect is only half the battle – the other half is about knowing when to use them. A stutter effect tends to catch the listener off guard the first time they hear it in a song, but if it’s something you’ve applied after every line, your listener will be fatigued before they make it through the first chorus.
Your goal as a producer should be to craft something that sticks in your listener’s ear. It’s fine to rattle their brain a bit, but too much going on in a mix will prevent them from getting into the groove you want them in that makes your song “catchy”.
Lock Yourself To The Grid
By editing in Grid Mode in your DAW, you can ensure a perfectly timed stutter from the start. Before copying any audio or moving anything around, get familiar with your grid mode and the resolution settings it offers. Most DAWs will allow you to edit up to 64th notes with ease, and even have parameters for dotted or triplet resolutions (great if you’re going for a trap-style effect).
By locking into Grid Mode from the start, any selection or movement you make will follow that grid, ensuring perfect timing even if the length of the clip you’re working with isn’t right.
Being able to quickly move between resolutions can help you speed through the process, or you can work in fine increments if you’re good with keeping your selections tight as you work. I’ve seen engineers leave their resolution at 64th notes and fly through edits of different lengths and I’ve seen engineers that can toggle through resolutions like it’s second nature to them. Find what works best for you and run with it!
If you’re just getting started and don’t have a specific pattern in mind, sometimes borrowing inspiration is the best thing to do. You’re not stealing another song’s sound with a rhythmic pattern (unless your inspiration is truly some atonal rhythm-only creation and your stutter edit copies a whole overly intricate 8-bar section). Rather, you can use an existing rhythmic pattern to get a foundation and add some other variation to the pattern that helps it fit your song.
In the video below, Nick recreates a rhythm guitar’s original sound from scratch using Toneforge Ben Bruce & an EQ for the tone, as well as a few advanced stutter edit techniques of his own.
The source of your stutter can be just as important to the final effect as the timing itself. If you’re looking for something percussive and noticeable, picking part of the track with a decent amount of attack is the right way to go.
If you’re looking for something a little more unnatural or ambient, try creating your stutter using only the body or tail of a sound. This can result in something that sounds a little more musical than rhythmic, and brings it’s own unique quality to the stutter effect.
Dead Space Is Your Friend
A nice, complex stutter edit isn’t just about the duplication of a sample in short succession; it’s about the blank space you introduce as well. Just like 64th kick drums without variation can exhaust a listener, so can a stutter edit without space around it.
Don’t be afraid to make short, abrupt cuts between your stutters for added effectiveness. Missing audio can actually lead to the sense of aggression and make an effect that your audio is breaking down as your listener hears it. This is extremely effective on guitars & screams in heavier productions.
Experiment With Timing
Whether you’re just looking for a way to spice up a lead without enough notes or make your rhythms sound like a printer jam right before the breakdown hits, there are very few situations where a stutter edit can’t sufficiently improve the complexity of your sound. Experiment with long and short stutters to find the right balance for your song and trust your intuition to do the rest.
Are you already using stutter edits in your mixes? Looking for inspiration to create some of your own? Come join the conversation with thousands of engineers and producers in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum to see how you stack up!