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The #1 Rule for Editing Audio


Editing audio tracks is a cosmetic process. You’re that’s full of annoying clicks just because you don’t know where to cut your audio. It’s a simple process to edit audio correctly and smoothly.

If you’re dealing with a drummer that’s not the tightest in the world you might need to move a beat here or there. But what’s the easy way to edit without introducing clicks into your audio?

Find the Zero Point.

The zero point is that point in the waveform where it crosses the center, or the horizontal axis. If we look look at the waveform in the term of loudness it’s where our audio is silent. Even if it’s just for a fraction of a second, that’s the place where it’s silent.

A typical sine wave starts at the zero point and then goes through its crest before coming back to zero. In the image below you can see the waveform start at the zero point, then going up, returning to the zero point before going underneath and finally returning again.

It’s easy to see when that sine wave reaches the zero point on the horizontal axis, but when we’re working with complicated audio waveforms, it gets a bit trickier to see.

sine wave

But luckily, using your audio software, this is easy to find. We just zoom in. Here is a normal waveform.  Say we want to make a sample or loop out of it.

how to edit audio correctly

In order for us to avoid that annoying clipping sound, we can zoom in to find where our audio is silent. Look at the region below. I’ve zoomed in completely and cut the region where the waveform sits on the zero point. By doing this you should avoid any unwanted pops or clicks from your editing process.

how to edit audio correctly

Be a surgeon, be precise. Find the zero point and avoid any unprofessional clicks in your audio. Sometimes this is even unnecessary because modern DAWs are so smart they make the cross-fades for you and take care of it all. But if you play it back and you hear that annoying click in the edit you’re going to have to zoom in and see what you can do about it.

When is it Smarter to Edit or Re-Record?

There are so many editing tools out there that enable you to fix even the worst of errors. Auto-Tune and Melodyne work wonders for tuning, and all these elastic time tools seem to fix even the worst performance.

But when should you edit and when should you re-record?

Editing

1. Audio editing is a handy resource for fixing things quickly. If it’s easy to move regions around in order to make it sound better than it’s probably a better idea to focus on editing.

2. If the studio is not available or you don’t have the same equipment to get the same sound then you need to edit. Even though it might be more time consuming to edit instead of re-recording; if you can’t get the same sound from a new recording it will just sound out of place.

3. If you are working with musicians that are unable, or unavailable to re-record their parts then you gotta bite the bullet and start cutting and moving things in your DAW. The availability of players can hamper your resources in the re-recording department.

Re-Recording

1. Record a new performance when the take just doesn’t cut it. If it’s just a plain bad then there is no way you can fix that with your editing tools, however great they are. Coax a better performance from the players instead of telling them you can fix it in the mix. First of all, you can’t. And second, it’s just much better to listen to an actually great performance.

2. Similarly, if you suddenly discover that your acoustic guitar track is slightly out of tune with the rest you definitely need to re-record. It’s impossible to fix an out of tune instrument in the mixing phase, and why would you even want to. Make sure everybody is in tune, and if you find out later that they weren’t make sure to re-record those parts.

3. Sometimes – especially when you are working with session musicians – another player might be better. Session musicians have different styles of playing. Some might be more suited to a particular session than others. So if a track isn’t grooving, maybe it isn’t out of tune or necessarily badly played. Maybe it just needs a different feel from a new player.

Conclusion

Each situation is different and you have to measure the pros and cons of each one to see if it’s easier, or more beneficial, to edit or re-record.

For quick fixes and easy cosmetic surgery editing is a simple solution. But if you are working with performances that simply sound bad then it’s time to set up that microphone again.

Image by: Erica Cassella


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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