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What Is a Stutter Edit?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

A stutter edit is a musical production technique used in making electronic music. This technique involves rapidly repeating small segments of audio. Stutter Edit® is also the name of an audio editing software plugin designed to product this effect. The sound of this effect is often unexpected and jarring, and when an electronic musician uses this sound, it is generally meant to surprise and shake up the listener.

Stutter edits have been heavily used in electronic-based music since the mid-1970s. The technique used to create a stutter in an audio waveform can be done manually in audio editing programs, and it is fairly simple to do. It is performed by first selecting the desired segment of audio, and in most audio programs, copying it and pasting it repeatedly within another audio track to create the stutter edit effect. There is no right way to formulate a stutter edit, and the final product depends on the editing talent and skill of the electronic musician.

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Woman painting

Sometimes, tiny segments of silence are introduced between the pieces of repeated audio, giving the sequence a clear percussive effect. Increasing the beats per minute (BPM) on the track causes the segments to repeat faster, and if the passage is played fast enough, the repeated segments blend into a single tone. A stutter edit played more quickly will sound like a higher note than one played at a speed that is slower, though still exceptionally fast. This is a technique some computer musicians use to create their own tones for electronic instruments.

A stutter edit sequence can be long, with a great many repetitions, or as short as one repetition. When it is used on vocals with few repetitions, the stutter edit can have an effect similar to computer generated 1980s icon Max Headroom®. The sample chosen for repetition is generally extremely short, though it is usually long enough for the listener to identify the sound that is being stuttered.

Software programs that facilitate the use of glitch editing techniques like stutter edits have made electronic music simpler for the beginning composer. The most well-known program for producing this effect is called Stutter Edit®, a plugin for audio editing programs created by Brian Transeau, a popular electronic musician who is commonly known by the artist name BT. He is so widely known for using this type of effect that it is sometimes called the BT Stutter. In contrast with the manual editing technique, this program lets a performing electronic musician use this effect live onstage.

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