Recording music is a tricky process. There are many technical details to take care of before you start laying down takes. And even then, getting an excellent performance takes dedication.
One of the best and most helpful tips for tracking known as punching in. It’s a hard true technique that helps you record your tracks cleaner, faster, and more easily.
In this guide, we’ll explain what punching in is and you’ll know the way to use it for a better workflow.
Let’s get started.
What is punching in?
Punching in is a recording technique that allows you to record new material within a previously recorded track. Instead of recording full takes of the track until you get it exactly right, punching in allows you to record section by section. Punching out keeps you from having to record the remainder of the track again when you don’t need to.
The term punching-in comes from the times of analog tape machines. To “punch in” you’d push the record button on the fly while the machine was playing back. Punching in still works this way, however, it’s become more flexible in the DAW era.
Today you’ll be able to loop a difficult part and record take after take until you get it right. Or you’ll be able to punch in at a specific point and punch out once more seamlessly to craft a perfect performance.
Why should you punch in while recording?
You must punch in while recording because it will save you tons of time and frustration in the studio. Here’s how:
1. It helps you break up the take for harder parts
We’d all like to be excellent in the studio, however, that’s just not how life works.
Punching in lets you split your takes into sections. When it comes time to deal with the really difficult stuff, this is a huge help.
Whenever you punch in for a touch part you’ll be able to take as many tries as you should get it right—without losing anything that came before.
This method lets musicians perform in confidence as a result of they’ll know they can stop recording to deal with difficult material if they need to.
2. It allows you to change sounds on your instrument if needed
You might think the professionals record a perfect take in one pass and nail every different sound or technique for the whole song.
In reality, every time you need to change a sound or take a unique approach, stopping the take and punching back in is your best option.
That means starting fresh every time you use a different tone on your instrument or deliver your part with a different feel.
This gives you the freedom to sound any way you want and keeps you from having to rush to make adjustments.
This not only helps musicians sound better but also lets them experiment with their sound in ways they couldn’t pull off on single takes.
3. Helps manage issues with noise
Unwanted noise showing up in a recording is inevitable whether it’s a dog barking or a cough that couldn’t be suppressed.
However, with today’s DAWs, there are many tools to help reduce it, including punching in.
If an instrument isn’t actively enjoying a section in a song, its DAW channel shouldn’t embrace any audio information—even if it just looks like silence.
To keep away from it you’ll be able to punch in and out only for the spots where the sound happens in the arrangement. This is especially helpful for noisy sources.
4. Keeps your stamina up so you don’t burn out
Every musician, producer, and recording engineer knows how much energy goes into a day of recording.
Punching lets you focus your energy where it’s needed most instead of wasting it on recording multiple takes of entire songs.
If you’re recording someone else, punching in preserves not only their energy but also yours. Instead of throwing out perfectly good material, you’ll be able to cover exactly what you need to and move on.
How to punch in with your DAW
Each DAW is designed differently, however punching in and out mostly works similarly. In most DAWs, let’s follow three ways to punch in with DAW.
1. Punching in on the fly
Punching in on the fly is just like how it was done in the old days on analog tape. Record arm the tracks you need to punch and press play on the transport.
When the part you want to re-record comes up, press the record button to go from playback mode to recording mode.
Hot tip: In some DAWs (such as Logic and Pro Tools) you may have engaged quick punch mode to punch in on the fly.
3. Punching in and punching out
Sometimes you only want to punch in for a specific section and punch back out a couple of bars later to fix a small mistake.
This is one of the most common workflows for punching in. To set it up you’ll have to pick a range to punch in and out using markers, the loop brace, or the specific process in your DAW.
Park the playhead a couple of bars ahead of the selected area to get your bearings and repeat as needed.
2. Punching in and loop recording
Sometimes you need to try multiple attempts at a tough section without breaking your concentration.
The perfect way to do it is by punching in and recording on a loop. You’ll be able to set it up using the same process as the previous technique, only this time choose loop recording in the transport.
Once you reach the chosen area in the take, the recording will loop back to the beginning instead of punching out and continuing with the observation.
If your DAW is set up for loop recording, each new pass of the chosen area will create a new take you can use while comping.
Punch in for the perfect take
Recording music is packed with challenging techniques and processes. Luckily, punching in isn’t one of them. It’s easy to understand and execute and is practically unavoidable for those that record music seriously.
There are times when musicians can pull off excellent single takes, however punching in is a reliable option when that doesn’t happen. After a bit of practice, punching in and out might be like second nature for you.