Pre-Roll And Punch Recording: Why I Don’t Use It

punch recording

Someone just asked about using pre-roll and punch in Reaper. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically a way to insert just a bit of audio into an already-recorded track, usually to fix a mistake.

In the old tape days, you had limited tracks to deal with, so it helped to correct a few seconds of audio by recording over it. But it was hard to hit Record and then Stop and have the replacement audio sound natural. And if you were recording by yourself, it was virtually impossible.

So a bit of automation was invented that told the machine the “get ready” 5 (or 10 or whatever) seconds before the insertion point. That’s the “pre-roll.” The singer (or voiceover artist, or instrumentalist) would start singing/talking/playing. Then the machine would automatically start recording at the insertion point WHILE THE SINGER WAS ALREADY SINGING. Then it would stop recording at the end of the part you are replacing. That process is called “punching” or “punching in.”

But in the days of computer recording where you have unlimited tracks AND you can SEE your audio, as well as hear it, there is rarely a need to punch in on the same track. You might as well just open a new track under the original one and start playing/singing along just before the mistake while recording on the new track. Then you can “peel back the area of the original audio where the mistake is, trim the size of the replacement audio, and drag it up. You can do fine adjustments of the edges and length of sections, etc. after the fact until it’s perfect.

So I don’t punch in anymore. I do that thing I just described with a spare track. See our 2-part post for more details on how to do this here: Quickly Fix Audio Recording Mistakes by Overdubbing.

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