Punching in: How to Get the Most out of Your DAW

Recording music is a tricky process. There are lots of technical details to take care of before you start laying down takes. And even then, getting a great performance takes dedication.

That’s why producers developed the modern music production techniques that help craft the polished sound of a finished track.

One of the easiest and most helpful tricks for tracking is called punching in. It’s a tried and true technique that’s built into your DAW to help you record your parts cleaner, faster and more easily.

In this guide, I’ll explain what punching in is and you can how to use it for a better workflow.

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Let’s get started.

What is punching in?

Punching in is a recording technique that lets you record new material within a previously recorded track. Instead recording full takes of the song until you get it exactly right, punching in lets you record section by section. Punching out keeps you from having to record the remainder of the track again if you don’t need to.

The term punching in comes from the days 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, but it’s become more flexible in the DAW era.



The term punching in comes from the days of analog tape machines.

Today you can loop a difficult section and record take after take until you get it right. Or you can punch in at a specific point and punch out again seamlessly to craft a perfect performance.

Why should you punch in while recording?

You should 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 sections

We’d all like to be perfect in the studio, but that’s just not how life works.

Punching in allows you to split your takes into sections. When it comes time to tackle the really difficult stuff, this is a huge help.

When you punch in for a touch section you can take as many tries as you need to get it right—without losing anything that came before.

This method lets musicians perform in confidence because they’ll know they can stop recording to tackle difficult material if they need to.

When you punch in for a touch section you can take as many tries as you need to get it right—without losing anything that came before.

2. It lets you change sounds on your instrument if needed

You might think the pros 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 different approach, stoping the take and punching back in is the best choice.

That means starting fresh whenever you use a different tone on your instrument or deliver your part with a different feel.

This gives you freedom to sound any way you like and keeps you from having to rush to make adjustments.

This not only helps musicians sound better, but also allows them to 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.

But with today’s DAWs there are plenty of tools to help reduce it, including punching in.

If an instrument isn’t actively playing during a section in a song, its DAW channel shouldn’t include any audio information—even if it just looks like silence.

To avoid it you can punch in and out only for the spots where the sound occurs 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 allows you to focus your energy where it’s needed most instead of wasting it on recording multiple takes of entire songs.

Every musician, producer, and recording engineer knows how much energy goes into a day of recording.

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

Every DAW is designed differently, but punching in and out mostly works in similar way. In most DAWs there are three ways to do it.

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 want to punch and press play on the transport.

When the section 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 engage quick punch mode in order to punch in on the fly.

3. Punching in and punching out

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Sometimes you only want to punch in for a specific section and punch back out a few bars later to fix a small mistake.

This is the second most common workflow for punching in. To set it up you’ll have to select a range to punch in and out using markers, the loop brace, or the specific process in your DAW.

Park the playhead a few bars ahead of the selected area to get your bearings and repeat as needed.

2. Punching in and loop recording

Sometimes you want to try multiple attempts at a tough section without breaking your concentration.

Sometimes you want to try multiple attempts at a tough section without breaking your concentration.

The best way to do it is by punching in and recording on a loop. You can set it up using the same process as the previous technique, only this time select loop recording in the transport.

Once you reach the selected area in the take, the recording will loop back to the beginning instead of punching out and continuing on with the track.

If your DAW is set up for loop recording, each new pass of the selected 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, but punching in is a reliable option when that doesn’t happen. After a bit of practice, punching in and out will be like second nature for you.

The post Punching in: How to Get the Most out of Your DAW appeared first on LANDR Blog.

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