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Microphone Month

Stutter Effect (Stuttering)

Stuttering or glitch, as it is called in DJ and remix circles, is a vocal effect achieved by chopping audio into a very small section, and then copying and pasting it repeatedly onto a track. Artists including BT, Hybrid, Aphex Twin, and Autechre are considered pioneers of stuttering, but stuttering as a vocal effect has been with us since “K-K-K-Katy” was published in 1918 by Geoffrey O’Hara and became a huge hit in wartime America. While most notably associated with the character “Max Headroom” from the ’80s TV show of the same name, vocal stuttering has been with us for decades in popular music. Some notable examples would be Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” The Who’s 1965 song “My Generation”, Bachman Turner Overdrive in their 1974 hit song “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” in 1981, and in 1995, Scatman John’s hit song “Scatman.”

Stuttering has mostly been associated with dance music and electronica. It had its origins in the MIDI sequencing “machine gun effect.” The machine gun effect was, and still is considered non-musical and something to be avoided if one is going for a “realistic” performance. Machine gun effect occurs when a sample is repeated numerous times in a row. Since the attack of these samples is identical, the resulting sound is very repetitive, resembling a machine gun. However, in the creation of dance music, this effect, first appearing when snare drum rolls were quantized into small note values (64-128 BPM), became desirable. As Paul Simon wrote, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”

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