Punch and Roll: An Easy 10-Minute Tutorial

If you want to learn how to punch and roll, I can teach you the basics in (just) under 10 minutes – that’s how long this video is. Granted, I can probably do it even faster than that – and the section where I demonstrate punch and roll is just five minutes long – but I talk about a few other things as well.

Anyway, click on through to see the video, as well as some more thoughts I have on the matter.

What is punch and roll?

In a nutshell, punch and roll is a method that allows you to end your session with a clean recording, i.e. one with no mistakes, or at least very few of them. At this point, editing will probably involve just quality checking, and then your file is off to mixing.

I explain more in the video above, but the basic steps are:

  1. Identify the section you want to change. This is your punch in point,
  2. Go back a little bit, maybe a sentence (or two), for your pre-roll,
  3. Play or roll from there, then
  4. Record or punch in the part you want to change.

Just a note for numbers 3 and 4: Since I record on a separate track, I actually hit record when I start my pre-roll, and simply trim the recordings afterwards.

Are there other methods?

Contrast this with a method that’s probably more familiar to most, which is recording straight through. This one involves recording nonstop, doing take after take, which results in a truly raw recording. This most likely includes bloopers, water breaks, and possibly conversations with a producer, engineer, or others. After recording comes the next step: reviewing the raw file and cutting together a clean version. And depending on how much raw audio you have, this can take a considerable amount of time.

As for other methods… I’m sure there are others, but I’m not really too familiar with them.

Which method do you use?

I use both of these methods I’ve described here, depending on how long my material is, whether I’m working with a sound engineer, and other factors. If I’m working on an ad with a producer and an engineer, I’ll probably record straight through and try to mark the good takes, probably with some claps, snaps, or a dog clicker. On the other hand, if I’m working alone on a longer material, i.e. one that runs five minutes or more, I punch and roll instead.

What are the advantages of punch and roll?

For me, the main advantages of punch and roll (vs. recording straight through) are:

  1. Significantly reduced editing time, and
  2. Improved consistency, especially with longer material

The first one should be pretty self-explanatory by this point. You end your session with a fairly clean recording, so you don’t need to do a whole lot of editing afterwards.

As for consistency, this is a result of following along to your own voice during the pre-roll. Initially, you may have to start your pre-roll a full sentence (or two) before your punch in point. And as you follow along, chances are you will get into the same groove as you did in your previous recording. You’ll pause or breathe at the same points, and basically fall into the same patterns and rhythms.

What don’t you like about it?

To be completely frank, I think the main strength of punch and roll, consistency, is also it’s main weakness. Following along to yourself can help you get into a groove… but on the flip side, it can also lead you into a rut. You’ll pause or breathe at the same points, and basically fall into the same patterns and rhythms.

The way I see it, punch and roll is about making sure you stay in tune with whatever you’d laid down previously. You’re not necessarily locked into a specific read or delivery, but you are constrained, at least a little bit, by what comes before (and sometimes after). So while it’s great for consistency, it sorta sucks for variety.

I wanna try it. What do I need to punch and roll?

I’ll be frank here – I’m not sure if you’re set up to punch and roll. I’m set up for it now in my current space, but I wasn’t when I first started out. In my first recording space, which you can see below, I had my mic in the booth, along with my script, likely on a phone or tablet. My computer, and therefore my DAW (short for Digital Audio Workstation), sat outside. So back then, I did all my recordings straight through.

my first recording space: a store room / walk-in closet / studio

Because my computer was outside my recording space, punch and roll recording simply didn’t make sense for me. I would have to pop in and out of my booth (which was actually a storage room turned into a walk-in closet), and that would take at least 10 to 20 seconds, maybe longer. And I would have to do this every time I made a mistake.

So unless you’ve got access to your DAW from your recording space, or you’re working with an engineer or technician who can control your DAW, punch and roll might not even be an option for you.

Anything else?

I think we’ve covered all our bases here. I hope you learned something new today! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. And if you think this post is helpful, let me know, and consider sharing this with others.

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