Copy/Cut/Delete/Erase in Digital Music Editing - dummies

Copy/Cut/Delete/Erase in Digital Music Editing

By Jeff Strong

Using digital hard-drive recording edit functions you can cut, copy, delete, erase your recorded music tracks. And the best part is that you can do any of these procedures and still change your mind when you’re done.


The Copy command is universal in digital audio and does exactly what you think — it makes a copy of a selected performance. Here’s how the different systems generally work:

  • Computer-based systems: Copy can work much like the Copy function of your computer’s word processing program. A copy of your selection is made and put into a clipboard section of your system. You can then take that copy and paste it somewhere else in the song.

  • Stand-alone or SIAB systems: These systems don’t necessarily place copied material on a clipboard. Instead, you’re prompted to choose a place to paste your work before you make the copy.

Many systems also allow you to choose how many times you want to copy the part and choose whether you want to override the existing material where you copy it or insert the new material into that section instead. If you insert the copy, the existing material moves over and makes room for the copied section.


The Cut, Erase, and Delete commands all do the same thing to the selected section — it goes away. The difference is what happens to that material after it disappears and what happens to the remaining material on the track; the following illustrates these differences. Here’s the lowdown on the commands:

  • Cut: Lifts the selected audio section and puts it on a clipboard so that you can place it somewhere else. On some systems, such as the Cubase VST, the rest of the audio track stays put, leaving an empty space where the cut section was.

    On other systems (Logic Audio, for example), the existing material is brought forward to fill the space left by the cut material, similar to the way that your word processing software deals with the Cut command. Some systems, such as Cakewalk, allow you to choose whether the existing material moves forward.

  • Delete: Eliminates the selected material, keeping you from placing it anywhere else. Delete acts like an analog audio cut-and-tape procedure: The material following the deleted section is brought forward to fill the empty space. The Delete command is common among stand-alone recorders like the Akai DR-16Pro and among some SIAB systems such as the old Roland units.

    Most computer-based systems, such as Pro Tools and Logic, have a Snap option that can treat existing material the same way as Delete, depending on how you have set your preferences. In this case, the Snap option snaps existing material back to fill any space left by a cut section.

  • Erase: Like Delete, Erase gets rid of the selected section and doesn’t allow you to put the section anywhere else. Unlike Delete, Erase leaves a hole in the audio where the selected section used to be. The remaining audio stays put.

    Most computer-based systems have a Silence procedure that acts just like Erase. When material is “silenced,” an empty space is left where the material used to be.

    Cut, Delete, and Erase are each treated differently in digital recording systems.
    Cut, Delete, and Erase are each treated differently in digital recording systems.