Zero-crossing in an audio waveform is the spot where the audio crosses the zero point. Pretty self-explanatory, no? However, there are some issues to relying on zero-crossing, and that is why I always recommend focusing on using fades to get rid of unwanted “clicks”.
Some may argue that it’s much “cleaner” to use zero-crossing, but it can also depend on what software you’re using, and at times it can be difficult to figure out. This is why fading is the best option.
I hear about it all the time, and I’m sure you have too. When your audio waveform crosses the zero point, that is where you should be able to chop your audio. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple because of a side effect: artifacts. Usually “clicks” can occur when there is an abrupt volume change between two audio clips, and other times it’s because the zero-crossing line is not actually at zero. This is what’s known as “DC Offset”.
In some software, there is no option to fix the DC Offset, often known as “Remove DC Offset”, so when that happens you have no choice but to export your audio and work with it in another program.
One of the earliest music production memories I have is of slicing samples in Cakewalk Pro Audio (it’s amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it). What I had to do back then was manually edit every individual slice that I made because each one would have a slight “click” noise at the start and end points.
Of course, the simplest solution at the time was to fade-in and fade-out, and that’s still what I use today. There are other ways of doing it though, such as masking your sound.
Masking can either be intentional or by accident, and I have heard it many times in Hip Hop beats. Even well known producers do it, and it works great. The way it works is that if you have a clip that has clicks, you simply cover it up by adding sounds on top of it. Most of the times the drum track can mask it, but you can do it with other samples (or synths) as well. There are plenty of beats that have the clicks and you can clearly hear them, but once the drums and the rest of the music drops in, the clicks seem to “disappear”. Genius!
All of this leads me to the simplest solution to getting rid of clicks in your audio clips. Now be warned: doing it this way may be “destructive”. Depending on what software you’re using, there could be no turning back. Fortunately for me, I use Cakewalk Sonar and doing a fade-in and fade-out on a clip is very easy, and can be undone quickly.
With my audio clip selected, I simply drag the top corner at each end (the red line will appear), and then move it to the spot I need it to. It’s best to zoom in a lot in order to do this, otherwise it could cut off the audio abruptly. All you need to do is to fade it just slightly, just enough so that the click is gone from both ends, and you’re done. That’s it.
At this point, the clicks are gone and you’re free to continue on your beat making journey. Good luck!