"Radio edit" from CD version of song?
August 13, 2010 1:43 AM   Subscribe

How to transform song from CD version to "radio edit" version?

I find myself fed up with having to listen to the CD version of a song when what I really want to listen to is the radio edit version of the song. (Yes, I guess I am a picky SOB with nothing better to worry about.) Back in the day, the only real way to get this version was on a 45 rpm or a 12 inch single. Needless to say, I find many older songs are now only available in the longer version on the CD.

How can I obtain a best approximation of a radio edit version of a song when all I have is the CD? I know there are bazillions of audio file editing programs out there, and I've tried using a .wav file editor, but I find myself getting lost in the many verses of the songs. In this day and age of (relatively) immense computer power, it seems like this still shouldn't be that much of a problem. Then again, I notice that radio stations that play these older songs tend to play the CD versions nowadays, so that indicates to me that the stations themselves don't feel it's worth the effort to edit down the song (maybe they can't edit the song for legal reasons?).

What makes this so hard for a music fan to do at home? I'm guessing I need something fancy like SMPTE codes or something else to make this job easier. Editing the beginning or the end of songs is easy, but this stuff right in the middle can be rough. Heck, I only have a handful of songs like this. Perhaps a dozen. Could I pay an audio engineer to work some magic on the songs I'd like altered? (Strictly for personal use, of course). If so, does anyone have any idea what something like this would cost? Any recommendations on who could do the work?

If we need an example song, I suggest we use "Twilight Zone" by "Golden Earring" since it's my poster child song for this sort of thing, and I think it was popular enough that many people here may be familiar with it. (And, if the radio edit version is available on CD, please let me know, but the question still stands for the other songs I didn't mention.)

Many thanks, and apologies in advance if this is a repeat. I searched, but there were about a trillion hits on anything to do with the word "song."
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
Try picking up the CD single from a music store. They often contain multiple edits of the song featured.
posted by springbound at 2:15 AM on August 13, 2010

Amazon's MP3 download service can sometimes help with this. Here's an edited version of "Twilight Zone," which is a minute or so shorter than the full version.
posted by jbickers at 3:26 AM on August 13, 2010

Whoops, I'm a dummy - looks like that's a live version, not an edit. So no help on that particular song. But I do know that you can occasionally find edits on Amazon.
posted by jbickers at 3:28 AM on August 13, 2010

How about those best whatever music from this or that decade?

The CleanFlicks decision would seem to be relevant (as would the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act) but I'm nobody's lawyer and caselaw probably has only a marginal relationship to what an audio engineer will do if you give them money.

I use Audacity to delete instrumental solos, but it would take a lot more practice to get good at it than I can see myself obtaining in this life.
posted by SMPA at 3:31 AM on August 13, 2010

Meant to add - try calling the radio station. They often know good stuff about finding versions, and the reason they play the full-length version seems to be as much about "authenticity" and such as availability. Some stations do it with songs I know to be in two or more versions on the CD - kind of like how the late-night jam people use one of the party versions of a pop hit, available on the single CD.

And it's trivial for them to edit songs. Morning DJs spend a lot of time goofing off with the equipment on the radio out here.
posted by SMPA at 3:37 AM on August 13, 2010

Radio edits sometime have different mixes instead of just being "cut" versions. The first example that comes to mind is Rock the Casbah by the clash. Via wiki, :

The single version has more pronounced bass. Also when Joe Strummer screams "The crowd caught a whiff / Of that crazy casbah jive" at the end of the third verse the word "jive" is sustained for several seconds with digital delay.

Also I think there's some digi-noise you hear on the single version that you don't hear on the album version.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 4:24 AM on August 13, 2010

As Ike said, you're not always going to be able to create the radio edit from the full length song; they sometimes require the master tracks and may involve a decent amount of editing more than simply chopping parts out of a song. Radio edits may also remove or changing lyrics that may be inappropriate from radio, preventing it from receiving any air time.

I believe radio edits are also created by the band/producer themselves and not the radio stations (not in the past couple decades at least). Many radio stations prefer playing a bunch of shorted songs than one long song. This makes it easier to stick commercials between songs and a better chance at playing a song the audience loves (all you're eggs in one basket kind of deal). The label will send out a radio edit because it will have a better chance of being played on the radio than the longer version, meaning more overall air time and hopefully more sales. Radio stations playing the full version (as you mentioned) seems to be growing trend for radio stations to return to "real" music (full cuts, deep tracks, etc.) and not the top 40 pop on repeat that many radio stations have turned into. Classic rock stations seems to be turning to this in particular.

You can often find radio edits on online music stores (Amazon, iTunes, Napster, etc.) for the same price as the normal song. You can also try looking for a song on Youtube if you have no luck anywhere else.
posted by Kippersoft at 7:11 AM on August 13, 2010

What you're asking to do is akin to taking a sedan and turning it into a convertible -- it's a lot easier to just manufacture the convertible in the first place (i.e. create the radio edit in the studio from the masters) than to take a finished product and surgically alter it after the fact. It's certainly not something that can be automated, but if you are skillful it can be done. The main thing is that you have to make all your edit cuts on exact beat boundaries. If you want to practice this skill, try selecting just one measure in the middle of a song (preferably one with no fills, etc.) and set it on repeat -- once you get the start and end times right you will hear a seamless loop that keeps time correctly. Once you've got that skill then you can try cutting out entire verses, but it's still likely to sound clunky unless you're really good at it.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:09 AM on August 13, 2010

An old flatmate of mine used to have to do this all the time as a kinda contract job for a Record Label. he'd be given a stakc of CDS and a list of track numbers for each then spend an evenign cutting them all down to under 4 mins for play on Radio.

So I can confirm that some labels will just take a quick and dirty approach and cut it up and use Cross fades to try and mask the effects of the cuts.

I think he just used Wavelab or something like that. But I find editing songs is easier if you stick it into a Linear Editor like Cubase / Garage band etc. then you can keep track of things easier and add The cross Fades with more finesse.

I recently did a weird Edit of a Song for a freidns wedding in Cubase that involved looping particular parts. it was fiddly but I was impressed with how seemless I could get it just using well timed fades.

If you cut the song up into chorus / verse parts then put these onto different tracks in Cubase/Garage Band its not as hard to keep track of whats going on.
posted by mary8nne at 8:47 AM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: To expand upon Rhomboid's answer...

Think of a song like an image in Photoshop. When it's being created, there are many layers of discrete data. You can manipulate one layer without affecting any of the others. Each layer would be a different instrument, voice, or effect. Producers spend oodles of time tweaking them all in different ways to get the final sound.

When you get the same song on CD, however, it's like the "flattened" image. All the layers have been condensed down to one, and they can't be separated again. All the information about each piece of the song has been discarded, and all that's left is the indivisible sum total of all the pieces.

When radio edits are made by the producer, they can be made cleanly without interrupting the flow of the music itself. The producer can modify just the vocal track, leaving everything else untouched. But if you try to edit the audio from the CD, it's all or nothing. You can cut out a particular word from the lyrics, but every other sound playing at that same moment will be lost too, producing a stutter. You might be able to get away with one or two of these in a given song and your brain will gloss over them when it hears them... but do it too much and the result will be jarring. Like a bad 'shop.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:38 AM on August 13, 2010

Seconding Rhomboid. I've done this a lot in the past to make shorter versions of songs that I only had the CD of. The poppier the song is, the better, because it'll have a formulaic song structure and lots of repeated musical parts. Doesn't work as well with complex songs, but then again those won't be on the radio anyway.

If you can get the song opened in a WAV editor, then you can cut out a few measures by putting repeating parts up against other identical parts. You don't even need to be precise most of the time, because if it's within a few milliseconds you won't be able to tell the difference even with headphones.
posted by relucent at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for responding. I guess I'll just have to hack away at these songs with an audio file editor.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:30 PM on August 13, 2010

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