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In this installment of Foundations of Audio, author Alex U. Case explains the fundamentals of delay and modulation effects and how to apply these effects, technically and creatively, to improve the sound of a mix. The course covers adjusting individual parameters such as delay time, level, and feedback; working with long delays to create echoes, enhance groove, and add support; using delay modulation for chorus and doubling effects; and dialing-in spectral effects from delay, such as flanging. This course also includes Get in the Mix (GITM) sessions for both Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro. Exercise files are also included with the course.
Conveniently, most delay effects have many of the same features and parameters. What I'll be sharing with you in this course will apply to all delay effect plug-ins, the ones you already have in your studio and others you may acquire in the future. Three of the most important delay settings are input/output level, delay time, and feedback. Input/output levels are pretty self-explanatory. The goal is usually to set input and output levels so that there's no significant gain change happening as a result of passing the audio through the delay.
That is we use the faders in the DAW, or on the mixing console, for major level adjustments and try to pass signals into and out of the delay processor without too much level change. Watch the input level to make sure the device isn't overdriven to the point of distortion, unless of course distortion is part of your intended effect. Next, we need a way to adjust the timing of the delay. So a time parameter is provided. You can set your delay in standard units of time like milliseconds, or by a direct reference to your song's tempo in various rhythmic increments like eighth notes or quarter notes.
For plug-ins and outboard digital processors, you can freely adjust the delay time to taste. On a tape delay, you're a little more constrained. Your only means of changing the delay time is to change the tape speed or to change the distance between the record and the playback heads, or get another tape machine if you're feeling ambitious. While delay time adjustment seems almost trivial on a digital delay, we can become better mix engineers when we learn from history. Once upon a time, not very long ago really, the delay parameter itself was rather crude, offering no numeric readout.
On old analog delay lines and most early digital delays, you turn the delay time setting to the left to shorten and to the right to lengthen. There was no numeric readout. I mentioned this bit of anachronistic charm to emphasize an essential point. The delay time can be set by ear, not by eye. I'll go further. The delay time should be set more by ear than by eye. So listen, please listen to the sonic implications of your delay time setting. What might look good on the screen or check out mathematically when you setup the device, may not make much musical sense when you listen to it.
So set the delay time control to the right sounding value. I'll show you how to set the delay time by ear and in mathematical relation to the song's tempo in upcoming videos in this course. After level and delay time comes feedback. Feedback, sometimes called regeneration, is another common feature in almost all delay processors. It allows us to send the output of the delay right back into the input. With this parameter, our delayed signal gets delayed yet again. Strange at first, you'll soon see that it offers intriguing possibilities.
Through this feedback control, a single echo can be made to repeat. It can repeat as many times as we like. (music playing) Level, delay time, and feedback, but we're not done. I'll show you some additional delay parameters in the next video.
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