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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.
So far we've talked about how constructive and destructive interference leads to cone filtering. Let's see how we can make musical use of this. The cone filter frequency response represents a radical reshaping of tone. Modulating that cone filter gives us flanging. All we need is a track and a short delay. Plugins with the word flanger in their name typically provide us delay processors with a single short delay accompanied by all the usual parameters. Feedback, filtering, polarity reverse, and modulation capability.
Electric guitar offers a great opportunity for the flanging effect. Recall that flanging comes from the mixing of a signal with a very short delay. It's most pronounced at very short delay times. One millisecond or less. But the effect remains audible up to as much as 15 or 20 milliseconds. Adding flange transports the guitar texturally, spectrally, and it might even transport us a bit back in time. Back to the 60s, when rock and roll guitarists first introduced us to the sound.
Longer delay times lead to spectrally rich and complex flange effects. Shorter delay times create more distinct alterations to timber. There is no right answer here. Fine-tune the effect to taste. That's the sound, the surprising vibey sound of the swept pattern of constructive and dectructive interference across the entire tone of this guitar. Certain frequencies are being cancelled while other are doubled. As the delay time is modulated the frequencies of the cuts and boosts move accordingly. Flipping the polarity of the delay shifts the frequencies of the cuts and boosts to new locations.
A great way to understand this better is to apply the effect temporarily to a pink noise test signal. Pink noises random energy with an equal distribution across the audio band. It has as much lows as mids as highs. It is a distinctly non-musical signal. But it's an interesting way to estimate the spectral content of all possible musical signals. Flanging the pink noise makes the spectral patterns of dips and bumps more obvious.
This test signal now makes the sonic impact of our delay parameter adjustments quite clear. Use the noise signal to support your exploration, but don't forget, all that matters is how it sounds on the track.
Your ability to contribute to future mixes depends on your comfort and fluency with flanging.
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