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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.
Dialing in a very short delay time and modulating it via the three delay modulation controls leads to an effect know as flanging. The only rule is that the delay time needs to be in that range short enough to lead to audible comb filtering. That suggests a starting delay setting of less than about ten milliseconds, though the effect may be more obvious at delay times closer to five milliseconds. This ensures audible comb filtering will occur. Set the delay modulation controls to taste. That ringing, hollow, ear tingling sound that is created by a flanger, comes from the simple comb filter effect enhanced by these modulations controls.
While a fixed, short delay creates a comb filter, a changing short delay creates a sweeping comb filter. As the delay time sweeps, the tone is radically reshaped and that's flanging. The bridge of this tune offers opportunities for some aggressive shifts in the mix. A change of scene of arrangement or of texture. I want to sonically separate this part of the song from the rest of the verse and chorus structure in this tune. Flanging immediately comes to mind. Let's listen to the bridge and for context, we'll start one phrase before the bridge starts and listen onward for one phrase after.
This time around, all the world may never know what happens if we stop dreaming. This time around. These days are changing like never before. This time. This time around. The days are changing like never before.
We start breathing. You've probably heard this tune before elsewhere in this course. If so, you already know that this production is rich with exquisitely layered interwoven vocal arrangements. These intense vocal sections embellish not just this bridge, but also every chorus in the song. We set them off sonically in the bridge, by inserting a dedicated flanging effect. >> I like how this sounds, but if you were mixing and had other ideas, you keep adjusting to taste.
This sort of mix idea invites you to bring your own personal touch. Your own artistic maturity to the mix. Flanging is a strong effect that, if taken too far, might make the bridge too different, too weird. Transporting the bridge of this song to the 1960s with images of purple paisleys and peace signs would be a distraction. The 60s have no real connection to the meaning of this song. There's a fine line between your flanging effect being a nice touch and too much. Listen as I push the delay parameters too far.
This time around. Take a moment to sing for love. This time around. These days are changing. Like never before. Been a while. This time around. Take a moment to sing for love. Bear with me as I get a bit philosophical here. I think it's important for us as recording engineers, to draw comparisons between the sounds we hear and the meaning we invest in them.
It can be fairly abstract, it might not be the least bit obvious to the casual listener who plays the recording later, but having a mental motivation for how the mix supports the song writing, how the engineering supports the performing, is important to the success of your recordings. It reaches attentive listeners directly and casual listeners subliminally. What do you feel when this bridge ends and the next chorus unfolds? In my mind, this bridge makes me think of the following, in growing layers of abstraction. First, I want the mix to support the song form and the arrangement, verses to choruses to bridges, the mix is under no obligation to sound the same.
Most of the time, they don't. Mixes, the faders, pan pots, and mutes, are all changing and so are many of the effects. Introducing the flange effect on these vocals is part of that. I want to sonically distinguish the bridge from the other parts of the tune. Listen, critically and emotionally, to the full context. Let's listen to the full chorus before the bridge, through the entire bridge and into the chorus that follows. >> In addition to contrast I'm also thinking that I want a bit of swirling motion in this bridge.
That lyric, the song title, it's called This Time Around. Makes me want some things in the mix to move around. A modulating delay does exactly that. Lastly, I really want to come out of this bridge into the final choruses with a climactic lift that all listeners can't help but feel. For the bridge, I'm picturing it woven into some sort of cocoon followed by the feeling of a butterfly taking first flight in the chorus. Corny, I know, but that's what's in my head as I set up the sonic contrast from the bridge to the chorus.
Tangled, tight constraint to soaring freedom. I'm sure no listener receives the same image, but it serves as a mental template to keep me focused while mixing. Effects like flanging are so abstract and so subjective, that we benefit from a bit of philosophizing.
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