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Pro Tools 9 Essential Training with musician and producer David Franz demonstrates concepts and techniques necessary for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in the industry-standard software for music and post-production. The course covers creating music with virtual instruments and plugins, editing with elastic audio for time and pitch manipulation, creating a musical score, and mixing with effects loops. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this video, I want to discuss how delay and reverb effects work, and how to apply them well in your Pro Tools sessions. I'll start with delay. Delay effects record a signal, then play it back at a user-selected time delay, often called delay time or delay length. A single delay of less than 35 milliseconds is called the double, because this effect makes the track sound like there are two of the same part being played or sung at basically the same time. A slapback delay is a single repeat, with a delay time over 35 milliseconds.
Slap back delay times of 35 to 75 milliseconds are good for thickening vocal or instrumental tracks, while delays of 125 to 350 milliseconds are useful for making a vocal or guitar track sound large. I'm going to open up this Extra Long delay plug-in that we've got here in Pro Tools. Now it's usually a good idea to set the delay time in relation to the beat and tempo of the song, like an eighth note, an eighth note triplet, or a 16th note. The rhythm that you create with the delay can add a nice groove element.
To do this, make use of the Tempo Sync function down here. Most delay plug-ins in Pro Tools have this, and it'll synchronize the delays to the session tempo. As you can see here, we have 90 BPM as the tempo, and this is activated. If I un-activate this, then we can use the slider to adjust whatever we want the delay to be, and to adjust it to a different tempo. However, I'd rather keep it synced. So let's listen to an example. Let me go over here to the Edit window and show you that I've got two acoustic guitar tracks here, and back to the Mix window, through Bus 5 and 6, these are being routed to this aux track that has the Extra Long delay plug-in on it.
So I've got an effects loop with the delay. First, I'm going to play this session without any delay and just with the guitar tracks soloed. (Music playing.) Now I'm going to add in the delay. (Music playing.) So you can hear that there is a single 16th note delay going onto this signal.
Let me play this one more time, and I'll pop the effect in and out. (Music playing.) Let's talk about the parameters that we have set here in the delay plug-in. First, we've got the gain, and that refers to the volume level. The mix is how much of the original signal is being delayed. Now, when we set up an effects loop like this, you'll usually set the mix to 100%.
The further you bring this down, the more of the original track, or the unaffected track, will be going through this plug-in. So usually you just want to keep this, because it's part of an effects loop, at 100% and rely on the track that you get from these two tracks here for the dry tracks. LPF stands for a Low Pass Filter, and this is used to filter out the high end, so it doesn't build up when you're using a lot of feedback. So, I've reduced this down to 10 kHz.
So everything above 10 kHz is going to be filtered out. We can turn this off if we want, or we can bring it way down and filter everything out. The delay is the length of the delay time. And so, if we un-sync this, you'll see it change if we change the tempo. Now I'm going to sync that back up, and it's going to give us 166.67 milliseconds, which is exactly 1/16th note at a tempo of 90 BMP.
The depth and rate of modulation here create slight pitch variations, and this can create a chorus, a flanger, or a phaser kind of effect. Now, I'm going to leave that off for this particular application. And the Feedback, this sends a delayed signal back into the delay input, creating a delay of the delayed signal. The higher the feedback level, the more delays are created. So, adding feedback to a delay can actually smooth out the sound of a track or give it an infinite, neverending feel.
And let me just play with this just a second to show you an example. (Music playing.) So, as you can hear from the delay trail, there was a lot of feedback on there. Now I just hit Option on the Mac and clicked on this slider to return it to 0.
You can also hit Alt on a PC to do the same. So we know about the Tempo Sync button. We can change the meter or we can also change the note value. So, if I hit this eighth note, you'll see that the delay time doubles. We can also adjust the groove, if we want to swing this a little bit, but we're not going to do that in this example. And in Pro Tools, there is a number of delay plug-ins, and I've got one more loaded up here. So I'm going to load that here.
We got the dynamic delay, and let me just play a second of this. (Music playing.) It's pretty similar to what we were just listening to in the other delay, and you'll see that it's synced. We've got a lot of feedback, 100% mix, and a wide stereo width to make this really big in your headphones.
Now let's talk about reverb. Reverb, short for reverberation, is a sonic effect that occurs when many random reflections of a sound blend together and reach the listener more than 10 milliseconds after the direct sound from the sound source. As an effect, reverb gives character to a direct dry sound by placing it in some sort of acoustical environment, like a church, a gymnasium, or a tiled bathroom. Let's hear a few examples using this D-Verb plug-in on a percussion track. So I'm going to solo this drum track right here, as well as this reverb track, and you'll see that we have another effect loop going on here.
We've got this percussion track routed to Bus 1 and 2 via a send, and it's being picked up here on this aux track and being effected by this D-Verb plug-in. So I'm going to play this track back and adjust the mix percentage, and you'll hear the different amounts of reverb. Then I'm going to switch through different algorithms, and you can hear some of the presets from this plug-in. (Music playing.) So you can hear, we can create a lot of different acoustical environments with this plug-in.
When a sound is made, we hear the direct sound waves, early reflections, and reverberation in that order. The direct sound reaches our ears without bouncing off of any surface. Early reflections reach our ears between 10 and 30 milliseconds later than the direct sound, after they've bounced off of one or more surfaces. Because these reflections arrive so quickly, they are perceived as part of the direct sound. Reverberation actually occurs when a sound reflects off of many surfaces and is mixed with many other reflections, creating a denser blend of reflected sound.
These reflections begin to fade away, or decay, as they're absorbed into the material of the acoustical space. The longer a sound takes to decay, the larger and more hard-surfaced the acoustical environment is perceived to be, and the farther from the sound source the listener is, or seems to be. In reverb plug-ins in Pro Tools, we can control the parameters that determine what a reverb will sound like through it's progression from the first to the last reflection. Here is a list of common reverb effect parameters.
We have the Wet/dry mix, which you just heard in the previous example, and this is the mix of the direct or the "dry" signal with the effected or the "wet" signal. Pre delay is the time delay before the reverb is heard. Decay time is the time it takes for a sound to disappear. That's really the total effect time. Diffusion is the space between reflections, or repeats. Density refers to the initial buildup of short delay times, or reflections. Room size is the size of the acoustical space.
Width is the amount of spread across the stereo field. You can make a reverb sound very narrow or extremely wide. Like delay, reverb is used in mixing to create a sense of depth. When applying reverb to tracks, the Wet/dry mix parameter sets the overall amount of depth: how far away a sound is from the listener. In addition to the decay time, the longer the pre-delay time--that is the time before reverb is heard--the larger the perceived size of the acoustical space.
Let's listen to an example. If I choose the Church setting here, this has a lot more pre-delay, as you can see here, 39 milliseconds, than many of these other settings. The Hall has 0. These Rooms have very small amounts. Actually, they have 0 as well. So let's hear what the pre-delay effect is. (Music playing.) Pre-delay is a big determinant for creating a large acoustical space with reverb.
Now, reverb effects can be used on pretty much any kind of sound source in your mix; however, I would steer you away from using it on bass instruments, because if you use reverb on a low frequency, it can tend to really make the mix muddy. Also, reverb often sounds more impressive if it's used in stereo as opposed to mono. If you do find that your reverb plug-in is making your mix a little muddy, you can use the High Filter Cut or the Low Pass Filter on almost any kind of reverb plug-in to help sculpt sound and tighten up your frequency range for the reverb output.
You'll see in the D-Verb we have the High Frequency Cut and the Low Pass Filter here. Pro Tools comes with several reverb plug-ins, including D-Verb, AIR reverb, AIR Spring reverb, and AIR Non-Linear reverb. We've got some of those up here. Let me show you those. Here is the reverb. This is the Gas Tank setting. Let's listen to what this track sounds like in the Gas Tank. (Music playing.) Now let's switch over to the Non- Linear reverb and listen to a Gated reverb.
(Music playing.) Pretty cool. And the Spring reverb, the Big And Busy setting. (Music playing.) I recommend trying out some of the presets and tweaking the parameters, now that you know what they all do. Reverb and delay effects are essential mixing effects in all styles of music and postproduction.
Learn how to use the parameters, and you'll be able to create the depth, atmosphere, and sonic character that you want for your mix.
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