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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
While reverb will be our go-to effect for simulating an acoustic space and letting an overall vibe to the aesthetic of a mix, Delay can achieve the same depth and space defining effect as reverb, with more control over the tail. Because delay is characterized by distinct echoes or taps, it may not be perfect for very complex rhythmic parts, but works excellent on vocals, guitars, synths and other melodic instruments. For example, a delay is a great way to make a vocal sound huge and special without washing it out or obscuring the lyrics with the density of a bunch of reverb.
Because delays are also distinct taps, they can really help reinforce the tempo and the groove of a song in a way that a reverb cannot. So, if we look at the delay returns in Take Me Down, we've got a few different delays. I have a Short Delay and a Long Delay. We could see these are setup via Sends and Returns and the Long Delay specifically is fed into some additional effects. If I look at my Sends F-J, also fed into the Big Plate.
So, it's common to feed delays into other effects to get sort of a reverbed delay. Now if we specifically look at the Lead Vocal delay, again, this is really going to help the Lead Vocal come out and sit in the special place in the mix, not obscured, but big. So, let's solo this up. It looks like here during the first verse, the delay is automated to come in and out on a specific word. So, let's move it to the First Chorus, Memory Location: 31, and listen.
(Male singing: So take me down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'm come around, I'll come around, like I always. I'll keep my feet on the ground.) So that's the Long Delay and the long Delay is a quarter note on the left-hand side and an eighth note on the right-hand side. So, we're kind of getting this ping-pong effect. There's a little bit of groove added. So, the reason we might offset these delays with a little bit of the groove setting to kind of adjust the delay time is so that we can kind of remove them from the other rhythmic elements that are happening in the mix.
So the other snare hits on the down beat, high hat, things like that. I don't want to obscure the delay or obscure those rhythmic elements. So, sometimes it can be cool, especially on the vocal to kind of offset your delays a bit. If you offset them too much, you can kind of sound rhythmically inaccurate, but if you make them just a little bit lazy or kind of swing them a bit... Now, if we look at the shorter delay called Short Delay-- Again, this is a stereo delay. It has a left and a right-hand side, but we're using significantly shorter times under 100 milliseconds.
This is going to sound less like a discrete tap and more like a doubling of the sound. Let's listen. (Male singing: ...down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'm come around, I'll come around, like I always. I'll keep my feet on the ground.) So it's almost approaching sort of that slap-back style Elvis delay. Just a little bit longer in the delay time, and I could get kind of that slap-back effect.
When you use delay times, getting towards 50 milliseconds and lower, it sounds less like discrete taps and more just sort of like a doubling or a thickening of the same sound. You can even try using really short delays, sort of stereo pan, to kind of get a thickening effect on different instruments and tracks. So, if we moved to the guitars, we also see some delay there. This is a good time to mention that some of the guitars, specifically like this Mod Electric Guitar track, it's actually going to have delay already on it, coming into this session.
The reason for this is it was actually tracked with the pedal on the guitar. Now, this kind of brings up the topic of when you're performing a guitar part or any instrument part, and it's going to have delay on it, it's generally a good idea to have the performer play or perform with the delay as opposed to adding so much of it later. It's definitely going to give them a different feel with the instrument in their hand, if they can hear that delay. So, if you're going for that kind of U2 edge style guitar part, it might be a good idea to track with the delay or just track with the delay plug-in on in Pro Tools.
That way you can change it later a bit. At least, it's going to give the performer a sense of what that's going to sound like and they can react to that dynamically. Now, on the Guitar Solo, I'm using some of the long and short delay, quite a bit of the long delay. And that's going to just kind of push that back in the mix and kind of make it sound a little bit bigger. So let's go to the Guitar Solo section here. We can listen to that. (Music playing) And then in context.
(Music playing) (Male singing: Let me drink you away, let me drink you away.) So, I didn't want to use too much, but just kind of push it back, kind of give it a bigger sound for the solo. So you can see it with these few examples. Delay is a great way of placing sounds in the distance or keeping them upfront while extending them through to the back of the mix. I've done mixes that use delays as the primary depth device as opposed to using reverbs, and sometimes I'll get away using no reverb and only delays or very short reverbs in a mix.
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