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Setting up an effects loop

From: Pro Tools 10 Essential Training

Video: Setting up an effects loop

Knowing how to set up an effects loop is a key mixing technique, often used for adding reverb or delay to a mix. An effects loop enables multiple tracks to access one effects processor or plug-in. This saves a lot of computer processing power. It also gives you a lot of control over the sound of the mix and can unify the overall sound of a mix. Let's talk about the components used in an effects loop. First we have the send. A send makes a copy of the track and routes it to an output or a bus.

Setting up an effects loop

Knowing how to set up an effects loop is a key mixing technique, often used for adding reverb or delay to a mix. An effects loop enables multiple tracks to access one effects processor or plug-in. This saves a lot of computer processing power. It also gives you a lot of control over the sound of the mix and can unify the overall sound of a mix. Let's talk about the components used in an effects loop. First we have the send. A send makes a copy of the track and routes it to an output or a bus.

Let's go create one. On this particular track, I am going to go to Send A, and if you don't see the sends on your track, you can go to View > Mix Window Views, Sends A-E. There is also Sends F-J, so we have a total of ten sends per track. So I am going to go down here to send A, click, and choose Bus 1-2, and that opens up the Sends control. In this Send control we've got a lot of options.

I am just going to adjust a couple of them really quick. First, I am going to adjust the panning. I am going to pan this exactly the same as what the track is over here, all the way to the left, and I am going to boost the level. We will go up to about 8.9. As you can see here, I have got sends on both the acoustic guitar tracks, both routed to Bus 1-2. Now what's a bus? A bus carries a signal somewhere, usually to another track. I like to think of a bus as a pipeline, or a path to get a signal somewhere else.

When you choose your bus, you can actually choose mono or stereo, and we can look at that here, bus. So if we choose Bus 1, that's just a mono bus, but we have Bus 1 and 2 and that gives us panning controls right here. The third component of creating an effects loop is called a return. A return receives the signal that's on the bus, and then it affects that signal and routes the signal somewhere else, usually to the main outputs.

I am going to close this really quick. And we can look over here at the aux track, and this is our return. Notice how these sends are routed to Bus 1-2. Well, this aux track, the input is receiving Bus 1 and 2, so the signal is returning into the mix on Bus 1 and 2, and this Aux track is routed to Analog 1 and 2, so it's going to the main outputs. So to recap, these tracks, the acoustic guitar tracks, a copy of their signal is being routed out to Bus 1 and 2.

That signal is received here at the aux track, and because we have up here a D-Verb plug-in, we are getting reverb onto the copies. So this is a copy of both of the acoustic guitar tracks coming through here, sent through the reverb. And let's hear what this sounds like. I am going to solo the acoustic guitars first, and then I'll add in the effect. (Music Playing) As you could hear when I was playing this back, the auxiliary track fader brought in and out the level of reverb.

And we can also adjust how much signal from the acoustic guitar tracks gets sent here, and that's in the Send controls. We can use this level to send a different amount to the auxiliary track. Let me show you one cool little thing. If we go to View > Sends A-E, right now it's set to Assignment so we can see all five sends, but if we choose Send A, then we can open up these controls and not really need these big send faders.

So we can create a little mix of how much signal goes to the auxiliary track. Now the whole idea behind an effects loop is to have both the affected or the wet signal, which is coming from this auxiliary track, as well as the unaffected signal, which is coming from these two tracks out of the main output, and mixing those two together at the main output, so you can control the level of both the wet and the dry signals separately in the mix. One other little Pro Tools trick here. Instead of having to solo the auxiliary track, we can press Ctrl and click the Solo button, and that makes it so that it's grayed out, and that's called Solo Safe, and that means that this aux track will always be active, even if I solo other tracks in the session.

So let me show you. I am going to press play and you are still going to hear the effect. (Music Playing) Effects loops can either be pre-fader or post-fader. By default, any new send that you assign in a session is set to post-fader. However, you can change that by clicking the Pre button, or this little P button.

This makes the send pre if you choose it. Let me explain this. A signal routed through a send can either be affected by the volume on the track's volume fader down here, or not. When it's affected by this fader down here, it's called a post-fader send. If you hit the Pre button here, this volume level on the track does not affect how much signal is sent out onto this bus. Pre-fader sends route this signal onto the bus before the signal is affected by the volume fader, the Solo button or the Mute button, whereas signals that are routed post-fader are affected by the volume fader, Solo button and Mute button.

So why would you want to make a send either a pre-fader or a post-fader? Pre-fader sends are the default because in most instances you will want the levels of the unaffected or the dry tracks and the affected or the wet tracks to be controlled at the same time. In our example here, if I mute the guitar tracks, the dry guitar track is muted and the reverbed wet signal is muted too. That way you won't get a ghost in the machine, a wet track without its dry counterpart. Let's listen.

(Music Playing) Oops! I am going to have to undo this. Let's listen to these tracks in post-fader. So let me unclick that. (Music Playing) When the acoustic guitar tracks are muted, the reverb effect is also muted, because there is no signal being sent to it from these buses. However, if we choose Pre so that both of these are pre-fader and we keep this muted, now listen what we are going to hear.

(Music Playing) Now we are hearing just the reverbed effect on the guitars. Let me show you another cool example of why we might want to use a pre-fader send. I am going to undo that, unsolo that, and solo the drum track, and make this pre-fader.

Now I am going to actually want to create this ghost-in-the-machine effect, and this is when the original track and the send copy can be relatively independent of each other. So here I have it set up so that the drums will slowly disappear into a reverbed background. As I pull down the fader on the drum track, the reverbed drum signal stays the same level while the dry track fades away, and you are only left with the wet or reverbed version. Let's check it out. (Music Playing) You can create some pretty cool effects with this signal routing.

Now you should also note that all inserts affect both pre-fader and post-fader send signals. So if I look up here, we have got EQ on both of these guitar tracks. So these EQ plug-ins are going to affect the sound of the guitars that are sent, no matter if these sends are pre- or post-fader. Now I have found that using effects loops for reverb and delay effects actually sounds better than using reverb and delay plug-ins on individual tracks. This setup tends to make the mixes less muddy and have more impact.

I'm sure once you learn how to create effects loops and understand the signal routing involved, effects loops will become an integral part of your own personal mixing technique.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Pro Tools 10 Essential Training
Pro Tools 10 Essential Training

108 video lessons · 15631 viewers

David Franz
Author

 
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  1. 13m 44s
    1. Welcome
      1m 20s
    2. Exploring the different versions of Pro Tools
      3m 22s
    3. Optimizing your computer before installing Pro Tools
      4m 18s
    4. Troubleshooting
      2m 19s
    5. Using the exercise files
      2m 25s
  2. 36m 55s
    1. Installing and authorizing Pro Tools
      1m 49s
    2. Connecting your Pro Tools system
      4m 31s
    3. Powering up and powering down
      58s
    4. Choosing the Playback Engine and Hardware settings
      5m 55s
    5. Optimizing Pro Tools' performance
      6m 26s
    6. Utilizing Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC)
      3m 36s
    7. Setting essential preferences
      2m 35s
    8. Creating a Pro Tools session
      4m 31s
    9. Identifying elements in a session folder
      2m 36s
    10. Creating new tracks
      3m 58s
  3. 42m 5s
    1. Exploring the Edit window
      6m 44s
    2. Exploring the Mix window
      3m 11s
    3. Exploring the Transport and Big Counter windows
      2m 57s
    4. Using the Color palette and window arrangements
      2m 35s
    5. Investigating the menus
      3m 22s
    6. Understanding samples and ticks
      3m 34s
    7. Viewing and manipulating tracks
      4m 31s
    8. Selecting inputs, outputs, and busses
      3m 58s
    9. Selecting an I/O settings file
      4m 12s
    10. Understanding signal paths and gain stages
      3m 46s
    11. Utilizing keyboard shortcuts and Keyboard Focus
      3m 15s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Using DigiBase and the Workspace browser
      4m 14s
    2. Importing audio
      3m 0s
    3. Importing MIDI
      2m 48s
    4. Importing session data
      5m 34s
    5. Importing tracks from a CD
      2m 51s
    6. Importing video
      2m 44s
  5. 56m 46s
    1. Recording audio
      6m 13s
    2. Playing back audio and Edit window scrolling
      4m 52s
    3. Creating a click track
      5m 24s
    4. Overdubbing and using the record modes
      8m 52s
    5. Recording with playlists and Loop Record
      4m 6s
    6. Punch recording and using the monitoring modes
      4m 14s
    7. Dealing with latency and ADC
      4m 58s
    8. Creating a group
      6m 5s
    9. Adding effects while recording
      5m 16s
    10. Creating a headphone (cue) mix
      4m 29s
    11. Assigning disk allocation
      2m 17s
  6. 1h 28m
    1. Understanding nondestructive editing and region types
      3m 19s
    2. Using the Selector and Grabber tools
      3m 37s
    3. Using the Trim and Scrubber tools
      7m 5s
    4. Using the Zoomer tool and zoom presets
      5m 51s
    5. Using the Pencil tool
      3m 10s
    6. Using the Smart tool
      1m 27s
    7. Understanding the Edit modes
      5m 51s
    8. Arranging clips
      6m 40s
    9. Undoing an edit
      2m 44s
    10. Utilizing fades and crossfades
      9m 41s
    11. Building a comp track using playlists
      5m 17s
    12. Locking and muting clips
      2m 48s
    13. Special Edit window buttons
      7m 15s
    14. Creating an audio loop
      5m 19s
    15. Editing a voiceover
      9m 41s
    16. Using Elastic Time and Elastic Pitch
      9m 12s
  7. 17m 21s
    1. Working with clip groups
      4m 33s
    2. Using time, tempo, meter, key, and chord
      5m 37s
    3. Creating memory locations
      7m 11s
  8. 33m 10s
    1. Setting up MIDI on a Mac
      4m 17s
    2. Setting up MIDI on a PC
      2m 14s
    3. Setting up MIDI in Pro Tools
      2m 44s
    4. Recording MIDI data
      3m 14s
    5. Recording multiple MIDI tracks with one virtual instrument
      2m 17s
    6. Recording options for MIDI
      6m 21s
    7. Using Step Input
      4m 35s
    8. Making a drum loop with MIDI Merge
      3m 36s
    9. Composing with virtual instruments
      3m 52s
  9. 57m 1s
    1. Using the edit tools for editing MIDI data
      10m 0s
    2. Editing MIDI data in the MIDI Editor
      7m 31s
    3. Working with the MIDI Event List
      2m 12s
    4. Editing MIDI data with Event Operations
      8m 33s
    5. Quantizing MIDI tracks
      12m 16s
    6. Creating and using Groove Templates
      5m 35s
    7. Utilizing real-time properties
      5m 50s
    8. Using MIDI Learn
      5m 4s
  10. 17m 30s
    1. Exploring the Score Editor
      5m 49s
    2. Using the Score Editor
      5m 5s
    3. Setting up a score
      4m 48s
    4. Printing and exporting a score
      1m 48s
  11. 25m 39s
    1. Writing and editing automation
      6m 40s
    2. Drawing automation with the Pencil tool
      4m 2s
    3. Editing automation with the Trim and Grabber tools
      2m 58s
    4. Cutting, copying, pasting, and clearing automation
      4m 12s
    5. Turning automation on and off
      3m 52s
    6. Automating plug-ins and virtual instruments
      3m 55s
  12. 1h 49m
    1. Setting up a session for mixing
      8m 50s
    2. Setting up an effects loop
      9m 30s
    3. Working with plug-ins
      4m 33s
    4. Utilizing ADC while mixing
      9m 8s
    5. Applying EQ
      12m 43s
    6. Adding compression and limiting
      14m 25s
    7. Using delay effects
      6m 52s
    8. Applying AudioSuite plug-ins
      6m 24s
    9. Adding reverb to your mix
      6m 50s
    10. Bouncing down a mix
      4m 15s
    11. Making an MP3 for iTunes and SoundCloud
      2m 53s
    12. Setting up a session for mastering
      4m 58s
    13. Mastering a session
      10m 37s
    14. Bouncing down master recordings with Dither and Noise Shaping
      7m 24s
  13. 9m 59s
    1. Importing and displaying video files
      2m 38s
    2. Adding music, foley, ADR, and FX
      4m 29s
    3. Bouncing down video and audio together
      2m 52s
  14. 4m 0s
    1. Archiving an entire session
      4m 0s
  15. 58s
    1. Further recommendations
      58s

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