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By mastering the use of EQ in dynamics processors, you're going to be able to achieve a solid clean mix. But if you want to take your mix aesthetics to the next level and really extend the emotional context of the song and the vocal, time-based processors like Reverb and Delay are going to be your key ingredients. For example, think of your mix as a cast of characters standing in a line across the middle of the stage. If no character is allowed to come forward or step backward, no sense of depth or perspective is expressed.
And it might be hard for the audience to know who are the main characters and who is just background. Now imagine as a director is able to place any character at any point within the stage, how the audience now gains a perspective on the cast, who is important, who is just sort of background fill, etcetera. So, time-based effects like Reverb and Delay give the mixer the ability to creatively place elements in the mix, much like a director chooses a treatment for a film.
By placing elements in a virtual 3- dimensional space, the listener is able to visualize the song in a whole new way. When thinking about these effects, it's a good idea to review your mix plan. Do you want to mix to seem close and intimate like the singer is whispering into the listener's ear, or maybe you want to appear as if the listener is viewing the band from a distance, behind the glass panel, possibly. The decisions you make about Reverb and Delay will ultimately have the biggest effect on the perceived aesthetic of the song in its presentation to the listener.
So again, I said that the two main processors we're going to be working with are Reverb and Delay. They're both closely related. Reverb is going to simulate an acoustic space, either by using some sort of algorithm or impulse response from an actual room. What it really is, is lots of little delays packed closely together as the sound bounces around the room and returns to the listener with the dry signal. So as we kind of combine this wet and dry, we're simulating how it sounds for someone to be in an actual space and hear the direct sound as well as the reflections of the walls later in time.
So historically this was done with really big echo chambers or mechanical plates that would actually vibrate and we would use pickups to pick that up. Now we have plug-ins that do that. Delay on the other hand is just going to hold the signal back in time. When you combine it with the original, sounds like discrete repetitions of that signal, so sort of an echo, echo, echo, echo. Historically, this was done with sort of tape loops. Engineers would take and record something and put it in some sort of tape-based delay loop, where they would get played back by other playback heads as it played through the loop.
Now, unfortunately, well, I cannot teach you what is aesthetically correct for your individual style. That would be kind of like telling you what the best genre of music is or what the best flavor of ice cream. What I can teach you how to do is use this processors in your workflow and give you some tips for using them in your mixes.
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