This article covers some of the most common effects used during the mixing process. Reverbs and delays can help to define a specific sound within the mix by emulating a particular environment for the sound source. They are used to illustrate a landscape within your mix which will allow for both depth and space for each individual track.
Mixing is not just about making everything fit comfortably, it is also about making certain elements pop out at the listener and grab their attention. You don’t want that guitar solo to blend in, you want it to be up front and in the spotlight. You want those pop vocals to really captivate the listener and be the central focus of the mix. Effects allow you to showcase certain parts of a mix and shift the focus accordingly. Proper use of effects allows you to take your mix from stagnant and predictable to interesting and dynamic.
Reverb simulates the component of sound that results from reflections from surrounding walls or objects. It is in effect a room simulator. Reverbs allow you to design the reflections of a particular environment in order to make the sound appear to be in a completely different space. For example, you can make a singer sound like they are singing in a cathedral, a shower, a closet or any other number of environments based on the type of reverb you choose. You can also use reverb to give the sound source more presence, such as filling out your drums with reverb to create more boom.
Delay is an audio effect which records an input signal into a storage medium and plays it back after a certain amount of time. In its simplest form, delay is nothing more than the manipulation of time as you are holding an audio event for a period of time before releasing it back into the signal path. The delay may either be played back multiple times or played back into the recording to create a repeating, decaying echo depending on the application. This allows for several different effects, as you can blend your delay (wet signal) with the original sound source (dry signal) in order to create the desired effect. Some of the most common effects created with delay are chorus, flanging and phasing effects. These and other effects can really make that guitar solo or vocal pop out from the rest of the mix. Multiple delays are also used in reverbs in order to simulate the reflections of the room you are creating, both through pre-delay and reflection timing. There are several applications and uses that allow for ultimate creative freedom using delays and reverbs.
It is good to get creative and add some flavor to your mix, but be careful not to overdo it. When using effects, a good rule of thumb is, “Put it where you want it to be, then back it off by 3dB and that is where it should be.” It is easy to get carried away in the moment, and add too much of a good thing. This simple guideline will keep your mixes from getting over-saturated with reverbs and other effects.
Things to avoid:
- Do Not put time-based plug ins on actual audio tracks. (See our article, “Recording Review: Using Auxes and Buses”)
- Back the effect off by 3 dB in order to avoid over-saturation of the effect
Effects allow you to make certain tracks really stand out in your mix and add that extra pop to a track when you need it. As with anything, make sure you use these tools to enhance the mix, rather than relying on them to make up for problematic areas that need to be fixed accordingly. Proper use of reverbs and delays can really take your mix to the next level.