Friday, November 19, 2010

Production Tip: Using Two Delays With One Send

I've decided to start a series on production & mix-down tips for producers.  Each post will be a brief yet informative explanation & real world example of a mix-down or production technique.  I'm hoping these can be efficient little tips you can all quickly glance at, learn, & then creatively use in your own productions.  I'll start this series off with an old school delay trick. (modified for DAW's) If you use this trick tastefully it can really help to add a nice spacial touch to just about anything you're working on.  Even though this trick has been used on countless records you can still make it your own especially considering we have the gift of simple automation in modern DAW's.

Before I show you how to do it I'll explain how an auxiliary send & auxiliary return work. Then, when I give you a real world scenario in which you might use this trick you'll understand it's roots thereby allowing you to manipulate this technique into any of your own number of creative tricks.

When you're using time-based effects like; delays, reverbs, choruses, echos, etc. it's best to use them with an auxiliary send & return loop.  This provides the best result sonically because you have much more control over the wet & dry signal as opposed to using the effect on an insert point.  An insert breaks the channel path & doesn't allow you to blend the original dry signal with the effected wet signal.  Effected/wet signals from sends are normally returned to a mix by routing them back through a stereo auxiliary return or input. That way we can blend the levels between the dry original signal and the now wet or effected signal.  For this trick though we will return our signal with two mono channels. (more on this later in the post)  If this doesn't make sense don't worry, I'm going to explain it right now.  The main & most important thing I want you to take from this is that time-based efx should be used with aux's (sends) in a send & return loop.  Not inserts.   (that's important, don't forget it)

Let's say we've got a few vocal samples we're using in a production remix that we're working on.  The samples came from stems and are already heavily processed and in stereo but they're still missing something to really make your production pop and more importantly your own.  Simply follow the steps below and you'll be on your way to doing just that..

Step 1:

First, create a send from the dry vocal track you'd like to process.  Make sure the send is "post-fader", we use "pre-fader" sends for things like headphone mixes while tracking.  We want the send to be post-fader so that any level rides we make on the dry vocal track on the mix bus will also be made to the send.  If the send is pre-fader it will send the same amount of signal regardless of the level of the dry vocal track in the mix.  Always remember this for auxiliary sends: When tracking with an artist use pre-fader sends for headphone mixes, when mixing down with time-based efx use post-fader sends.

Step 2:

Once we've created the send from our vocal track we need to create return channels to process the vocals & return the wet signal to our mix bus.  Normally this is where a stereo auxiliary return would come into play as it's normally common practice to return time-based effects using a stereo return.  I just prefer using mono tracks for this trick because it allows you to isolate each of the delays from one another more effectively.  (You could certainly use two stereo returns for this trick if you'd prefer though.)  Once you've created your two mono return tracks, soucre the input of each from one of the stereo send channels.  If your send is sending signal out Bus 1-2, then make the input of the first mono return track bus 1, and make bus 2 the input for the second mono return track.  Also, be sure the output of your mono return tracks is routed to your master mix bus.

Step 3:

Throw a delay on each one of the mono return tracks.  You can use the same delay or two different plug-ins if you'd like, it's really up to you.  I personally like using different tape delay emulation plug-ins.  Set one of the delays with a shorter delay time and set the other delay on the second mono return with a longer delay time.  You'll have to play around with these delay times but once you find a nice combination there's no doubt you'll be pleased with the result.

Step 4:

Adjust your send to the desired level and then you can work with level & panning of your two mono return tracks.  Again, this is where you get to be creative, you can set the level and panning of each return however you'd like.  Using automation is a great way to place and move the delays in and around different parts of the stereo image.  If you modulate the delay parameters as well you can get some pretty crazy results too. Just do what you think sounds good, keep it tasteful yet original and this technique can serve you quite well.  Ohh yeah, there's one final thing you don't want to forget.  This technique can be applied to pretty much any time-based effect, also feel free to try it out with both mono & stereo returns till you get a result you're happy with.

That's really all there is to it, you can use this however you'd like on any dull sound or instrument to liven them up a bit.  Hopefully this post will spark some creativity and get you onto sculpting your own version of this idea original to your productions & mix-downs.



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