Dancing Astronaut Studios: Episode 4: Delay and Filter Modulation
Welcome back to Dancing Astronaut Studios with Dubspot! After a brief break, we’ve commenced Level 2 of the Dubspot Online Mixing and Mastering course and shifted our focus to the ways in which producers can modify elements to keep sounds fresh and dynamic. The first two techniques we’ve tackled have been the creative use of delay and modulating filters to breathe life into otherwise static sounds. Our Dubspot instructor Daniel Wyatt is a big fan of Soundtoys Echoboy and Filterfreak for achieving these effects.
When I started producing as Sicarii, I found myself constantly encountering the same issue. I’d spend a lot of time designing a cool sound, whether it be a synth or a percussive element, but inevitably would feel it sounded stale after a few iterations. To compensate, I found myself forcing the addition of new elements, which crowded the mix and gave my productions a distinctly attention-deficit arrangement approach. In time, I learned that the old axiom “less is more” is of paramount relevance to music production. It is far better to maximize a handful of elements within a track than to employ a kitchen sink approach to song construction. However, this is easier said than done. How does one utilize only a handful of elements while still keeping the track moving and dynamic? While I soon realized that automating effects can lend elements a sense of movement and keep them sounding fresh, it was only after Wyatt showed us his favorite techniques that I felt I understood the nuances therein.
The use of delay can be an incredibly powerful tool for designing interesting sounds and modifying existing ones to create tension and complex rhythms with ease. There are numerous different delay effects that one can employ, ranging from simple single echoes to multifaceted ping pongs. Check out the difference that the judicious application of ping pong delay made on the percussive pattern below.
Percussive Pattern (No Effects)
Percussive Pattern (With Ping Pong Delay)
Similarly, the use of a modulating filter can alter the audible frequencies of any sound to keep it ever-shifting, which keeps it from becoming too static in the listener’s ears. Such filters can be programmed to change the sound randomly or in rhythm with the track. Check out the difference that this rhythmic application of filter modulation made on the synthesizer pattern below.
Synthesizer Pattern (No Effects)
Synthesizer Pattern (With Filter Modulation)
For more on information on filter modulation using Native Instruments plug-ins, check out the Dubspot tutorial below.
By utilizing these effects and tweaking their application to suit the track at hand, producers can make the most of their elements by keeping them constantly evolving throughout the course of the song. Automating controls on these effects can also go a long way towards giving the listener audible cues as to what’s to come. For example, increasing the feedback on a delay in anticipation of a pending drop will increase tension and achieve the hands-in-the-air result you’re seeking without having to add an additional element.
That’s a wrap for this week! Tune in next time as we continue to explore additional modifying effect plug-ins to add to our production arsenal.