Dancing Astronaut Studios: Episode 5: Tremolo and Pitch Modulation
Welcome back to Dancing Astronaut Studios with Dubspot! Picking up right where our last edition left off, our recent Dubspot Online Mixing and Mastering courses have focused on effects and techniques for keeping elements dynamic and moving within a mix. Just as we learned how delay and filter modulation could transform our sounds and help them fit more fluidly within the overall canvas of a song, this week we’ll take a look at how the addition of tremolo and pitch modulation to our audio arsenals can improve our productions. Our Dubspot instructor Daniel Wyatt swears by the Soundtoys Tremolator and Crystallizer plug-ins to achieve this.
These plug-ins are great examples of how carefully crafted software can make it easier for you to create the sounds you want in the studio. When I first started producing as Sicarii, I remember learning basic techniques like side-chain compression and pitch automation and each time I’d heard an effect that resembled it on a record, I’d assume that the producer had meticulously and manually automated each effect by hand. I couldn’t comprehend how much patience that would take! At that point, I could barely decide which Sylenth preset to mess around with, let alone hone in on where and how to modulate it precisely.
While there are certainly some savants who do everything by hand, most successful producers know when and where to let their equipment work for them. After all, there are multiple routes to achieving any sound. Producers can use tremolo modulation to change the amplitude (or volume) of a sound, an effect that has been used by rock guitarists for decades. It can sometimes sound similar to sidechaining, however, the changes in volume are controlled by Tremolator’s wide range of parameters rather than an external trigger like a kick drum. Check out the different modulated sounds I created out of a simple synth pad sample using solely this plug-in.
Synthesizer Pad (No Effects)
Synthesizer Pad (Tremolator #1)
Synthesizer Pad (Tremolator #2)
Crystallizer is another neat plug-in, derived from the classic “Crystal Echoes” preset in the storied Eventhide H3000 hardware. Often used on guitar and vocals, this complex pitch modulation and delay effect is, in Wyatt’s words, “easier to play with than to explain.” In that spirit, take a listen to the interesting effects I created on the vocal sample below using a couple different presets.
Vocal Sample (No Effects)
Vocal Sample (Crystallizer #1)
Vocal Sample (Crystallizer #2)
If you had played any of those modulated clips for me prior to taking this course, I would have pondered how the producer had shaped the synthesizer’s LFO, manually shifted the pitch, or used an ungodly amount of side-chaining to replicate the effects. While such time-consuming tinkering could indeed yield a similar sound, I now understand that effective mastery of a handful of powerful plug-ins can make the process far more efficient (and enjoyable!).
That’s a wrap for this week! Tune in next time as we take a closer look at phasers and other effects that have the potential to transform your mix.
Check out previous episode of Dancing Astronaut Studios here.