“Revengineering” is defined by CRAS as reverse engineering – taking a sound and using engineering to bring it back to it’s simplest form.
CRAS Graduate and seven-time Grammy Award Winning engineer Darrell Thorp is hosting a series with CRAS where you can ask questions on topics we think Darrell could provide great feedback using “Revengineering”.
This weeks topic was “Effects On Any Instrument” and here are the questions asked by you, with Darrell’s answers!
Revengineering Question #1 asked by Tyler – @007spacemonkey
I know that vocals are not instruments, but I was wondering what effects do you usually use on rap vocals. Do you use reverb, delay, or both? Also, what do you do different on hooks and choruses to make the vocals bigger compared to the verse? And lastly, do you ever parallel compress vocals or add effects to the vocal parallel to the original vocal?
Hi Tyler. When I made the topic of the week “Effects” the questions can be for anything to do with effects. Rap vocals can be hard to make sound interesting. They have to be loud in a mix to poke out. Effects like reverb and delay can help make them sit in a mix better and sound more interesting. I usually do a combination of a plate reverb and a 1/8 the leads. Then the chorus will do a longer room or chamber reverb and an 8 stereo delay for the chorus. The other thing that helps with the chorus vocals is a Harmonizer.
There is the famous Eventide, or you can achieve this same effect with Echoboy. There is a “Just Stereo” setting in the vocal effects menu of Echoboy.
Parallel Compression of Vocals. U BET… Pick your favorite drum parallel compressor and put your vocals. You can be a little picky with this treatment. A mono parallel chain for the leads and a stereo parallel chain for your back ground vocals. Good Luck, and have fun.
Question #2 asked by Jenna – @therealjmc
What effects do you use on bass guitar/guitar? Would you prefer the artist rely on effects pedals or would you prefer to add effects during the mixing process? What is your process in general? Do you have a favorite vocal reverb?
I have lots and lots of favorite vocal reverbs. I can tell you a couple:
- Avid DVerb
- UAD EMT 140
- Valhalla Room Bass Guitar/ Guitar
I usually like clients to do what ever they feel for effects. That sounds cooler to my ear. However, I don’t mind putting delay or reverb on a guitar solo to enhance the power of the solo. But sometimes reverb is needed on rhythm guitars to add more vibe in the track.
For bass, I am not the biggest fan of effects on the bass instrument. But I have heard songs when there is Vibrato or Delay and Reverb on bass, and it’s cool. Effects on bass can be a really great texture to add.
Question #3 asked by Matthew – NightFrightsAlive@
What is the best way to separate the kick’s frequencies from the bass, and have each cut through the mix without masking each other? When I try to the bass is too thin sounding, or the kick is too thin sounding.
My take is trying to make the kick drum big as you possibly can with compression and EQ before you think the speakers are going to blow up. Seriously!!! Then once I have the drums feeling really powerful and big I start adding the bass instrument. One thing for me is I always lean more towards using the amp more than the DI. I really don’t like the way a DI sounds. Its sterile and very flat sounding to my ear. The DI will have more low end then the bass amp and maybe that is when featuring the bass amp more I find that I am not having to scoop out low mid for the kick drum and the bass to share space. I find that a very rarely have to EQ mud out the bass amp or DI. It does happen though.
Question #4 asked by JR – @nandobard
On a record like Beck’s Morning Phase, I hear a lot of subtle trails of reverb and delay on different elements; sometimes, delays that go on forever underneath the track, building tension. Do you do a lot of things that are more felt than heard? If so, what’s the thinking behind when/where to do them? How do you keep everything clear with so much reverb?
Hi JR. Great question.
Effects can be a very powerful mood setting device in a mix. Reverbs and delays that swirl around a mix, but are not being heard can be a fantastic way of painting a landscape to a song. And then if there is a break in the arrangement where you as the listener gets a chance to hear the effects for a second, that can also be a great trick to cleanse the sonic palate for a second. Think of this like a painter with a new painting. If the artist is setting the tone with a loud bright color, then the mix will be loud. If he using a dark tone to set the mood of the background.
I personally when mixing like to make the effects more FELT then HEARD. That is not always the case for how I hear a song I am mixing. If the client wants the effects louder and really heard, I am happy to accommodate.
Question #5 asked by Jeff – @totalnoise
How did you handle the vocal reverb bus on a track like Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain”? It sounds like there’s lots of verb, but it doesn’t take up too much space in the mix & the tail, though decently long, sits really well in the mix. Thanks for doing this, huge fan of your work!
Hi Jeff. Thank You!!! So nice of you to say…
Scatterbrain was a long time ago. I am guessing on what was done for that track. We probably used a real EMT 140 echo plate with a pre-delay for that vocal treatment.
Pre-delay is a great trick with reverb. You can pre-delay 4080 milliseconds, or find the BPM (beats per minute) and use a 1/16 note. A lot of reverb plug-ins have this feature already included in the plug-in and the plug-in parameters. You can just simply pick your plug-in, play with the pre-delay and find something that sits really nice in the mix.
Another great trick is EQ the send before the reverb. Just use your favorite EQ plugin before the reverb. Adding lots of 10kHZ, 1kHZ, 3kHZ while removing 300HZ and below can really excite a reverb to respond in a track.
Good luck and have fun with these tricks. Hope this helps.
Question #6 asked by Joey – @joeyalbanesi412
What is your best methods for going about getting a beautiful, luscious, shimmery high end on instrument tracks?
Simple. (But, I feel that it has taken me years to figure this out.) I add 3 db. of 10-12 kHZ to every track, even if I don’t think a particular instrument needs the high end boost. This cause an amazing accumulation of “AIR” or brightness in your mix. My suggestion would be doing a mix, make a print. SAVE AS, then go back and start adding a couple of db. @ 12kHZ shelf. Print a mix. Then compare the two mixes and see what you respond to better. Maybe even try the trick with a client, or have a friend listen and get feedback from them. GOOD LUCK. Send me a tweet and let me know your results!
Question #7 asked by Dan – @DanJesse
Do you have any tips for simulating a lo-fi drum sound? Also, any tips on making programmed drums sound a bit more realistic? I have been taking Logic’s Drummer, and adding a small amount of distortion and a room reverb. It gives it a nice lo-fi sound without being too harsh, but still tends to sound a little fake. Thank you!
With today’s world of EDM type music becoming more and more popular, it is harder for engineers like us to put life in sterile samples.
EQ is a good way. Just putting a high pass filter and adjusting the frequency until the sonics fit in the track. Try also hitting the plug-in really hard and then putting a trim after to gain down the output.
Distortion is always fun. UAD Studer A800 distorts like nobody’s business. Crank the input on the plug-in and play with the tape speed and bias.
I like to use WAVES GTR STOMP OVERDRIVE. This can be really tasty and not get too crazy, like sans amp can get overbearing and take up too much space.
If you have some extra cash laying around my new favorite toy is the Overstayer Saturator NT-2A.
It’s compression and distortion in one box of sonic distortion bliss. I love using this BOX. The distortion is very musical to my ear. I am a huge fan of all the products they make. Would highly recommend finding your closest dealer and seeing if you can demo for a few days.
SPL Transient Designer can do incredible things to manipulate audio. There is a hardware unit, WAVES and UAD have their model plug-in as well. With a TRANSIENT DESIGNER you can Add or Remove the Attack or Sustain of any instrument. Especially drums, loops, samples.
Reverb and Delay
There are several ways of changing the tonality of a loop or sample with reverb and delays. A really short reverb can help give something a tail that does not exist in the programming. Or a delay can add a different swing or feel to the pattern.
Thank you all for your great questions! Don’t miss last week’s Revengineering Tips, and stay tuned for next week!