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Guitar · Bass · Synth

Time Based Effects Processing

Posted by Rene Avenant on June 5, 2017 at 12:35 AM

I have chosen Time Based Effects Processing because I believe that it is the single most important technology that has had the greatest impact on enhancing vocal production in popular music in both the studio and the live environment.

As we have learned in this course, Time Based Effects Processing covers a tremendous range of sound textures. Applied simply it can have the effect of Comb Filtering, Widening, Doubling, Slap Back, Echo, or Delay. Comb Filtering alone is a fundamental element in many other Effects such as Equalisation, Chorusing, Phasing and Flanging.

Using multiple instances of Time Based Effects can create a Reverb effect which can be used to simulate a variety of acoustic spaces such as a small room, a drain pipe, a concert hall or even an echoing mountain range, to name just a few.

The judicious use of Time Based Effects Processing in my opinion has had a tremendously positive influence in enhancing vocal production because it creates an auditory space and therefore an imagined context to the voice.

“I'm Wishing” from Disney’s 1937 film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” features Snow White singing into a deep well and the well echoing her song back to her. This scene would not be at all convincing without the skilful use of a well times long Delay Echo.

In the early part of the 20th century it was a requirement that a recording studio have a variety of good acoustic spaces to produce music and vocals in. Vocals and Instruments needed to be recorded and produced in the same space at the same time. The larger and more expensive studios, for obvious reasons, would produce more opulent-sounding recording.

With the invention of the multi-head tape recorder, it became possible to create artificial delay effects and therefore create the illusion of different acoustic spaces. At the same time, multitrack recording became possible, and therefore it was possible to record vocals and instruments at different times and in different spaces, just as long as one remembered to apply the same delay or reverb effect afterwards.

By the late 1950’s, the Delay effect became such an integral part of music production and recording that some believe it became abused. An example what became known as “Slap Back” Effect can be heard on “Mystery Train”, sang by Elvis Presley in 1955.

I am of the opinion that the Slap Back Effect used today not only adds the texture of an acoustic space, but also of era. Brian Setzer playing and singing “Summertime Blues” in 1990, for example, is strongly reminiscent of the 1950s in its use of the Slap Back effect.

Contemporary trends in the use of Time Based Effects Processing often involve trying to make vocals crisp and personal, almost as if the singer is right in front of the listener; in the same space. This reverb effect is often dubbed “Tight Room”. Regina Spektor’s "Samson" is an excellent example of this effect:

The vocals and the music sound as though they are coming from different spaces, because the instrumentation has more reverb than the “Tight Room” vocals, allowing the vocals to stand out and feel more personal than the rest of the orchestration.

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