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Sir_NutS' Mini-guide to Flange Effects.
Hi fellow remixers.
Here's a mini-guide on flanger effects I made. Zircon has some great guides there but i felt that the effect guides were a bit lacking, so I'll try to go in detail with some of the most common effects found in music software. This is my first guide, so bear with me .
The guide, in .doc format can be found here
Sir_NutS' Guide to Flange Effects
Hello and welcome to my small guide about Flange effects. If you’re looking for in-depth technical information on how flanging works, or the complex formulas used for recreating flange in digital form, this is not what you should be reading. This guide is just a compilation of what I’ve learned about this particular effect that is very used in modern electronic music (and other genres as well) and how you can use it to your advantage. If you’re experienced with the process of creating digital music you might be familiar with the terms, explanations and tips given here.
This guide is made mostly for people who are new to the process and want to understand what this effect does, and for those people who, when use it, just start turning knobs up and down until they get the desired effect. Believe me that, when you have a better understanding of what each parameter does, you’ll save lots of time when trying to make the effect work in a particular way.
Through this guide I will be shamelessly stealing some concepts from websites where I’ve looked for help before to understand these and other sound effects, so don’t come back to tell me ZOMGUSUXXORS U STOL IT FROM X PLACE ZOMGLOL!!!11!
So what is Flanging?
Here’s the simplest definition:
If you’re asking yourself this questions then I recommend you should dig a bit more about them before continuing. Although I think you should be fine without them regardless, as I’ll be as plain as possible.
So what does all this mumbo-jumbo means? Well it’s simple, here’s how flanging works: Suppose you have two tape radios with the same tape playing at the exact same time. Now suppose that you have the ability to delay the playback of one of the tapes by around 1~20 milliseconds. If you could do this, you will notice that some frequencies will be enhanced while others will be less noticeable, due to a “comb filter” like effect, which cancels some frequencies of the sound, while enhancing others. Now if you were able to “modulate” the delay up and down (think of it as making one of the playbacks go faster than the other, then slow it at a constant rate until it becomes slower than the unchanged playback, while staying in the 1~20 milliseconds delay range) you will notice how the sound sweeps , almost giving the effect of a plane “woosh”, sweeping the frequencies from high to low. That’s how flanging works, basically.
And actually, that’s exactly how it was invented, by accidentally making two tapes play at different rates. Sometimes tapes had to be manually adjusted when recording two tapes simultaneously, thus giving the effect. Later this would be used in songs, on purpose, by artists such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
Digitally, the effect is reproduced in almost the same way, using one unchanged signals, then playing a copy of that signal on top of it while speeding/slowing it up. Sometimes, the resulting signal is passed again through the original signal to give a less sweeping, more wide sound. The modulation of the delay is obtained by applying a LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) to the delayed signal. Usually this LFO is a Sine wave, though you might find some Flangers that allow for other shapes such as a Triangle shape. I’ve found that in most flangers I’ve used, the LFO is fixed to Sine wave as this one gives a smooth modulation curve between the peaks.
Flanging != Phasing?
Well actually Flanging is a type of phasing effect, but both effects are attained in two different ways, so although they might sound similar they are not the same, and if you have a good ear you will notice they have a distinct behavior and feel.
Enuff with all this, tell me how to use it!
Before I start this section you must have in mind that while the effect has some parameters that are general to most flange generators, you will find some vsts and plugs that have more parameters than others. I will stick with the basic parameters that you will most likely find in flange virtual machines, and I will use the Reason’s CF-101 Chorus/Flanger as the main reference because it’s the one I use the most, and one of the most basic around.
Here are some of the common parameters you will find, and that are found in the CF-101: (some concepts taken from harmony-central.com)
Delay: Also labeled as “depth” sometimes (as in Fruity Loops’ Fruity Flanger). This determines how much the modified signal will be delayed from the original. As said before, the signal is delayed by milliseconds to obtain the flange effect so don’t expect it to work as a “true” delay unit. Shorter delay times put emphasis on the “swirling” effect, because the filtering effect is stronger (the human ear will distinguish it as an echo is the delay is too long) and the frequency response is more accentuated. Longer delay times will give a “chorus” effect instead, as the human ear will not perceive much of the filtering, but the different voices created by the pitch change that comes with the modulation of the delayed input.(More on Chorus later)
Feedback: As the name implies, this parameter determines how much of the effect signal produced by the delay phase is fed back to the original. The effect this produces on the final output varies a lot with the amount applied. To the negative side it produces a more “wet” and filtered tone, while the positive feedback gives a more “swirly” and thin effect, almost metallic sounding. This parameter varies its effect and application a lot between different Flanger units. For example, In Fruity Loops’ Flanger this parameter is governed by the “feedback” knob. But the Dry/Wet/Cross Knobs also have influence in how the feedback is handled. But in most cases, by adding feedback you will create a more intense sound while subtracting will create a more subdued and filtered output. In some flangers such as in Fruity Loops’ you have the option to invert the feedback signal which in turn changes the tone of the effect. For a Chorus-like effect, it’s better to not invert the signals.
Warning: Be careful about this parameter. High values on both additive and subtractive feedback could create distortion and clipping. But sometimes, you can use this to your advantage to create some controlled special effects.
LFO Rate: This Parameter, sometimes labeled as “speed’, governs the speed at which the LFO will modulate the delay signal. Basically what this means is that the smaller the rate, the slower the modulation and thus, the longer the swirl effect. This is because the LFO will sweep through the pitch at a slower rate, taking more time to reach the peaks and the notches, and thus giving longer and slower swirl times. At high lfo rates, the sweep will be less noticeable and the sound might turn into a fat chorus. This is because the pitch changes quickly through the LFO, and this gives the sense of several detuned voices playing at the same time. Perfect for Fat, detuned leads. Lower lfo rates are generally used for gentler, longer pad-like sounds and special effects. Some Flangers like the CF-101 allow to “sync” the LFO to the song’s tempo, so the LFO’s peak and notches match the desired song’s signature (1/4 beat, 4/4 beat, etc)
Mod Amount: Also called Width. This parameter determines how much the delay time will be modulated. This is a concept that is kinda hard to grasp, but I’ll try to explain. The Delay parameter(depth) determines how much the second signal will be delayed from the original. This is a fixed value. The Mod amount or width determines how farther the LFO will modulate the delayed signal starting from the delay amount. So if the mod amount is set to zero, the LFO won’t be applied and the sound will not swirl past the set delay time. At higher values the effect will swirl more and will go farther away in the peaks.
Invert Feedback/Wet signal: This is also absent in the CF-101 as a parameter, but it’s certainly processed. The CF-101 works differently as it automatically inverts the feedback with mono-to-stereo input/outputs to create wider sounds. This though, depends directly on the mod amount setting, as with 0 mod amount there is no stereo signal inversion. For Fruity Loops’ flanger, you can set this parameter on or off at your desire. If you want purely a chorus sound you should turn these off.
What follows are personal preferences regarding the use of flanger effect on different sounds. These are my preferences based on my experience so you might take these in consideration or not.
Drums: Drums are a difficult thing to apply flange to. Because the flange effect will inevitably change the pitch of the drums it can certainly sound weird if, for example, you use the more subdued subtractive feedback on them. For some special effects though, flange is great. I like to use them sometimes to add a bit more emphasis on snare rolls towards a build-up, just make sure you use low LFO rate settings and a decent amount of width while keeping the delay parameter very very low(to avoid chorusing the drums, which makes them sound weird). In certain drum and bass/breakbeat drums it can certainly be cool to use, but again, try to avoid applying a chorus setting to the flange unit.
For more destructive effects, I love to use distortion AND flange (controlled of course, otherwise you will end up with massive clipping). You might want to try that if you want to add some industrial, really heavy beats, or if you want to go crazy on a section of your song.
Again, don’t take my word as the truth and experiment yourself. I did a song once in which I used a chorus flange setting on the main snares of the beat and it didn’t sound bad. If you want to hear it as an example, you can get it by clicking here.
Pads/Strings: I tend to use Flange effects in pads very often, and this is where flange units really show their versatility. Want an eerie atmosphere? Go for a soft pad, and apply a flange unit with a high width setting and small delay time and LFO rate. Want to wider your pad a bit? Add a decent amount of delay time and play around with the width and LFO rate, without adding too much of any of both. If you want a really fat pad or string, go crazy with it and add more delay to make chorus and play around with the LFO rate, trying to make it modulate faster to make it sound more detuned. If you want to make the listener feel like there’s some crazy shit going in the background, add some strings and chain some flange units with swirl-like settings. The pitch will go nuts and the frequency emphasis will be all over the place =).
Bass: very, very useful for widening a mono bass. In general, basses are meant to be mono sounding but if you think it sounds too dull you can spread it a bit using a flanger unit, just try to keep it from modulating the pitch too much or it can screw it up a bit.
General Lead sounds: Here it depends of what kind of instrument you’re going for. Flange is used a lot in electric guitars. For dance/trance synths, is practically a must, as it will make your synth wide and fat. Even more if you’re going for a heavy sound, you can use it to detune it heavily and make the listener raise the roof with some raw, groovy melody =). Generally for detuned, wide sounds use a chorus-like setting, that is, fairly good amounts of delay, high lfo rate values and some width. For softer and longer leads you might want to not detune it too much and instead give it a more swirly effect by not overusing the delay and rate settings. Also, try to use the flanger as a send effect if you don’t want to directly affect the sound. This will help you control the effect and how much you want the sound to be affected.
(continues on next post)
Check out my blog about very important stuff. Now updated frequently!.
Check my music on my Youtube Channel
Last edited by Sir_NutS; 03-23-2007 at 08:39 PM.
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-Keep this effect controlled. Flange can go out of control pretty easily with high lfo amount settings, and mess up your frequency spectrum and practically destroy your mastering. Listen to your flanged instrument solo for a good while until you hear the LFO completely run its course, so you know you won’t be expecting some nasty peaks.
-Don’t overuse it!. This is a big problem I see very often in which someone puts flange on everything individually and it just gives the listener a headache. Also don’t use it on the entire song, believe me that it won’t work. If you’re using it on an instrument that plays constantly on your song, try to not use it all the time, or make it not much noticeable. You will tire the listener if you use a heavy flange effect on a pad for the entire song.
-Experiment. Now that you have a better idea of how it works, experiment a lot with it. Mix it with other effects such as delay units, phasers, or distortion. You can add a lot of character to your sounds if you know how to mix these effects properly.
-Watch the pitch!. Flangers change the pitch of the sound as a byproduct of slowing/speeding up the delayed signal. Keep this in mind because it can go a bit overboard and mess up the harmonics of your song if you let it go out of tune a lot.
That’s it! I know it’s not much and maybe most people knew a lot of this, but I bet this could be useful for some people who don’t have a clear idea of how flanger units work, or how to use them properly. If you have any doubts or suggestions, don’t be afraid to tell me. Pm me, email me or respond to the thread you saw this posted on. I will try to answer as I’m not an expert on the matter and this is only the knowledge I’ve acquired.
I will bring more guides in the future, as this is and other things (like my refills) are things I'm doing to give something back to the community that made me grow. Enjoy!
P.S.:I’ll try to add some sound samples in the future. In the meanwhile you will have to try it yourself :p
Check out my blog about very important stuff. Now updated frequently!.
Check my music on my Youtube Channel
Last edited by Sir_NutS; 03-23-2007 at 08:22 PM.