Spread and duck the delay

Dance music – and all its subgenres – require heavy imaging and wide-spread delays, all sorts of ambiences and reverb washes, and usually the stereo image can get a bit too crowded with every delay being totally in sync, up to the point where delay taps start disappearing. Sometimes a mono delay would be just fine and enough for a certain track. Though simple, it’s still very effective if you use a few tricks to give it some depth or width (but not too much, keep Logic’s Direction Mixer handy).

Just start with a sound and its delay on a send (in this case, Bus 4): delay1. It’s what you were after, feedback fading just before the next line etc, but something’s missing: it has no depth and changing the motif causes dissonance, although it’s not too severe. However, no matter how pleasant it may sound, it definitely should be altered, just a bit.

Enter Sample Delay. Instanciate a Sample Delay after the send’s Tape Delay. Move the other channel away from the other by just, say 240-530 samples and remember to check the mono compatibility by pressing “sum” or “mono” on your listening device or monitor switch. It would be sad to lose a few notes by phase cancellation. Now that delay is a bit more lively, yet still relatively modest and doesn’t bounce all over the place like Stereo Delay would. Demo: delay2. It’s still a bit dissonant from the bar 3 onwards, but we’ll take care of that a little bit later.

That “little bit later” meaning “now”. Add Compressor after Tape Delay and Sample Delay. I prefer the ClassA or Optical settings due to their behaviour and like to punch the signal with its own send connected to Compressor’s side chain (i.e. if send 4 (Bus 4) is going into delay-compressor, set compressor’s side chain to Bus 4 as well). This way it’s easy to avoid “overlapping” motives and dissonant arpeggios with a self-automated ducking delay. Demo: delay3. The level of the send is intact, but the send ducks everytime there’s something going on in the appropriate bus (Bus 4 in this case). Logic’s busses and sidechaining are t3h suck! ūüôā Just play with the attack/release controls and let the signal duck for about 6 dB, depending on your taste. If you happen to prefer dirt and grittiness, put your Compressor’s output distortion (click that triangle) into use. “Soft” is pretty much everything you will ever need.

To play more with the idea, replace the Sample Delay with a Stereo Spreader. This way, your delay pans depending on its frequency content. I think you want to slide the Lower Freq. and Upper Freq. controls closer to the necessary frequencies – I mean, why bother with something under 100 Hz if there’s not one bleep. Demo: delay4. You could, of course, use any modulation effect as well, my favorites being Ensemble (with two voices and full random modulation), AVerb and Ringshifter. The latter is exceptionally effective with its envelope follower: delay6. I used quite modest settings here, so that only the first repeat of Tape Delay is effected, after which Ringshifter’s envelope follower slows the movement down. Actually, I’m quite keen on frequency shifters. I’ve got a Bode-style freq shifter in my analog modular and I constantly use a few patches I’ve made for Nord G2X and Kyma, both of which utilise both compressors and frequency shifters. There’s just that extra sizzling, moving something you cannot describe any better.

The last trick is to use an AVerb, probably the most underestimated and undervalued plugin ever made. Using that in a send/insert chain with “unprofessional” settings – as I was once told by an older engineer – just smears the delay taps beautifully. I don’t, however, suggest anyone use that with percussion loops, the attacks are gone. I used to like to insert that into a vocal send, after any delay – I’m a fan of tape delays (both modeled and real), and that smearing effect is actually quite nice. If you add some “flutter” to Tape Delay and pump its out distortion to +20dB, raise the HPF and lower significantly the LPF, remember to insert a self-ducking Compressor to that particular send, crank the levels and – yep, you got the idea. Demo: delay5.

One thing: never let the signal spread too wide, it’s no use to use these tricks if everything is wide left and right. Most of the mix-in-a-box tracks I’ve heard lately suffer from incredibly wide pans, like people had only three positions in their virtual “mixers”: L, C and R. Use that Direction Mixer, dammit.

Summary: the order of the send’s inserts.

Logic Pro 8 files (put into ~/Library/Application Support/Logic/Channel Strip Settings/Bus): download here (Ringshifter delay send and AVerb delay send).

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