Effects can take a mix to a whole new level. Using them can be as simple as a one or two-dial analog control or as complex as an expensive multi-faceted digital plugin. Today, I’m covering the tips I’ve found helpful over the years that look past the implementation and focus on the general mechanics.
You might find some of these rather simple – just skip over them. Having done audio for 20+ years, what seems common knowledge for me today wasn’t so when I first started. Has it really been 20 years? Wow.
1. Experiment, experiment, experiment
The biggest problem with effects, when you’re new to effects usage, is knowing what sounds good. It’s for this reason I encourage audio engineers to experiment during the band’s practice times. Let’s say the band practices mid-week, use that time to rough in the mix and then experiment on effects. Start with vocals and once you get a good sound, move to acoustic guitars.
2. Trust Your Ears
I’ll talk about the math behind effects in a moment but when it comes to finding the correct effects settings, trust your ears. If it sounds right, it is right. But let’s go back another step. Before the mid-week practice, listen to professional recordings of the songs the band will be playing. If you don’t own them, listen on YouTube, Spotify, or some other on-line service. I build a Spotify playlist and listen throughout the week. By doing so, you’ll learn how effects are used.