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Timing Effects Like a Pro

You can time your effects like a pro by dividing 60000 by your sessions BPM to get a quarter note in milliseconds. If you want a half-note, multiply this value by 2, or divide by 2 for an eighth note - then enter this value into time-based functions.

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How to Time Compression

Compression can be timed just like any other effect with timed parameters - to do this divide 60000 by your session’s BPM to get 1 quarter note in milliseconds. This value or a multiple or division of it can be used as the attack or release time, or both.

So say I want my compression to occur after 1 quarter note, and to last for 1-half note, I could enter those values into the attack and release respectively.

Let’s take a listen using this Eventide Omnipressor, and try both its compression and expansion settings.

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Options for Timing Reverb

Timing reverb is surprisingly a little more complicated. Since the tail end of the reverb often falls below our threshold for hearing, we need to either amplify the reflections so that they can be heard all the way through the decay or set a longer RT60.

I typically do this second method and use the same 60000/BPM to find a quarter note. Then I’ll have to listen intently to determine how much more time is needed to compensate.

Let’s take a listen and let me know in the comments if your think this was timed correctly.

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Second Method for Timing Reverb

Following the ideas of the last chapter, it’s hard to find ways to simply amplify reflection, especially in a time-based way. For that reason, I like to use this Split EQ to amplify faster parts of the reverb with the transient bands and slower parts with the tonal.

This way I can keep an in-time RT60, but still have reflections that are louder enough to be perceived by the end of the reverb tail. Let’s take a listen.

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Variation and Delay Time

Delays are usually pretty easy to time since they come with sync functions and preset note values - that said, when using one, we have to consider what the delay tap will compete with. For example, if the snare hits at the same time as the delay tap, it might get masked.

For that reason, I like to make my delay taps slightly off time so that they don’t compete with other, often more powerful signals.

Let’s listen and notice how offsetting the delay time by about 10ms helps give the delay some room.

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Causing Instant Compression

Before we start looking at slightly more advanced timing settings, know that if we want instant compression, meaning compression that occurs right when the signal crosses the compressor’s threshold, we need a lookahead function. Some compressors offer very short attack times, but this isn’t ideal due to the distortion it causes.

Usually, 1-2ms of lookahead works well and will ensure that the full signal will be attenuated. Let’s listen to compression with and without lookahead, and notice how the lookahead-enabled compressor captures more of the signal.

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In-time Delay Ducking

For this chapter, we’ll need a delay and compressor, both inserted on an auxiliary track.

In short, what we’re going to do is send a signal we want to delay to this auxiliary track, but then side-chain the compressor to the original, unprocessed signal. This way whenever the delay is triggered, we can determine if and for how long the initial delay is attenuated.

So say I’m delaying my vocal, and I don’t want any delay to occur for the first 1/8th note - we can set the compressor’s release to this time in milliseconds, and use lookahead to ensure that the full signal is being compressed.

We’ll make sure things like auto-make-up gain are off, and that hold or RMS compression is disabled.

Let’s listen and notice how we can use this method to attenuate our delay by a specific note length.

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In-time Reverb Ducking

If we want to duck our reverb, we can do essentially the same thing as last chapter - just with whatever reverb we want to use. So again, the signal I want to reverberate is sent to an aux track on which I’ve inserted a reverb and compressor in that order.

The compressor’s release is set to a specific note, using 60000/BPM to find a quarter note in milliseconds, then multiplying this value for longer times or dividing for shorter. Keep in mind that this will have a different effect than pre-delay.

Let’s take a listen to this being used on a vocal, and notice how attenuating the reverb for a set length beforehand, let’s the dry vocal cut through.

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Timing Harmonic Distortion

This is something new I’ve been trying - in short, I use the same setup as the previous 2 chapters, and use a saturation plugin to introduce a fair amount of distortion. Then with a compressor that side-chains the clean audio, I’ll attenuate the saturation.

Using the ideas we’ve covered about timing, I can now attenuate the saturation for a 1/16th note, 1/8th note, or however long I want, before it becomes audible.

This is great if I want a signal’s transient to stay clean, but have the end of it more distorted.

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Impulse Response and Timing

One of the more interesting ways to introduce timing to your mixes is with impulse responses - these naturally mimic the timing and frequency response of whatever gear they were run through. In the case of reverb, this has the expected effect, but with other types of processors, the effect is subtle.

I like to use this studer tape impulse response to mimic how the electronics very subtly alter the timing of the transients . Let’s take a listen.

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Creating Accurate Tape Delay

Last up let’s create a super simple but realistic tape delay setting. In short, this effect is almost always 166ms, due to the natural spacing between the original tape head and the second one used to create the delay - so all you need to do is use 166ms as your value.

Although this is simple, the exact timing isn’t common knowledge so hopefully, this is helpful.

Let’s listen and notice how delays with this timing have a distinct tape delay sound.

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Make Pro Songs
The #1 Audio Engineering Membership For Turning Your Mixes Into Professional Songs