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Saturday, February 2, 2013

MODULATIONS PART 5: RING MODULATOR, OCTAVE, HARMONIZER! (with Free Vst Plugins Inside)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This is the fifth article about modulation effects, and today we're going to talk about ring modulator, octave and harmonizer!

- Ring Modulator: This effect is a sibiling of Tremolo, which, instead of having its amplitude rhitmically altered, it uses a copy of the sound itself very altered, or another sound.
Let's make an example: we put on a ring modulator two sounds: the sound of our voice and the sound of a guitar, the effect is like the guitar is "talking" to us, because the effect won't let out the single sounds, but just the "interaction" between them (e.g. Peter Frampton's "Talking Guitar").

- Octave: this one's much easier to explain, it consists into analyzing the input sound and creating a synth copy or more, one octave or more lower. This produces a deeper and more "bassy" sound, like the one that can be heard on Led Zeppelin's song "Fool in The Rain" guitar solo.
A particular type of Pitch Shifter that not only works with the octaves, but that alters the sound's pitch widely, even of many octaves, it's the Digitech Whammy pedal, often used by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

- Harmonizer: this is a very particular type of pitch shifting (sometimes it's called intelligent pitch shifter), in which the effect creates a synth copy of the original sound that respects a certain harmonic distance (for example a third major, or a fifth minor...).
This effect is often used to process vocals or guitar, and it can be set at a certain scale related with the original sound, or midi-driven, and in this case it can change its scale at a pre-programmed moment. This effect is part of the trademark sound of many guitar players, from Brian May of Queen to Blind Guardian's guitarist Andrè Olbrich.

Unfortunately there are no common basic controls to analyze for these three effects, except for the Mix control, which sets the amount of original signal to leave unprocessed.
Then, according to the type of effect, we will have an octave control for the octave, a key control to set the scale on the harmonizer, and a control that will set the shape of the waveform for the Ring Modulator.
Some Octave processors for guitar also feature a Distortion control to add some growl to the processed signal.


Today some DAWs already feature some basic Octave, Harmonizer and Ring Modulation Effect, but if you want to try something new and different here's a selection of the best freeware effects available:

Ring-O - A nice, vintage looking, ring modulator

ST-Rmod - An interesting stompbox-style ring modulator

Stereo Vrek - A creative Lo-Fi delay / ring modulation effect

Ringer - A simple, easy to use ring modulator

SubGen - A stompbox-style Octave plugin

Harmonisator - A simple harmonizer plugin


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