Saturday, May 23, 2020

Everything you need to know about effects part 1/4: Fx routing, in studio and live!

Hello and welcome to our new omnicomprehensive article in which we are going to gather together and put in a coeherent order all the various articles of this blog related to effects!

Let's start very generic: what do we mean in a wide sense when we refer to audio effects?
We talk about any process that artificially modifies an audio signal, which can be recorded or live.

(Small disclaimer: in this article we will talk about everything except Equalization and Compression, because they have a specific tag on their own and are explained more in detail in other articles such as our "how to mix a song" serie).

In the music world, whether we are talking of studio recordings or adding an effect to our electric guitar sound, the basic concept is that we can put any effect in any order, but the reality (and decades of perfecting the craft) tells us a set of rule quite stiff in which to optimize the effect chain order: every effect, in facts, cascades into the others and modifies them, therefore putting the same effects in a certain order can result in a pleasant enhancement, while putting the same effects in another order can just create a messy cloud of noise.

Decades ago, some audio engineer has realized for example that by putting all the effects in front of an amplifier would make the resulting tone quite bad, while putting some of them AFTER the preamp, just before the power amp, would make the sound much cleaner and more polished: that moment was the creation of the effect loop, a tool that still today is considered a staple in audio technology (click here for a dedicated article).

By putting the right effects in the right order in our guitar and bass rig, we can obtain the best tones possible, click here for the perfect guitar effect chain order (with the explaination also of why a certain effect needs to stay there and not in another position), and click here for the perfect bass effect chain order.

The same logic can also be applied in studio, and not only for guitar, but also for any sound source that goes into a mixer, that's why also mixing boards often features an effect loop.
Regardless of the loop, if we're talking about the digital world of recordings, what we need to know is that we don't need (especially if we have projects with a very large number of tracks) to use individual instances of an effect (for example the same reverb) into every track: we can create an fx track (click here for a dedicated article), and "send" this same effect to the various tracks, controlling the single amount desired for each track.

The nice thing of an fx channel track is that we are not limited to one effect at the time if we want, we can create also elaborate effect chains, for example with reverb and delay (click here for a dedicated article), and we can even make sure that only a part of our signal (for example from a certain frequency up) is affected (click here for a dedicated article about how to use the insert of an fx channel, practice also known as "to effect an effect").

Finally, it's important to say that any effect or serie of effects we are going to use in studio to process our tracks not only can be applied only to a certain part of the tone (for example a specific frequency area), but also to the whole tone in an adjustable amount, which is controlled by the "dry/wet" control: if the knob is 100% dry the whole signal will not be effected, if it's 100% wet the signal will be completely effected, and every shade in between will be a blend between effected and dry signal (consider that often a 10/15% wet signal is more than enough to give a track the enhance it needs without making it drown).
If you want to get nerdy it's also possible to be creative with the use of wet and dry, for example with the "wet/dry/wet" trick, which can be seen clicking here.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/4: Reverb and Modulations 1

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/4: Reverb and Modulations 2

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4/4: Distortions!

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