Given the countless number of audio effects, it can be challenging to learn them all when you don’t know where to start. These are the six most essential effects for mixing and mastering. Learn how to use them properly, and you’ll knock out hits with professional sound quality!
An equalizer shapes the frequencies of a signal to make it brighter, darker, cleaner, or change the tone in any other way. With it, you typically cut frequencies that sound bad and boost what sounds good. In a mix, it’s important that the instruments get their own space in the frequency spectrum and that they complement each other as a whole.
A compressor evens out the volume automatically, based on the settings. Everything that goes above the threshold gets pushed down. The higher the ratio, the more it gets pushed down. Then you can bring up the overall volume with the gain knob. The loud parts will be lowered and the quiet parts will be louder. The Attack and Release options shape the transients, making something more or less punchy. Compressors can also bring out the character in a sound, make it sit better in the mix and gluing everything together.
A limiter is a lot like a compressor, but is designed to not let anything above the threshold. It’s mostly used in mastering for making the track louder without clipping (digital distortion). Just raise the gain and let the threshold catch the peaks.
Distortion, much like the limiter, will add gain to the signal. Distortion, however, wants the clipping that the limiter is trying to avoid. Clipping, in this case, will add desirable overtones. Based on settings can make the signal sound warm, dirty or aggressive. It also evens out the volume, like a compressor. Instead of boosting treble in EQ for presence, you could try adding a little distortion.
Reverb puts the signal into a room, adds dimension and atmosphere. Depending on the size it can sound like a bathroom, closet, church, or other space. Dry is the unaffected signal and wet is the reverb effect. If it’s more dry than wet, it’s going to sound more upfront, and if it’s more wet than dry, it’s going to sound more distant.
Delay repeats the signal, like an echo, and can be like ear candy or can make the signal blend into the mix better. Syncing the time to the beat can make a simple rhythm more complex. Give it more feedback and you’ll get more repeats. Delay has a dry and wet like the reverb. It also has a similar atmospheric effect, so if reverb isn’t working for, try a delay instead!
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