Basic effects in audio engineering,mixing and mastering

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Hello my prohomemusic people! In this article, I will briefly explain the basic effects in audio engineering,mixing and mastering in the simplest way possible. This will help newbies understand these various effects, what they are and what they do.
Music is a pleasing phenomenon we humans cannot do without,that is how essential it is. So humans have found a way to perfect the act of making music over the centuries. That brings us to modern music processing. Now we have professional audio mixing and mastering engineers that make our music bang nice and loud. They perfect the music sound after recording, and they do this making use of audio effects.

What are audio effects?

Audio effects are analog or digital processors used to intentionally alter how a musical instrument, human voice and other audio sources sound. Effects are used for the purpose of fixing and improving the sound of music. They can also be used as creative tools to spice up the music. As a rookie home producer, making use of effects to enhance your music is a step you should learn only after having proper knowledge of how to make beats.

Hardware or software effects?

Music effects gained more prominence mostly in the late eighties and early nineties with the advent of hardware audio effects. Nowadays, software effects have opened a whole new world of possibilities. In recent times, many hit records have been nicely finished with solely software plugin effects. Thus, arguments that hardware effects equipment have no huge cutting edge advantage over their software counterparts abound on gearslutz, KVR and other pro music sites. however, majority agree it is good to have some hardware gears so as to have the slight edge they offer to one’s advantage. Below are the basic effects used in music production:

Equalizers

Waves REQ Equalizer plugin

As a newbie, equalizers are the first processors you will get familiar with. Equalization is the boosting or attenuation in the levels of a given sound source along the audio frequencies of the signal. Simply put; equalizers are used for shaping the tone of a sound using frequency measures from the bassy low range to the tiny high timbres of a sound. If you want to get more bass or treble out of a sound, you boost it at appropriate frequency. If you want less, just reduce the undesirable frequency. You can as well just totally filter out an unwanted sounds if that is what is required.

Compressors

This is the second most used processors in music making. Explaining to a layman, compressors are automatic volume controllers which help to even out a signal’s dynamic range (difference between the highest and the lowest part of an audio) by reducing the level of the loudest parts. This helps to even out the audio levels. Compressors do this by lowering the volume in relation to the given instructions as set on the compressor’s parameters. A certain volume threshold is given as a limit and when a given sound exceeds the set threshold, it is reduced according to the given ratio. The higher the ratio, the more the compressor reacts. The attack and release parameters determine how fast the compressor kicks in to compress, and for how long to compress before letting go respectively.

Limiters

Limiters are more drastic form of compressors. Unlike compressors, rather than smoothly attenuating the gain of peaking levels, all signals above the threshold are limited to the same gain value. i.e. Rather than lowering levels spiking above the threshold in relation to the given ratio, they are totally cut off. Limiters are generally used for maximizing volumes and preventing audio clipping mostly during mastering.

Expanders

Expanders do the opposite of what compressors do. They increase the dynamic range by leaving the highest peaks untouched and reducing the lower parts. Thus, they make the higher parts more prominent by reducing the lower parts. This can be useful for certain applications.

Noise gates

Noise gating is a drastic form of expansion. It totally cuts off any given lower sound that does not meet the volume of a given threshold. The threshold volume serves as a trigger that opens the gate to only let through sounds that are as loud as the given threshold thereby getting rid of any unwanted background sound and noise.

Saturators

These effects are used to purposely overdrive the output of a sound signal in order to cause some sort of clipping, gritty, or fuzzy sound. They are also used to add some “warmth” to sounds. In analog equipment, this is often achieved through the overdriving of vacuum tubes and transistors. While in digital processors/plugins this is achieved by overloading the digital circuits. This gritty or fuzzy sounds are harmonically pleasing when properly used in certain applications. For instance; to give more aggressiveness to guitar, horns or bass sounds.

Reverbs

Waves Rverb plugin

Reverb is a shortened form of the word reverberation. It simply means the reflection of sound through space. The sound of a space is determined by its reflections of a sound after ricocheting off its walls. The resulting sound is determined by how big the space is, the time it takes the sound to travel from its source distance to the walls and bouncing back, and how long it takes for the reflections to finally fade out. Reverb effects emulate and recreate real life spaces from empty rooms to hall, cathedrals, and even caves. In music, they are used to build a space around sounds to give a live feel to them.

Delays

Delays emulate the real life echoes where you make a sound in a very large vacant space and it gets repeated after some few seconds. In music production, the time interval within which the sound will be repeated is timed rhythmically to suit the song to enhance the melody and give the song a sense of space.

conclusion

The above effects are the basic effects any good audio engineer will need to make a great sounding mix. However, there are still several other effects such as Chorus, flangers, automated filters, pitch correction and tuning effects, transient shapers, e.t.c. All are tailored towards creating more avenues for additional creativity and spice in music making. For a good guide to point you to the right VST plugin effects to get for a great mix, read best VST plugins collection to acquire for pro sounding mix. For help on how to install them in your DAW, read install VST plugins in FL Studio 12,REAPER, and other DAWs. So that’s it! Master the use of these tools and get down to making great music. Cheers.

 

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