First in a series, where busy producers/mixers/engineers provide tips and techniques on their top studio tools.
When it comes to gear, engineers, producers and musicians are creatures of habit. When I find a piece of gear, or a plug-in with a killer sound that works consistently from project to project, I stick with it.
It’s when I’m forced out of my comfort zone by working in an unfamiliar studio environment, or perhaps by an artist or co-producer who has fresh ideas on how to achieve a particular sound that I often do my best work. I always love finding new tools and new approaches to sound.
This column is the first in a series of pieces where we will focus on a particular tool for recording and mixing and bring you some tips and tricks on how to make it work in your mixes.
We’ll also survey a few engineers and producers to get their unique insight into their favorites and how they like use them!
Today’s feature: Delay.
Delay is one of my favorite effects to work with in mixes because of its sheer versatility. Delay can add space and ambience to a dry guitar, accent a word or phrase of a vocal, or even artificially create the effect of a doubled track.
When I first started making my way through the studio ranks, hardware staples like the Lexicon PCM 42, TC 2290 and AMS DMX were in nearly every control room. Before my time, tape delay was prominent in the 1950’s and 60’s with artists like Elvis and The Beatles using the actual heads on a tape machine to create a delayed slap back sound.
In the 70’s and 80’s, hardware boxes like the Roland Space Echo were all the rage in studios and used by many classic artists like Pink Floyd and Radiohead.
Gradually, as software effects became more and more ubiquitous with recording, certain plug-ins became the go to for many engineers. Among the favorites from the last ten years would be Line 6’s Echofarm, Waves Supertap, PSP’s 85 and 608 and my go to delay currently: SoundToys EchoBoy.
The reason I like EchoBoy so much is that on any given mix, it can be anything I want it to be. Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards a preset called “HallwayVocal” which combines a heavily diffused “splattered” sound with a very short stereo slap.
The resulting sound, when carefully blended, creates a lush stereo presence for my lead vocal without being overly obvious that it’s even a delay.
Hear Zach McNees’ use of Echoboy “HallwayVocal” preset on the song “Magnolia” by Ali Hoffman, followed by the full mastered version of the track.
So what is everyone else doing with delay these days? I’ve spoken with Engineers Brian Bender, Kevin Killen, and Jason Finkel about some of their favorite delay units and how they like to use them.
GO TO PRO #1: Brian Bender
Brian Bender and I were colleagues at The Hit Factory here in New York prior to its close. Since then, Brian has been quite busy at his own facility The Motherbrain in Sunset Park Brooklyn cranking out some of the tastiest records I’ve ever heard. Recent highlights include the last Jose James record “No Beginning, No End” (co-produced with Pino Palladino), Langhorne Slim and the Law, Krystle Warren, Kris Bowers, Takuya Kuroda and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.
Brian’s GO TO delay: The Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. For those not familiar, the “TTE” as it’s commonly referred is essentially a tiny tape machine built just for echo.