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5 Quick Modulation Mixing Tricks

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There’s multitracks, drum samples, you name it.

Okay, what are we doing? We’re doing five, yes, count them, modulation effects tricks. Okay. Let’s go to a guitar part. See, we’ll listen to this track here.


So we’ve got a cool guitar part there, and as you can see, it’s actually doubled. But let’s try something. So I’m going to mute the right hand one here and I’m going to do this. Now, what we can do, we can create a new auxiliary like this. We can send it a signal, because it’s panned all the way left, let’s send it all the way to the right. We’ll take 27, and we’ll call this, “Verse Guitar Mod.” How about that? For modulation.

And it’s as simple as this. We want some width on this. We can take this guitar, if we solo it for a second, we can send out that buss there, and we can bring in a delay to the signal.

Now. If you delay the signal ever so slightly, one of the issues you may encounter is kind of a phase cancellation. You’ll get some weird thing, because the phase is ever so slightly out, and it tends to sound a little weird. So how do we get around that? Well, let’s just go and select a short delay like this.

This delay itself has modulation on it. So what does that — why is that good? Well if we listen…


Let’s go to 100% effect. So what we’ve got is we’ve got the standard 24 milliseconds that it comes on there, but we’ve also got a bit of modulation on it. So a bit of detuning.

[guitar with modulation]

It’s kind of cool. It sounds sort of 80’s, because there’s like, a chorusing effect. Because you’ve got one here, one slightly delayed, but it’s got modulation on it. Now, if you happened to open up a delay and it didn’t have modulation on it, you could put chorus on it, you could put all kinds of things, but this is a situation where you maybe have one guitar, and you want width. So you pan one one way, pan the other way with a delay on it, and with pitch change on it. The pitch change, the modulation is what will give you the width. If not, you’ll get some weird kind of phasing.

In the Academy, we get this quite often where people are doubling guitars, and they shift them back or they put a slight delay on them. The problem is, even with that on it, it still feels a little odd. That pitch change makes all of the difference. So let’s check it out.


So pretty nifty. It’s a great, quick, and easy way. I’ve done it on all kinds of guitars to create some width.

Okay, next up. Here’s a good one. Modulation on your reverb. Numero dos. This is a good way to create size when you have small sort of — Like strings and things like this. So here we have a lot of synths and pads and all kinds of fun stuff here. In fact, there’s loads of strings down here. Let’s solo this stuff and listen to it.

[strings and synths]

So loads of cool stuff going on. It gets absolutely nuts. But if we go to just say, this synth pad here for instance…

[synth pad]

So it’s nice. It’s quite a nice pad. It has like, a little bit of a detuning going on it anyway. But let’s do this. So we’re going to create a stereo auxiliary or a buss. An auxiliary buss, whatever you want to call it. And we’ll call it, “Synth pad.” We’ll call it, “Synth Pad Mod” for modulation, but it’s going to be more than that.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to select a pitch shift. And it could be anything. I could just go to — Here’s just Pitch. The most simplistic thing. So let’s take the left channel and make it go six cents flat, and take the right channel and make it go six cents sharp.

Now, we could easily do exactly what we did a second ago, which is like, just make that go through, but we’ve got a stereo sound, so we’re not trying to do this. What we’re going to do is this. So let’s take a stereo buss send, take 21-22, input it here, go to 21-22, come out the same one. This is a fun trick, you’ll like this. Then go and select a reverb.

So what we’re doing now is we’re creating a reverb that has been detuned. So we’ll make — the thing — one of the realities is sometimes, when you just take — you’ll get a chorusing effect if you — which could be really, really good if you want to chorus a guitar, like pan it wide like we just did, or take the strings and detune it underneath.

However, it doesn’t create enough depth, but detuning a reverb is fantastic.

[synth pad, reverb send detuned]

Really, really nice effect. We’re in pre-fade here, so we can actually do this.

[synth pad]

So we’ve put them together. It’s a really, really nice effect. On things like strings, and pads, and things like that, it’s a wonderful, wonderful effect, because it just makes things feel bigger. So you’re detuning the send going into the reverb, and in this case, I went flat on one side and sharp on another, so neither side is — you know, it’s not consistently out of tune, it’s sharp and flat.

It’s a really great effect. So when I hold it up like this it’s on, and down is off.

[pad, with and without effect]

Really great. It’s really, really good to sort of create some more depth to your strings and stuff. And another fun thing you can do is you can actually narrow the strings here, the synth pad here, and leave the reverb wider.

[synth pad]

So it sort of envelopes around it. Really, really great effect. Big fan of that. And it’s one of those simple things that nobody really does, but you’ll be doing it, and you’ll really have a great time. You’ll realize it’ll give your mix different kind of elements.

Alright, next up, let’s go to some drums. So for three, we’re going to go for some drums. So here we are with our live snare.

[live snare]

Sounds good. Put it in with the full drums.


Now this song has got a lot of different elements. A lot of different dance elements and you name it, so — but let’s just say I want to, at the front here, where it’s a lot more organic sounding, I might want to give the snare a bit more low end. So why don’t we try this.

So I’ve duplicated my snare. You don’t have to do it with a duplicate. If you’d like, you can do it with a separate auxiliary. I’m going to do it with a duplicate.

I’m opening up my Pitch plugin here. I’m also — I’m going to take it down one octave. So 8va means down one octave. Now I’m going to open this auto-tune program. You’re like, “Why am I doing auto-tune?” Well, you’re going to see.

So I’ve gone down one octave. Now I’m going to play the snare into the auto-tune to track pitch.


Cool. Now let’s see what’s gone on here. I’ve set this to instrument, by the way, and it’s reading slightly sharp. I’ve gone down one octave. Sharp of what? Sharp of a B. So there’s a tone on the snare.

[snare, detuned]

The song is in the key of, you guessed it, B. So when you use, like, a tuning software like this, just to read it, and there’s many different ones. You can read them in real time. But I’m just opening this. So I’ve come down and now we’re playing a B. So let’s go and play the track, and now we’re playing a snare one octave lower than the live snare in the key of the song.


Take it out.

Give that a listen again. Finger up when it’s playing, finger down when it’s not. So you can see, it’s great. It creates — that’s super loud, I wouldn’t have it that loud, I’d bring it down.

But what it’s doing is it’s creating some low end on the snare, but it’s also in the key of the song. Now, you can obviously, if you’re using, you know, most drum softwares tune the snare to the key of the song, but this is a live snare, so I’m doing this after the fact. Great trick. But the reason why I bring it down an octave is so I can get the body. Because quite frankly, regardless of the tune…


[detuned snare]

I’ve now got a lot of low end. I can sculpt it, and if I want, I can take the low end and boost like crazy on the high end and get…

[detuned snare with EQ]

Now, that’s quite a lot of ring. You might not want that much, and you might want to blend it down super low, but look. Here’s the…


So it’s nice to have a little musical element. Again, these are all kind of fun tricks you can employ, and doing things like this really — it reminds me a lot of like, classic 70’s recordings where, you know, Jack Douglass and Shelly Yakus told me they would take a snare drum and feed it into the earliest digital delays, and detune it, and add body, and add pitch like this.

So this is kind of a quick, poor man’s version of doing that.

[guitar, then full song]

I love hearing that little ring on the snare in pitch with the songs. Really, really cool. Even if it’s brought down super low, it just adds another musicality to it, and I know in a lot of great Hip Hop and stuff, they tune the drums, so you know, don’t be afraid to try that. Tuning the drums after the fact.

Okay, so let’s go on to the vocal. Number four. Tip number four. This one I’ve shown many times before, but I’m going to show it again, because I think it’s a really, really good one. And I do it on pretty much every mix.

Cool, so here we have the lead vocal.


So total Pop vocal. Really compressed in the track, really up front.


Great. It’s a great vocal. But it also sounds pretty fat and warm. That’s not just EQ. It’s because I’m using this.

So what I’ve done is I’ve created an octave down. So we go 8va down one whole octave. Let’s bring it up here so we can have a look. So you’ve got your vocal here. We’ve got this.


What I’m doing is I’m coming straight out of the vocal into this here.


Turn it off. So here’s usual trick. On, off. On, off.

[vocals, effect on and off]

So it’s barely noticeable. It’s really, really low in there. What I’ll do is I’ll crank it so it’s unbearably horrible. So this is going to be one of the worst things you’ve ever heard in your life.


So why do I do it? Well, in the track, because the vocal is in pitch with the track, that below, you don’t hear it unless you crank it that loud. It’s just subliminal. It goes underneath, and it adds some girth to the vocal. Not that she has a particularly thin voice, she definitely has a thick enough voice, But it’s a subtle way of adding body to it without just dialing in EQ. It’s musical.

Plus, as you can see, it’s coming from the lead vocal. So whatever EQ I do on the lead vocal, and compression, is feeding it.

Afterwards, I’ve got like, a gate. Just so it doesn’t pick up, like, breaths, going, “oh, oh.” I don’t need low octave breaths. Plus I’ve got a little bit of EQ wiping off the top, because it’s just there only — I’m low passing it just to get an octave on it.

So once more. That’s one octave down. So I just clicked on there, and it’s a great way of adding thickness to the vocal.


Really good trick. Do it all the time.

Alright, staying on the world of vocals, you know the vocal thickening trick that I do. Now, you can do it — I print it as audio, and the reason why I do that is because if I’m sending it off to somebody to mix, they don’t always have my plugins. However, if you watched the previous vocal thickening trick video we did, you don’t have to use that, that’s just one of the many ways of going.

Once again, the reason why I always print things like that, it’s if I’ve got an external mixer, I want them to hear my vocal sound.

But let’s just create a new vocal sub. We’ll make it stereo, and we’ll just quite simply — we’ll take it straight out of the lead vocal itself. So we’re going to go and create an input for this. Make it 23-24. Select 23-24 here. Send. It’s in pre-fade, which is great, so we’ll be able to hear on and off. Literally just go and get a stereo pitch shift. Doesn’t have to be fancy. We’ll just call this, “Vocal Thickening.”

And so those of you who watched my vocal thickening video will know this already, but if you haven’t, it’s fine. So all I’m going to do is detune the vocal on the left and make it sharper on the right.

So it’s literally the same vocal being fed, just sharp and flat, and you can do multiple instances of this. Usually, I do three sets. I detune it at three, six, and nine. You could do six, twelve, and eighteen if you want to get a bit more drastic. It’s just a way of creating a chorusing effect in some ways, but it’s also — it also just creates some width in there, and you don’t have to have it very loud. Almost get to the point where it’s audible, then bring it down, and it’ll push the vocal forwards.

[vocals with and without thickening]

So again, let’s do on and off.

[vocals, effect on and off]

Now, I can hear it quite a lot, so I’m going to bring it down ever so slightly.

It’s pretty tasty. So it’s doing what I want it to do, it’s just letting the vocal push forward a bit. It’s creating its own space. This is also a trick I use on lead guitars. For me, we talk about this a lot. You know, there’s the lead singer, the lead guitar player in a traditional rock band, for instance. When the singer wasn’t singing, the lead guitar player was soloing.

So I often treat lead guitars the same way as I treat lead vocals, so any of these kind of effects you can do on vocals, you can do on lead guitars as well.

Okay, so let’s have a listen in the track.


Awesome. So that’s it! That was the fifth one! There’s so many more, but those kind of subtle things — Now, there’s tons of plugins you can get that do multiple things. SoundToys makes Crystallizer, which is a fantastic plugin. Waves makes great plugins. Everybody makes great plugins. However, I do like the simple, kind of make it up as you go things, which is changing pitch going into delays, changing pitch going into reverbs. There’s multiple other things.

Many reverbs and delays have pitch change on them. So try utilizing that as well. However, you’ll notice I like creating my own thing, so there’s a little bit more controllability. So I have a reverb that I like, and then, so it’s a great sounding reverb, but I’m detuning going into it gives me a different kind of wash.

Recently, we did something where we took the DI on the saturation one, if you remember that, and we took a DI and an amp sound, we left the amp sound on the guitar as it is, and then we took the DI, put distortion on it, and then put reverb on that at 100% so it created a different type of reverb. So that’s the reason why I like to change pitch or I like to distort things or do something, because it creates a different kind of ambience to the main signal, which allows the main signal to kind of come forward, and it’s so much more interesting just kind of washing it up, covering the whole thing in reverb. Like creating a different feel of reverb.

So — and that could be true also of that snare trick. If you detuned the snare, maybe you just put the reverb on that, and then you get a low, thumpy reverb going along with the snare.

Think creatively about these kind of things.

Okay, have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Please, as ever, leave a bunch of comments and questions below. Thank you ever so much for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe, hit the notifications bell, and of course, go to, sign up for the email list, and get a whole bunch of free goodies, and it’s so wonderful seeing you here.


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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