How to Create Depth Without Reverb
I’m going to use a vocal to demonstrate, but you don’t have to use a vocal; this is not a vocal technique. This is anything where you want to enrich the depth of something without swamping it with some kind of reverb or delay.
All right, we’ve got a dry vocal here.
I’m going to add a slapback delay to it.
Obviously, that’s a lot of slapback, but I have it really loud so you can hear what I’m doing. Now, a little bit of slapback is a great way to add a little bit of depth to a sound. However, you can take it one step further and use some kind of harmonic saturation or distortion on that slapback to create a bit of contrast and color between the original dry vocal and the slap-back vocal. So, here is a before-and-after using the slate virtual tape machine plugin.
The difference there is that the lower mid-range seems to be blooming outward a little bit when I engage the virtual tape machine. It’s a thicker sound and it’s a slightly more complex sound. They’re exactly the same level, but the slapback becomes a little bit more prominent and present.
So let’s check out the settings here. What I’m doing is, I’m hitting the tape machine as hard as I can and I have the bias turned up. I have it at 15 inches per second and I have this FGB switch, which is the tape formula. Basically, what I’m doing is, I’m using the most aggressive settings I can.
I just flipped it over to, instead of doing half-inch, going to two-inch. And I actually like the sound of the two-inch better. It moves the sound from the lower mid to the upper mid a bit. So, one more time, here’s the before and after.
Sorry, that was an after. Before.
Let’s do another variation of that. Here is the Sansamp plugin that is stock with Pro Tools, and some compensational EQ as well. I’ll explain that in a moment.
[before and after sansamp]
It’s a richer tone, it’s a bit more complete. The sound of the slapback becomes more present at equal level and the reasoning behind the EQ is because one of the effects – psychological effects of a reverb or a slapback is that, as we hear it, we start to prescribe qualities of the reverb or slapback on to the vocal. So you get sort of this homogenization of the tone. If you have a very dark slapback, it will seem to darken the tone or bring out the lower tones. And if you have a very bright slapback, it will make the vocal or whatever you’re using it on, appear brighter without actually EQ-ing the dry sound. Which is actually a very useful thing to know. But that’s what I was doing with the EQ. I was setting it in a way where I felt like the EQ of the slapback was actually complimenting the vocal tonality.
Now the last thing is that I would tuck this much further down in the mix.
Let’s just do A,B,C real quick. Alright, here is just with the slapback tucked in.
Virtual tape machine.
And sansamp plus EQ.
[Sansamp + EQ]
These are the little things that help create a little bit more depth and little bit more harmonic richness to your sound without actually forcing you to turn up the reverb or distort the dry sound. It’s this little game of inches that, a lot of times, accumulates to a really great sounding mix.