As an effect, ping-pong delays are a solid option when you’re trying to build out space and depth in a mix. The “bouncing” that happens back and forth between the left and right channels sounds unlike anything else. This effect alone can go to great lengths to polish your sound and keep movement flowing through your mix, but it can also do so much more.
Nailing a good ping-pong delay is just the first step on your path toward using a delay as a production tool in a class all its own. It’s the modulation and post-processing you apply to that delay that can really send it soaring to new heights as a prominent time-based effect.
As you start down the path of ping-pong production mastery, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind and a couple tricks of the trade you should always have up your sleeve.
Setting Up Your Delay
The settings of your delay need to be addressed before any real “post” tweaks can be applied since many of the best tweaks require you to print your audio track down before the destructive processing can begin. What this means for you is getting the right sound upfront so that you aren’t searching for it on the back-end when it’s too late and everything’s been committed/rendered.
For your delay timing, this means choosing the delay rate and type upfront. You have the option in delays like SOAR to either go by BPM or milliseconds depending on what fits best for your song. For many of these heavily processed delays, a millisecond approach can be a great way to make the delay stand out without sounding overly produced by syncing it exactly with the song’s BPM.
Finally, when working with something like a tape delay you’re going to have plenty of other options that can affect the sound, making it go from clear and transparent to gritty and loose. Tweaking settings like Tape Health, Age & Flutter is the best way to add a bit of grit to the delay before processing.
Pro Tip: Adding a reverb to the track along with the delay is a great way to create more ambience in your sound upfront, before any heavy processing occurs.
Delays In Reverse
Possibly the coolest use of delays in any scenario are reversed delays. They can create a sort of ambient pad for your sound or provide transitions between song sections. Reversed drum hits give the impact of a “whooshing” sound before the strike – as if the microphone picked up the drumstick cutting through the air in slow motion.
But for vocal productions, all kinds of doors are unlocked through the use of the reversed ping-pong delay. You can achieve chilling, haunting vocal melodies that add an unnatural vibe to your song, or you can use them to ramp up to a huge vocal lead like Nick does in the video clip below:
You don’t need a soft or spooky song to use these tricks – they work amazingly as audio sweeteners in nearly any song in the right context.
Processing Your Reversed Delay
If you’re going for all out mutilation of your delay, the processing doesn’t have to stop once the audio has been reversed. You still have the option of adding modulation and dynamic plugins to your heart’s content.
The possibilities are endless when you consider how extreme compression might impact an already heavily processed sound. Or, in another direction, how a guitar effect might add some color to the sound (even if you mix it in gently in parallel).
There’s a reason vocal producers keep virtual guitar rigs on their workstations, and it’s not always about the guitars.
How Do You Use Delays
Are you someone who just tweaks the timing and repeats, or do you do something more aggressive to make the delay unique? Interested in learning my approach?
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