General Question

PupnTaco's avatar

Audio pros: what is this effect called?

Asked by PupnTaco (13860points) August 30th, 2008

Take a listen to Gerry Rafferty – he has this reedy, almost double-tracked sounding quality to his vocals. What is this effect?

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5 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

Wow…down memory lane on that song! For some odd reason, I always thought Baker Street was done by Pink Floyd-crossed wires apparently…

As for the vocals-on the verse, seems to be a very basic chorusing effect; this is a phase-shifting effect, essentially an electronic version of very short (duration) tape delay emulated in solid-state electronics; Aphex and Lexicon are two companies who specialized in this processor back in the ‘70s, and still make versions of this today (among many others). Back in the days of analog tape recording, a strange phenomenon happened when artists recorded on one track, while simultaneously listening to that recording on the “monitor”; as it turns out, on analog tape recorders, there are actually three tape heads-Erase, Record, and Playback, and the physical space between the record head and playback head meant that as a track was recorded, the audio was delayed (~10 milliseconds on average) between when it passes the record head and when the playback head read the information. This sound was made famous by such legends as The Beatles during their later records (very prevalent in John Lennon’s vocals-especially when he went on his solo career post-Beatles).

That is a ‘standard staple’ processor effect to “thicken” vocals and otherwise “thin” voices/instruments-mostly in popular music styles and particularly characteristic of late ‘70s and early ‘80s pop.

When he sings the bridge sections (“You used to think that it was so easy…”) there is actual double-tracking going on…

sndfreQ's avatar

One thing I forgot-as the tape delay happens, the “monitored” playback signal was recorded onto the adjacent track, or otherwise blended into the final mix down, where the tracks are played through the mixing console and re-recorded on a 2-track “master” recorder. So that was the “down and dirty” way to create that natural delay effect. What was interesting was that when electronic signal processors began to emulate that effect, they did it with slightly different results, and the flexibility of shifting the delay time to produce new sonic textures. To an extreme, you can “overdrive” chorus effects to make vocals sound robotic, and to their detriment, most pop artists today have that sound in their voice, combined with other horrid effects processors (pitch correctors, and other cheats).

breedmitch's avatar

Now that’s good fluther!

PupnTaco's avatar

Thanks, man – I knew you’d come through!

sndfreQ's avatar

flattered thanks guys

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