The flanger effect is a modulation effect produced by mixing a signal with a fluctuating duplicate of itself. The fluctuating duplicate is created by passing the original signal through a delay line, with the delay time adjusted by a modulating signal generated by a low frequency oscillator (LFO).
The flanger effect originated in 1967 with the Ross Flanger, one of the first commercially available flanger pedals. Since then, flangers have become a popular effect in both studio and concert settings, used to enhance vocals, guitars, and drums.
In this article, I’ll explain what a flanger effect is and how it works. Plus, I’ll share some tips on how to use a flanger effect effectively in your music.
What’s the Difference Between a Flanger and a Chorus?
- A flanger is a modulation effect that uses delay to create a unique sound.
- It’s like a time machine for your music, taking you back to the days of classic rock and roll.
- The delay times are shorter than a chorus, and when combined with regeneration (delay feedback), you get a comb filtering effect.
- A chorus is also a modulation effect, but it uses slightly longer delay times than a flanger.
- This creates a sound that’s like having multiple instruments playing the same note, but slightly out of tune with each other.
- With more extreme modulation depth and higher speeds, the chorus effect can take your music to a whole new level.
Flanging the Old-Fashioned Way: A Retrospective
The History of Flanging
Long before anyone invented a flanger pedal, audio engineers had been experimenting with the effect in recording studios. It all started back in the 1950s with Les Paul. One of the most famous examples of flanging is in Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland, specifically in the song “Gypsy Eyes”.
How It Was Done
To get the flange effect, the engineers (Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren) mixed the audio outputs from two tape decks playing the same recording. Then, one of them would press their finger against the rim of one of the playback reels to slow it down. The pressure applied would determine the speed.
The Modern Way
Nowadays, you don’t have to go through all that trouble to get a flange effect. All you need is a flanger pedal! Just plug it in, adjust the settings, and you’re good to go. It’s a lot easier than the old-fashioned way.
The Flanging Effect
What is Flanging?
Flanging is a sound effect that makes it sound like you’re in a time warp. It’s like a time machine for your ears! It was first created in the 1970s, when advances in technology made it possible to create the effect using integrated circuits.
Types of Flanging
There are two types of flanging: analog and digital. Analog flanging is the original type, created using tape and tape heads. Digital flanging is created using computer software.
The Barber Pole Effect
The Barber Pole Effect is a special type of flanging that makes it sound like the flanging is going up or down infinitely. It’s like a sonic illusion! It’s created using a cascade of multiple delay lines, fading each one into the mix and fading it out as it sweeps to the delay time limit. You can find this effect on various hardware and software effect systems.
What’s the Difference Between Phasing and Flanging?
The Technical Explanation
When it comes to sound effects, phasing and flanging are two of the most popular. But what’s the difference between them? Well, here’s the technical explanation:
- Phasing is when a signal is passed through one or more all-pass filters with non-linear phase response and then added back to the original signal. This creates a series of peaks and troughs in the frequency response of the system.
- Flanging is when a signal is added to a uniform time-delayed copy of itself, which results in an output signal with peaks and troughs that are in a harmonic series.
- When you plot the frequency response of these effects on a graph, phasing looks like a comb filter with irregularly spaced teeth, while flanging looks like a comb filter with regularly spaced teeth.
The Audible Difference
When you hear phasing and flanging, they sound similar, but there are some subtle differences. Generally, flanging is described as having a “jet-plane-like” sound. To really hear the effect of these sound effects, you need to apply them to material with a rich harmonic content, like white noise.
The Bottom Line
So, when it comes to phasing and flanging, the main difference is in the way the signal is processed. Phasing is when a signal is passed through one or more all-pass filters, while flanging is when a signal is added to a uniform time-delayed copy of itself. The end result is two distinct sound effects that sound similar, but are still recognizable as distinct colorations.
Exploring the Mysterious Flanger Effect
What is a Flanger?
Have you ever heard a sound that’s so mysterious and otherworldly that it made you feel like you were in a sci-fi movie? That’s the flanger effect! It’s a modulation effect that adds a delayed signal to an equal amount of the dry signal and modulates it with an LFO.
When the delayed signal is combined with the dry signal, it creates something called comb filtering. This creates peaks and troughs in the frequency response.
Positive and Negative Flanging
If the polarity of the dry signal is the same as the delayed signal, it’s called positive flanging. If the polarity of the delayed signal is opposite to the polarity of the dry signal, it’s called negative flanging.
Resonance and Modulation
If you add the output back into the input (feedback) you get resonance with the comb-filter effect. The more feedback applied, the more resonant the effect. This is a bit like increasing the resonance on a normal filter.
Feedback also has phase. If the feedback is in phase, it’s called positive phase. If the feedback is out of phase, it’s called negative feedback. Negative feedback has odd harmonics whereas positive feedback has even harmonics.
Using a Flanger
Using a flanger is a great way to add some mystery and intrigue to your sound. It’s a very versatile effect that can create huge sound design possibilities. You can use it to create various flanging textures, manipulate stereo width, and even create a crackle effect. So, if you’re looking to add some sci-fi vibes to your sound, the flanger effect is the way to go!
The flanger effect is an amazing audio tool that can add a unique flavor to any track. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it’s worth trying out this effect to take your music to the next level. Just remember to use your ‘ears’ and not your ‘fingers’ when you’re experimenting with flanging! And don’t forget to have fun with it – after all, it’s not rocket science, it’s ROCKET FLANGING!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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