Tips & Techniques - June 1990

by Jerry Vigil

Cheap Trick: Rhythmic Beds from your CD Player & Effects Processor

Cheap is exactly what this is, but if you're looking for a short, rhythmic bed FAST, this little trick might work with your setup.

Let's say you're in the middle of laying tracks for a promo. You have one or two lines in the promo that need a music change, something simple, something quick, but something hot! Don't want to bother with your CD libraries? Try this. Many CD players on the market have a SEARCH function on them. This search function, used with the PAUSE button, will set the pickup on a track with the audio circuits ON. What you get is a repetitive output of a fraction of a second of the audio on that portion of the track. As you press or turn the SEARCH buttons or knob, the pickup moves along the track, repeating that portion that the pickup is on. Take ANY CD, whether it has music or sound effects, and cue up to any audio that sounds good to you. Take the output of the CD player and send it through your effects processor. Try several things at first, just so you know how many different ways you can effect the input. Try flanging the audio. Try adding delays with reverb. Try reverse echoes. Try stereo delays, stereo echoes, and anything else that suits you. You'll soon get the idea. Now, assign the effects box output to the tracks you want to record on. Kill the output at the console, roll the tape, and, at the desired point, bring up the effects box output. When you want the bed to end, just drop the output of the processor.

Here are a couple of tips to consider when playing around with this idea: Remember that the CD is spinning all the time. If you select a track near the center of the CD, the repetition will occur at a faster rate since there is less distance traveled before the same spot on the CD reaches the pickup. If you cue up to a track on the outer edge of the CD, the tempo of your pseudo bed will be slower. Also, if you have a CD player that cues to the first audio of a track, this spot gives you a more percussive bed, assuming the first second of the track consists of hard hitting audio.

If you want to spend a little more time making this bed, you can record the "repetition" to 2-track, then use the vari-speed to give you a wider range of tempo. If you have a sampler, you can just sample a few seconds of the repetition, loop it, and then control tempo by hitting various keys on the keyboard. If you want to go a step further, you can lay 30 seconds or so of this bed onto a couple of tracks on your multi-track, then use another track or two to lay down some real percussion or some synth sweeps -- even a melody line, if you like.

One last hint for those of you with Eventide's Ultra-Harmonizer: MANY of the factory programs in the H3000 work like a charm with this tip. Try them all!

More Cheap Tricks: "3-D" Voice Tracks & Stereo Zaps from a Mono Track

David Witz, Production Director at WXTU-FM in Philadelphia, offers these two tips:

David writes, "Get a '3-D' effect on a voice track by panning an unprocessed version of the voice hard left and a slightly processed version hard right. Think of how the glasses with a 3-D comic book work, and you'll get the idea." It works! The less processing you use on the processed voice, the more apparent the center channel will be. In other words, the more identical the left and right signals are, the more they will move to the center channel. Of course, there's nothing wrong with using a little more processing on both the left and right channels and then mixing in a "dry" version of the voice track panned to the center channel. Several effects will work. Try shifting the pitch of the left voice just slightly. Try equalization. Try compression on just one channel. Try a flange and vary the wet to dry mix to alter the effect. The different combinations are endless!

Secondly, Dave suggests that by "shooting a lazer zap from one track of a 4-track through two delay boxes during the final mix and panning them all differently gives you more zaps and lots of stereo!" Indeed! This is a nice way to get some "8-track sounding" production out of your 4-track. The key, as Dave mentions, is to apply the delays during the final mix. So, if you have a stereo zap on a production library that you want to use, but don't have the tracks for it, send it to one track in mono, then split it up during the mix. This works with voice tracks and sound effects tracks, too! If you're getting your delays from a multi-effects processor and are planning to use the box for some other effect during the mix, such as reverb, you'll need to plan ahead and apply reverb to a track as you record it so the box will be free to use during the mix.

Thanks, David, for a couple of good ones! As a token of our appreciation, we've added another month to your subscription. This little token applies to any subscriber who wishes to share a tip with your fellow producers. Just jot it down and send it in. If we haven't published your particular tip, we'll do so and extend your subscription. ♦