Delays, the feedbacked echoes that add groove and depth to your mixes also need tender love and care.
But how can you mix delays? What's the mixing process?
This article will share six delay mixing tips to make your echoes fit better and make your mix stand out from the crowd.
Let’s jump right in with our first tip, automating your delays.
1. Automate Your Delays
We love surprises when listening to music. When things change, and we don't know what to expect, we want to listen more.
A great way to achieve this when working with delays is to automate them.
Automating means changing the delay parameters as your music track progresses.
For example, if your main lead uses a 1/4 delay, change it up to 1/8 for the breakdown. Play around with the feedback. You can even switch the mode to ping pong delay occasionally.
The thing is – change keeps your music interesting.
2. Combine Reverb With Delays
There’s this notion that you must choose between reverbs or delays. But nothing is further from the truth.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is combine the two, which can achieve even more depth than using one.
If one of your lead sounds use a lot of reverb, but you still want to make it bigger and deeper, you can add a delay on your reverb track.
Delaying your reverb makes your echoes bounce. And if you apply it with caution, it can take your track's depth to a new level.
3. Process Your Delays
Don’t be afraid to process your delays.
Sometimes, your delay chain or bus needs fine-tuning to shine.
It can be using an equalizer to make it delay in a specific frequency, using saturation to bring the delay out – or even using a phaser for a spacey delay effect.
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to process your delays.
Most sounds in your mix may need processing to fit with the rest of your sounds.
Delays are no different.
Treat your delays like any other sound – do what’s necessary to make them fit better in your mix.
Processing is especially important if you use sounds with a lot of delay.
Check out: complete Audio Effects guide!
4. Use Delay Sparingly
Be smart about your delay use.
If you drown every sound in delay, your mix will sound unfocused and strange.
Check out the ten most common mixing mistakes.
It’s the same with most other effects – if you apply chorus, phaser, or flanger on each sound, things will sound awkward.
A better approach aims for a dry foundation, with delays that subtly sprinkle your sound stage and enhance your depth.
Using a lot of delay is fine. But if you do, focus the effect on one or a few sounds to make contrasts.
5. Time Your Delays
Timing is key. We know this because why else would we have drums?
Sure, sounds don’t have to be in perfect timing. As you can read here [link], it can hurt your music.
But when it comes down to it – basic music timing is key. And the same goes for your delays.
As you know, delay effects come with built-in timing settings. So most of the time, we don’t have to worry about it.
However, there can be an issue with two other settings, which you may not have considered before.
The settings are – feedback and timing in milliseconds.
Feedback is how long your delay will ring for, and it can be wise to think about how long your delay duration is as it relates to your BPM.
Try to make your delays last in a duration that supports your beat.
And when you use millisecond timing, make sure you time them to your BPM. There are a lot of calculators out there for this purpose, like this one.
6. Delay With Purpose
When you use delay, do it with purpose.
Don’t go about it as an effect that you throw on sounds to make them special.
If you want to take your mixes to the next level, think about what you want to accomplish with your delay.
Do you want to support or add a groove, or do you want to add depth?
Thinking about these two aspects of a delay is a great starting point to determine if you need it on your sound.
If you’re unsure, you’re better off not using it most of the time.
And make sure to alternate between reverbs and delays. Creating a deep mix that sounds great relies on using reverb effects for some sounds and delays for others.
That combination keeps your mix tighter and more focused than if you throw the same effect on everything.
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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.