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Production – Ethereal Effects

July 1, 2014

Express your inner Enya with these atmospheric tools and techniques

Fig. 1. The 2CAudio B2 plug-in can produce superb infinite-reverb effects. The patch shown here is an edited preset from the optional Imagination Expansion, a collection of supplementary factory patches.
WHETHER THE impetus was Steven Halpern’s seminal New Age album Spectrum Suite or 10cc’s mainstream mega-hit “I’m Not In Love,” 1975 was the year music escaped earthly bounds to explore new sonic landscapes dripping in expansive reverbs and droning tones. Modern tools and techniques have since made interstellar musical explorations even more fun and compelling. Here are a few rocket boosters to defibrillate your heart of space.

Sing Forever The 2CAudio B2 plug-in can produce outrageous infinite reverb, in which the reverb’s tail (decay time) extends forever (see Figure 1). Run background-vocal tracks— singing oohs and ahs, for example—through an infinite-reverb effects patch to spawn a spacious and mystical effect like no other.

The only problem with infinite reverb is vocals sung in harmony with one chord in the song’s arrangement will sustain through successive chords that might clash. For example, infinite reverb added to background vocalists singing a C major chord will sound harmonious against C major or A minor played by instruments, but it will clash if and when the instrumental arrangement moves to an F major. Remember, the singers’ C major chord will sustain through the infinite reverb forever, or at least until you press stop on your DAW’s transport. Having the singers switch to singing an F major would not stop their C major chord from ringing; it would only add the notes of the F major chord to those of the C major in the reverb wash, creating an F major 9 chord. That’s likely to be dissonant in some sections of the song.

Fig. 2. Sampletekk INIL, a Kontakt Instrument, contains multi-samples of the airy background vocals that were sung by 10cc in their hit song “I’m Not In Love” (circa 1975).
The solution is to record the background vocals (BVs) singing a discrete chord on each of multiple tracks (for example, C major on track 1, F major on track 2, and so on). Instantiate B2 on an insert for each of the tracks, using the same or similar infinite- reverb patch (100% wet in all instances). During mixdown, fade up a single BV track where it will sound harmonious with the backing arrangement; fade it completely down where it would otherwise create dissonance, while fading up another BV track voicing a chord that’s harmonious with the backing arrangement at that point. By crossfading your different BV tracks in this way, you create a smooth ebb and flow of otherworldly voices.

Since BVs used in this way sustain potentially forever, it’s important that they are either recorded in tune or the pitch of each of their individual voices is corrected before combining the voices onto one track. Doing that on a lot of tracks—one for each chord in the song where you want to use infinite reverb— takes a lot of time. The Sampletekk INIL Choir provides an excellent shortcut. INIL Choir is a Kontakt Instrument containing multi-samples (also available in other formats) of the actual background vocals used in 10cc’s hit song “I’m Not In Love” (see Figure 2). Simply play the chords you want (recording each chord to a separate track in your DAW), slap B2 on each track and you’re ready to bliss out.

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