There are several tools that will come in handy when working with sound design. When you dive deep into the area, you might find out that you are using some tools more than others. These tools are gonna help you shape your sound in their very basic structure. But what exactly are they, and how do they function? Most importantly, how to get the most out of these tools?
So what do we mean when we say the basics? The basic tools are your most essential tools when going forward in this sound design journey. They are essential because of their basic functionality in terms of shaping and sculpting the sound. In this article we will talk about the EQ and the reverb. In the upcoming articles we will expand in this subject and get to know about the rest of these basically functioning tools. Now let’s get to explaining these two…
EQ or equalizers let you adjust the volume of individual frequencies in your sound. There is not really much more to explain or define about the EQ. Its function is quite simple and mostly effective…
Why Do We Need it?
Equalizers, like other tools can be used creatively and extensively. Because of this, your reason why you need such a tool can differ. More on this later… However its basic functionality of adjusting the frequencies will let you get rid of the frequencies that you don’t want and blend the sounds or textures together into one sound. In the end if you want a clean sounding and texturally rich designed sound, the EQ will always be there to let you achieve what you want. Remember in our “Simply & Basically: Layering In Sound Design Explained” blog, we mentioned the importance of using an EQ when blending sounds together into a whole other sound. Read that, if you want to know of what more you could do with the EQ. For the purposes of this article we will only be talking about them in their terms of basic functionality.
Useful Tips & Tricks For EQ
Noise in your mix can be a troubling and challenging to get rid of while trying to maintain the overall texture of the sound. Before using noise reduction tools in your sound, try low cut filter to see if you can remove the noise more simply without really altering the overall texture of the sound. It might not work every time but it can be a useful information when dealing with such cases.
High pass and low pass filters will block you from adjusting the gain of those areas. If you want to boost or reduce the volume of high and low frequencies use high and low shelf filters.
Low frequencies mostly contain the mud and garbage of your sound. Use High pass filter to get rid of low end information if you start noticing your sound getting dirty or muddy when layering in sounds together.
High frequencies can have useful information but it can also have noise. We already mentioned that if your sound has noise cut it out. This way you can replace those frequencies with more useful and effective subtleties.
Sweeping through the sound in your EQ can let you find the disruptive or unique textures in the sound that you are not normally hearing. Simply boost a frequency as wider narrow as you want and sweep through the sound, looking for all the good sounding details. This way you can boost or remove them or take them out and blend it into a more useful sound by layering. We talked about this in our Simply & Basically: Layering In Sound Design Explained blog. Do this method to find subtle textures in your sounds and place them with layering to create detailed sounds.
Now we talked about the EQ it’s time to move on to explaining reverb.
We already talked about it in our A Simple Yet Powerful Tool: Convolution Reverb blog. For the purposes of this article we will briefly define it but our focus will be on the parameters of reverb and tricks when using it in designs.
Reverb is the sound waves that are reflected from the surfaces surrounding a sound source. The quality or the texture of the sound changes when the sound source is set to be placed in different environments ranging from indoor or outdoor places to warped or designed spaces which can give the sound the flexibility or creativity when looking for unique or subtle textures that you want to add.
Why Do We Need It?
In the simplest functionality, a type of reverb will give your sound a space which it seem to be placed in. The quality of space in your sound brings the character and the life to your sound. It can also be used to blend the other sounds spaces together so that they can be heard like they are in the same space, hence adds all the realism . We also like to use reverb more creatively and try to find beautifully blending textures. Whatever your aim with this tool is, just like an EQ it is essential and hence commonly used.
Types Of Reverb
There are 3 main types of reverb. Algorithmic, convolution and physical reverb. Algorithmic reverbs depend on mathematical algorithms to create space. They are more simple to use and less CPU consuming compared to a convolution reverb. Since they depend on mathematical equations or algorithms, the reverb will sound more artificial and will not be able to provide the realism that you might be looking for.
If you want to create realistic spaces, convolution reverb should be your go-to type of reverb. Because a convolution reverb depends on real recordings of the spaces which is called an impulse response to create the algorithms of those spaces can give you great sounding results. Go read our A Simple Yet Powerful Tool: Convolution Reverb blog to discover more about this type of reverb.
There is one more type of reverb called a physical reverb which depend on an external and physical unit to give space to your sound. They can sound great and since they are an external unit, they depend on their own processing power. Meaning, your computer will not suffer from any CPU overload when dealing with such type of reverb. However, they are getting less and less popular because of being able to have everything in VST format and they are also much more expensive than a software reverb.
Size/Decay sets the size of the room and determines how long the tail of reverb will be. These two settings are often work together. If you want to increase the time of the tail increase decay time. If you want to increase it but can’t go much farther, try increasing the size first.
Pre Delay/Early Reflections sets the amount of time between the direct sound and the initial start of the reverb. Basically it Is an indicator of when your reverb starts. Depending on your pre delay setting. The reverb can be heard as an echo.
Diffusion sets the intensity of reflections. Low diffusion values result in less density, hence letting us hear and identify the sound source in the reverb more clearly while higher diffusion values result in smooth and blended reverberant textures.
Damping sets the absorption amount of higher frequencies in the reverb. Decreasing the damping value, allows higher frequencies to be more present and audible for a brighter texture while increasing it make brighter frequencies absent, turning the reverb into darker textures.
Useful Tips & Tricks For Reverb
Using custom impulse responses in a convolution reverb will add in unique textures to your sound. Read our convolution reverb blog for clear instructions.
Combine echo effect followed by reverb for creating twisted and mind bending atmospheres. When combined, these two effects complement and work with each other in a way that sounds almost generative. If you want to create virtual or imagined atmospheres or ambiences that has no real-world reference, try using this method. Playing with the parameters of the plugins, especially the feedback of the echo, while you hear the sounds, you will quickly start hearing weird or obscure ambiences forming out of nowhere.
Use the EQ in your reverb to have control over the frequencies in the reverb of your sound. Sometimes, simply cutting the high or low end can change the texture of your sound drastically. Using the EQ of the reverb more creatively and extensively can make subtler textures more present while unwanted textures absent.
Reverb does not only put your sounds in particular spaces but when considered as a sound design tool, it can be so powerful. The EQ can help you find even the most subtle details in the sound.. These are not only powerful tools but also, they are essential in terms of editing and sculpting your sound. Find your own style and taste using these tools and more. Come back in the future to know more about essential tools of mixing and sound design.