Tips for Audio Engineering Students: Creating a “Doubling” Effect

Omega Studios staff engineer Scotty O’Toole offers some great studio production tips on thickening up tracks with doubling effects

Creating a doubling effect to mimic the sound of a “stacked” vocal or instrument part can be great way to add some thickness to your studio production. Short of the performer actually performing the part multiple times, which typically yields the best results, here are a few techniques you can try to get a similar feel:

Short delays: Delays can be used to give the impression of multiple takes. Try starting with a delay time of 25ms with no feedback. The ear has a hard time discerning a delay and it’s source when the delay time is about 25ms and shorter. Longer time will start to sound like a distinct echo. Play around with the delay time and see if you dig the sound. If the delay has a modulation adjustment, try using a slow speed or rate setting to add some subtle pitch variances to the echo. Pitch changes help with the “authentic-ness” of the effect. This is an age old trick to get a “doubled” guitar track. Pan the dry signal to one side and the delay to the other. My favorite example of this is on the David Bowie songs “Soul Love” and “Moonage Daydream” from the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spider From Mars. When that heavy guitar comes in on the chorus, it just sounds great. It’s used on the sax solo, too! Nice touch, Mr. Ken Scott…..

Editing: audio engineering students might find this one a bit more time consuming but I prefer it on vocals more than the delay trick. Take your vocal track and make two copies. Go through the first copy and randomly chop the vocal up every few words. Go to the second copy and chop this one up taking some time not to chop in the same places as the first copy. Now, go through the chopped tracks and randomly nudge each region early and late by about 20ms or so. Don’t worry too much about what regions get nudged early or late. The randomness is what helps it work. Now send the chopped and nudged tracks to a slow moving chorus effect to give it some modulation. Play around with the balances until you get what you’re looking for. I’ll usually add the delay trick into to this as well.

Plug -ins: There are new plug-ins coming out constantly and sound better and better each year. Waves, SoundToys, and others make plug-ins for “doubling” effects which typically  employ a variety of delay and pitch shifting achieve the effect. Sometimes a combination of a doubling plug-in, the delay trick and the editing trick, used all at the same time, can create a really cool effect.

As always, Happy Mixing!

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