by Craig Anderton
In the psychedelic 60s, there weren't digital delays or DSP, so many effects - like echo - were done with tape, and this includes flanging. It wasn't real time, as signals had to be recorded first and then go past the playback head, but this had the advantage of the processed signal being able to be delayed not only compared to the dry signal, but even move ahead of it. As it moved through the point where there was zero delay between the dry and processed signal, they typically cancelled and thus produced what was called “through-zero” flanging.
Although this isn't possible with purely digital delay because there's always going to be some latency, if you're willing to add a tiny bit of delay to the dry signal, you can indeed get through-zero flanging with plug-ins. This example uses Native Instruments' Guitar Rig, but the same principle applies to other plug-ins as well. (Note that you don't have to have the full version of Guitar Rig 4; this even works with Guitar Rig 4 LE, as shown in the screen shots.)
Also note that flanging sounds most dramatic when preceded with a signal that has lots of distortion, like a fuzz or distorted amp.
Start by inserting Guitar Rig in the audio track you want to process. Click on the Components button, then the Categories tab, then open up the Tools section so you can select the Split module (Fig. 1).
Next, drag the Split module into the rack (Fig. 2). We need two signal paths so we can delay one against the other, which also has a slight amount of delay.
Under Components, open the Modulation section. Drag one Chorus/Flanger between Split A and Split B, then drag another Chorus/Flanger between Split B and the Split Mix module (Fig. 3).
Now adjust the Chorus/Flanger control settings for both modules (Fig. 4):
And there you have it: light some incense, put on your love beads, and enjoy the sound of vintage tape flanging!
Of course, you don't need to stop there...there are plenty of options for experimentation. Vary the Intensity controls to change the overall effect; for a less-defined, more "swimming" sound, set one or both of the Chorus/Flangers to Flanger instead of Pitch Mod. You can also get some wild psycho-acoustic effects by panning each Split oppositely in the Split Mix, although you'll lose the flanging effect.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.