Well-known by all guitarists, the Flanger effect could hardly be described as discreet. However, it can come in very handy in some mixing situations. But first let's see what it is all about. Internally, it is generated by a very short delay time in constant variation. The combination of this delay with the source signal produces the comb filter phenomenon I've addressed elsewhere. But this time around, the filtering is in perpetual movement due to the modulation of the delay time. In terms of parameters, Flangers feature at the very least Delay time, Feedback, modulation Depth, modulation frequency Rate, and a Dry/Wet signal mix control. The modulation frequency Rate is certainly the most important among them. In fact, if you want to avoid an over-the-top effect, you should stick to slow Rates. On the other hand, syncing it to the tempo of the song will make the Flanger reinforce the groove of the song.
What the Flange!
Now, let's see how you can use the Flanger effect in a mixdown situation. In a similar fashion to the Chorus effect, it can be used to thicken and provide more stereo width to a sound, like a synth pad, clean or distorted guitar effects, etc.
And it also works wonders on the... hi-hat! Used wisely it can make the hi-hat more lively. This trick is especially effective on programmed drums.
Anyway, personally, I really love using it for three production tricks. First, I like to apply it in very small doses to part of a riff or a couple of well-chosen moments of the song. This allows me to recapture the interest of the listener without resorting to some sort of excessive make-up that completely alters the song.
You can also use the Flanger throughout the entire mix, but only on some bars. It's a very common method to reinforce the dramatic aspect of a break.
Last but not least, the Flanger's ability to create a sense of movement can also come in handy at times. Just take a listen to Jeff Buckley's Grace. At 4:26, when the arrangement is already very dense the great engineer Andy Wallace, in a display of genius, applies a good deal of Flanger to a synth pad to broaden the spatial perspective when it seems impossible!
Brilliant, isn't it?
Tools of the trade
As usual, here's a small, non-exhaustive list of some of my favorite Flanger plug-ins. First of all is the free Blue Cat Audio Flanger which does a very good job. Then there's the Uhbik-F included in the very interesting Uhbik bundle by U-He, which I sincerely recommend. For something with more character, Antresol from D16 Group is a quality choice. Finally, when I need to use the Flanger as a one-time thing, I turn again to U-He's Satin.
In the next episode we'll see once last modulation effect before moving on, namely the Phaser effect.