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Audio Effect Categories

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Audio effects, we all know what they are, sort of. They are used to manipulate audio in ways that are not available with traditional playing and recording techniques. In music production, using effects can be for either aesthetic purposes or technical purposes. Effects are used to help us better shape the sound as we want it. Effects are an integral part of music production, whether we are working in the analog realm or the digital realm.

Though there are a large number of effects available today - especially when we work in the digital music production realm - all of these effects fall in one of either three types. The three types of effects are as follows:

1. Dynamic Based Effects - These are the effects that alter the dynamics of an audio signal. Altering the dynamics translates into the alteration of the level. Examples of dynamic based effects are: the compressor family, including limiters, maximizers, and expanders. These are used so we can manipulate the dynamics of the performance (soften parts that are too loud, or raise parts that are too soft).

2. Frequency Based Effects - These are the effects that alter the frequency content of an audio signal. By changing the frequency content of the signal we can achieve a brighter or darker sound. This is helpful when the recorded audio file lacks in either of these qualities we want - such as adding "air" to a female vocal to make it sound crispier. Examples of frequency based effects are: equalizers, distortion, and the Wah-Wah.

3. Time Based Effects - A personal favorite of mine, time based effects are essentially delays and the derivatives. Although there are reverbs, echoes, choruses, flangers, phasers, these are all derivatives of delay - the difference is in the time difference between these effects: choruses have a shorter time between two repeating signals than echoes do, while reverbs are a cluster of delays. Time based delays help us to shape the depth and dimension of the sound within the mix.

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