I am relatively new to Cubase effect processing, and I feel the variety of options it offers to configure FX can be confusing. I know it can be just a matter of personal preference, but a a newcomer I would like know about some established configuration practices or al least some starting points. Let’s take as an example adding reverb to a dry sound that comes from an external MIDI instrument.
So I recorded an audio track and created an FX channel track. I chose “Send” and here’re first decisions I need to make:
What level should I choose when I send a signal to an FX channel? Is it recommended to use unity gain (level “0”)?
I can select “Pre-Fade” to send the audio signal with unchanged level. Is this recommended practice?
If I choose “Pre-Fade” I can completely skip the original dry signal from the mix and only use processed signal. Is this recommended or I should start with blended signals?
I know that the general answer will be “it depends”, and it really does. However I feel there must be some initial setup, otherwise configuring FX can become chaotic. So if you have a systematic approach to adjust FX parameters I will appreciate your input.
Some/all of this may (not) agree with any/everybody! (It’s all a bit like that, I’m afraid).
I was always taught to have things set to Unity Gain (0db on the fader) wherever possible. Unity Gain means that what goes in is what comes out, i.e. you’re not boosting or degrading your signal. So unless you have a good reason, keep your FX (and Stereo Out*, btw) faders at 0db.
If your Stereo Out is overloading, you have your channels too high. Adjust them (either the fader or look to your compression). Starting a mix with your drums showing about -6db on your Out is a good starting point. But for my money, Stereo Out should always be at 0db.
Adjust the effect level using the Send level on the channel. Then mute/unmute, adjusting the level till it just makes the difference you want. You will probably need far less than you first thought. Reverb, for example, is a very subtle effect and very easy to overdo. So are the other FX - don’t take your first level setting.
I don’t use Pre-Fade much but in some situations it’s the only way. Perhaps an example that you’ve probably heard all your life: having the drums disappear into a tunnel. One way of doing this would be to set the reverb to Pre-Fade, then fade out the channel, leaving the verb behind. You could then fade out the reverb, which is an example of when you may adjust the faders on your FX returns. I hope that’s illustrative enough.
I might have just answered this.
The other thing you don’t mention that you’re likely to come across is whether to use certain FX as Inserts or Sends. Traditionally, certain FX belong in one category or another:
Inserts affect the whole signal and so that’s where you normally find EQ and Compression.
Sends are for blending, so that’s where you usually find Reverb and Delay. [Edit: actually, a Send creates a copy of your signal, with which you can then do a whole bunch of stuff.]
Having said that, you can’t be that cut-and-dried about it:
Reverb used gently can be almost like an EQ (to provide a bit of sparkly top).
Parallel Compression is a widely used technique in which you use it on a Send.
It’s really a question of thinking what exactly you’re trying to do to the sound and whether or not several channels need to share the same effect (e.g. a certain Delay or the same Reverb to put things in the same “space”).
Better not go on too much. Hope that helps. I wonder how long it will take for someone to disagree?
Glad to be of help. Another use of Pre-Fade Sends is if you want to print your FX and use them on a separate (audio) track. This is great and opens up a whole new set of possiblities. There’s a track I did recently where I printed the guitar delay at one point, then faded it out and back in again backwards, then forwards… you get the idea.
Of course, if it’s a special reverb effect you only want on a single track then no need to create a send.
But if you want (and most of the time, I seem to at least) a bit of room on every track then there’s often no need for more than one or maybe two different reverbs, and throwing in 20+ reverb inserts with nearly identical settings isn’t that economical, cpu wise!
That’s a point. If you’re sending to your FX, then I would make sure the wet/dry mix in your fx is on 100% wet. This gives you the maximum scope to play with across all the channels that send there. You’re bound to find someone who disagrees with this and there could well be instances you come across when you have all channels sending next to nothing, in which case it might make sense to turn the wet mix down a bit to give you more room to vary the send levels.
But I would start with 100% wet until you know what you’re doing and - more importantly - why.