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Echo Effect - How To Use Echo Effects Live

Updated on October 12, 2012
Cool, old school effects box. Not what I use though!
Cool, old school effects box. Not what I use though! | Source

Echo Effect Explained!

In this post we are going to take a look at the echo effect. How to use echo effects and some interesting techniques you can use to get your songs or mixes sounding like the pro's!

First things first, echo effect is also sometimes known as delay. This is when a sound loops over and over again, gradually getting quieter every time it repeats.

Music that you hear allot of the echo effect on is in music that comes from reggae & ska. They love their echo effect! Mainly used on vocals as well as the siren effects that you hear on reggae music.

"The edge" the guitarist is famous for using lots of delay on his famous guitar sound (Love it or hate it? let me know!) I personally like to use echo on vocals. It adds depth to vocals and can really layer a sound if they start singing any long notes.

Anyway, if you are interested to hear some top tips from me on how to use echo effects then please read on!

Set-up Echo Effects On Mixer

First off, if you are using your Echo Effect on a guitar, then just plug it in and balance your wet/dry mix to whatever sounds nice. I like to keep it at around 60-70% dry.

If you are using your echo effects on a mixer, then plug it in to a "post fade" Auxiliary output. Always use effects on a post fade auxiliary. Get the output of the effects returning down a channel input or a dedicated 'FX return' whatever suits you. When using an auxiliary it is important to keep the wet dry mix at 100% wet. Your dry mix comes from the main channel, the wet comes from your 'FX return' channel. You balance the mix on the mixer, not the effects box.

Using Echo Effects On Vocals

If you have a tap tempo on you echo effect, now is the time to use it. Get your vocals running through the effects unit and use the tap tempo to get the echo (or delay) exactly in time with the beat of the music. To me, this always sounds a little cheesy and rigid. Do you know what I mean?

Top Tip Number One - Adjust the tap tempo time to be every 3/4 beat. To do this I tap the button on the beat then on the last one I tap it just after the off beat. If you are using a computer and can't tap the tempo, just find out the delay time when its on the beat and times the number by 0.75 (Or divide by 4 and then times by 3). This should give you quite a nice unique echo effect. I find this works well on high tempo songs that are pushing forward (Like rock songs).

Top Tip Number Two! - Using the same technique, create a delay time of one and a half times the beat. This gives you a slow delay that comes in after the beat. I find this can work well on slow ballads. Do use this lightly though because it can sound a little bit like 80's cheese!

Echo Effects To Catch The End Of A Line

One cool thing that I like to do it keep the FX send turned down until the vocalist, or MC or keyboardist plays the last note of a certain segment or line. When they sing or play that last part, add the echo to make it go on an little more and then turn the FX send back down again, again again, again..... It gives a cool effect but you have to be really quick when using it!

If you are feeling really adventurous then you can add the echo effect to a snare drum during big dramatic breakdowns when the song goes in to a half time or reggae bit. Use sparingly (Put it in really quick then take it back out after the drum hit) and make sure that the delay time is in time with the beat, otherwise it can be very confusing for the drummer!

Echo Effects On Guitar

Ok, so my top tip here has to be to use the echo effects with a little bit of reverb as well. Don't use to much and try lots of different delay times untul you find one that works for you (Usually something quite quick works well)

I think its quite important to only use echo on songs that really need it. Using echo on every song means that it looses its impact, you don't notice it anymore and sometime songs can loose there way a little bit.

When Not To Use Echo Effects!

I would say, don't use echo effects on short punchy fast songs, thats not what it is there for. Especially if you are putting it on guitar. The sound mix will very quickly become muddy and a mess of lots of different sounds!

I would be very cautious about using delay on stripped back acoustic shows. If there isn't much going on and you start to fill the sound with delay, people will notice it way too much, and you don't want that!

Using Echo Effect With Reverb

Ok, one last top tip and I think this one is amazing so its a good job you stuck around.

To get a really nice long reverb, I like to put the sound through a reverb and then put the sound through a really fast delay. Use only a little delay but the results always sound really nice and smooth!


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