Signal Flow. The magic key to understanding music production

So what is it?

* SIGNAL – sound (in whatever form it takes, electrical energy, ones and zeros, acoustic energy)

* FLOW – the way it moves through the system.

System – Something made of up of smaller parts.

The simplest example I can think of is an ipod.

The sound as digital (Ones and Zeros) in the ipod —> It then goes out the headphone port (hole) —> It then goes out the speaker in the headphones —> and into your ears.

So – Ipod > Headphones > Ears

A straight line, so to speak.

This is the IMPORTANT part: If you remember nothing else. Everything in audio goes in a line.

Let’s look at a couple more simple examples

* Guitar > lead > amp > amp speaker > through air > ears                                                           * Turntable > mixer > speakers > through air > ears

It the combination of parts is what people talk about when they refer to a signal chain. If one of the links is broken the signal won’t pass through and you won’t hear anything later down the line. By keeping this in mind we can quick way of fault finding in a system.

“So what, that doesn’t seem like something I want to know or even care about.”

Wrong, once we understand this idea the creativity really begins. We can now route (redirect) parts of the signal however we want to. We can split the signal to process it separately.

Check this video for a better idea:

Signal flow

Now it’s your turn. In your DAW try…

Setting up 4 tracks of drums and routing them through a drum bus/group.

Create another track, name it snare 2, route the snare through it and try some effects and use the mix fader to balance it.
(if this is easy try routing snare 2 out through the drum bus, out through the master bus

Try creating doubles of all the drums tracks process them differently route them to a completely different bus (name it drum bus 2) then route drum bus 1 and drum bus 2 together

Try some other types of routing. Get to know how to push different sounds around the DAW.

Stay tuned in the couple of weeks we’ll talk about send and returns, creating tracks 101 (loops).

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About Braydon Zirkler

Currently based out of Melbourne. I'm dividing my time up between this blog, teaching, a radio show that's in the works and working on a live performance project with physical theatre performers. Get in touch here:
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2 Responses to Signal Flow. The magic key to understanding music production

  1. Pingback: Return to Sender | Blind Man Bass

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