Modulation effects are a particular category of audio effect (FX).

These are effects which modify the sound in a certain way: by adding a time-delayed version of the sound to itself, and then varying the size of that delay over time.

Although this same process is common to all modulation effects, it can create a huge range of sounds! Audio effects ear training can let you learn to hear the different types of modulation effect, and even the parameters used to configure each one.

Some of the details which determine the kind of audio effect produced include:

  • How long the delay is (e.g. 10 milliseconds vs. 150 milliseconds)
  • How quickly it varies (e.g. changing once per second vs. changing several times a second)
  • How it varies (e.g. changing smoothly vs. jumping randomly)
  • How many delayed versions are added (e.g. one vs. several)

The combination of different options above can produce various sounds including:

  • vibrato (the pitch varying up and down)
  • wah-wah (that distinctive “Jimi Hendrix” or “Shaft” guitar effect)
  • echo (a simple repeat of the sound a short while later)
  • chorus (making one instrument sound like many)
  • automatic double-tracking (making it sound like multiple recordings of a voice have been combined)

… and more!

Spending time learning to hear modulation effects can be very useful to the musician or audio engineer who wants to use these effects.

Modulation effects ear training can let you:

  • Hear which modulation effects are being used in a music recording or live performance
  • Choose the modulation effect you need to achieve your target sound in your own music
  • Set the effect’s parameters to go directly to the sound you want by understanding how each will affect the sound
  • Know the wide variety of sounds available to you when using modulation effects
For more on audio effects ear training, including modulation effects like these, read the “Hearing Effects” series.

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • How can I do modulation effects ear training?
  • How can I hear modulation effects in music?
  • What kinds of sound do modulation effects produce?
  • How do you set the parameters of a modulation audio effect?

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