On the flanging effect

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mojofilter
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On the flanging effect

Post by mojofilter »

I was just entering a detail in my database about "The Big Hurt" by Toni Fisher, released in the fall of 1959. On the Wikipedia page about Toni, it says this flanging effect came about as the result of a happy accident, when engineer Larry Levine inadvertently mixed the stereo and mono versions of "The Big Hurt" together, slightly out of sync. This occurred at Gold Star Studios in LA, where Levine later developed Phil Spector's "wall of sound." It turned out to be the first use of flanging on a hit record. It is often erroneously claimed to be the first use of flanging.

According to the article on flanging, Les Paul discovered it in the late 1940s using two variable speed turntables playing back acetates he'd cut in his home studio. His first use of it was on "Mammy's Boogie" in 1952. The article goes on how to create the effect by playing two tapes of the same recording simultaneously, and putting your thumb on the flange of the feed reel of one to slow it down slightly, and then placing a thumb on the flange of the other deck's reel, where the effect is reversed and it sweeps upward in frequency as the two tapes begin to sync again.

George Martin disputes this, and claims to have invented it himself along with John Lennon. He even claims to have come up with the name. Mark Lewisohn continues to report this inaccuracy. EMI engineer Ken Townsend developed automatic double-tracking (ADT) out of further development of the flanging effect in the spring of 1966 at Lennon's request to free him from the drudgery of singing a song twice. But history shows that the effect that he liked so much was discovered while John's age was still in its single digits.

Other claims about its existence are attributed to George Chkiantz, and Glyn Johns, and Eddie Kramer.

Les Paul - Mammy's Boogie - the effect is really subtle; I'm not sure I can really hear it with all the repeating echoes and the double-speed playback.



Toni Fisher - The Big Hurt (mono mix)



Toni Fisher - The Big Hurt (stereo mix) [note: the flanging is different in this mix because they had to do it again.]

joguema
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by joguema »

In the early 80s I had a Philips R2R-Recorder and recorded a mono version of Genesis-Abacab on track 1 and later -by accident - the same version on track 2. When I switched to STEREO and thus listened to both tracks at the same time I think I got a sound that may have been similar to what you described as the 'flanging effect', because the 2 tracks did not start and stop at exactly the same time, but were very slightly out of sync.

If only I knew how I could reproduce this effect. Would it be possible with Audacity?
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Lord Reith
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by Lord Reith »

I know there is a Lennon interview where he says that he called it flanging but that somebody had already called it that before him (I think it's one of the kenny Everett ones). The ADT process was developed so that they could have a variable delay single echo which could also be independently pitch modulated. What they actually were aiming for was what later became known as the "Chorus" effect, but you could also just make the delay really really short and make it sound like two tapes playing the same thing simultaneously but slightly out of synch. So they could do chorus, flanging and phasing effects all with that setup. I think it probable that early on someone said to John "that sounds like flanging" and he just started calling it that and forgot that he heard the name somewhere else. It is incredibly unlikely that he would just invent a word that had already been coined to describe that effect.

Whatever the case, they went way overboard with it and spoilt a large number of their 1967 mono mixes. Your Mother Should Know in mono is basically unlistenable. Used as a vocal or guitar effect it was okay, but applied to entire mixes it just sounded like crap.
rtbcIII
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by rtbcIII »

Given the sheer amount of experimenting Les did in the '30s and '40s, it's hard to imagine he didn't run across the effect, even if the media he was using at the time was mechanical and not magnetic. And especially considering how much of his equipment was handbuilt from repurposed components (his main disc-cutter then had a Cadillac flywheel for a turnable, with a cutting head suspended by a dentist's drill armature). He was a big proponent of trial-and-error, but he'd also note "I didn't have a hell of a lot of choices about that!"
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mojofilter
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by mojofilter »

joguema wrote: Tue Jul 26, 2022 8:15 amIf only I knew how I could reproduce this effect. Would it be possible with Audacity?
Yes, it would. It doesn't seem to offer a Flanger preset (although it has a phase shifter - that's a similar but different effect). But if you had two instances of the same recording, opened them up in multitrack and offset one by 20 milliseconds or less, you'd get that effect, although it would be constant. For it to be fully functional with the sweeping comb filter effect, you'd have to be able to vary the speed of the second recording by 20 ms in either direction at will. With a fixed sampling rate, that's impossible. Digital recording just can't do some stuff that you could easily do on tape.

For instance, when Frank Zappa started recording in digital, he lost the ability to use his trademark effect of voices and/or instruments that were impossibly lower or higher in pitch than a voice or instrument could naturally perform, as it was done by recording with the tape slowed down or sped up by a variable-speed oscillator, then having the altered sound play back at normal speed.
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mojofilter
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by mojofilter »

Lord Reith wrote: Tue Jul 26, 2022 9:31 am I know there is a Lennon interview where he says that he called it flanging but that somebody had already called it that before him (I think it's one of the kenny Everett ones).
"According to historian Mark Lewisohn, it was Lennon who first called the technique "flanging". Lennon asked George Martin to explain how ADT worked, and Martin answered with the nonsense explanation "Now listen, it's very simple. We take the original image and we split it through a double vibrocated sploshing flange with double negative feedback". Lennon thought Martin was joking. Martin replied, "Well, let's flange it again and see". From that point, when Lennon wanted ADT he would ask for his voice to be flanged, or call out for "Ken's flanger".
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Lord Reith
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by Lord Reith »

John is on tape in 1967 using the phrase "double flanging" but is there a written or verbal reference to flanging in the media prior to that? That would settle it I guess.

Btw I would pay zero credence to anything George Martin ever said. He meant well but had a memory like a goldfish.
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mojofilter
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by mojofilter »

I'm not seeing anything at Google but repeats of the legend that it was John who first called it 'flanging.' The technique was known nearly twenty years previous, but I guess it didn't have a proper name yet. I wonder what they did call it.

I did see a Google question that cracked me up - "How do you pronounce flanger?" Like he wasn't sure it didn't rhyme with 'hanger.' "I got this here track and I'm gonna flang the hell out of it!"
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ianbuckers
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by ianbuckers »

mojofilter wrote: Wed Jul 27, 2022 4:47 am I'm not seeing anything at Google but repeats of the legend that it was John who first called it 'flanging.' The technique was known nearly twenty years previous, but I guess it didn't have a proper name yet. I wonder what they did call it.

I did see a Google question that cracked me up - "How do you pronounce flanger?" Like he wasn't sure it didn't rhyme with 'hanger.' "I got this here track and I'm gonna flang the hell out of it!"
But they don't rhyme...?

Phonetically (IPA) they are 'flæn.dʒə(ɹ)' and 'hæŋ.ə(ɹ)'. The common part, spelling wise, 'anger' is said quite differently particularly on the 'g'.
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bobzilla
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Re: On the flanging effect

Post by bobzilla »

Lord Reith wrote: Wed Jul 27, 2022 4:38 am Btw I would pay zero credence to anything George Martin ever said. He meant well but had a memory like a goldfish.
The more I read things that contradict what George Martin said at some point, the more I wonder if he wasn't so much forgetting, but more just embellishing the story. I mean, we know he reinvented himself even before the Beatles met him, so why not continue through the Beatle years?
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