Bass Flanger

What is Flanging?

Flanging is another modulation effect which creates a kind of swooshing, jet plane-type sound.

Flanging sounds very similar to phasing, but it is produced in a different way. Remember, phasing was created by phase-shifting a copied signal. Flanging is created by using delay.

How Does Flanging Work?

The flange effect takes an audio signal and copies it. A very short delay of less than 10 ms is applied to the copied audio signal and is mixed with the original audio signal. This creates a “doubled” sound.

Using an LFO, the delay time is constantly changed (modulated) creating the swirling, swooshing flange effect.

A Quick History of Flanging

Flanging was discovered by guitarist and inventor Les Paul in the 1940s. While playing two reel-to-reel tapes back simultaneously, he touched one of the reels on its flange. This slowed down one tape and caused the flanging sound. He was intrigued, and explored the sound. Several years later, he released the song Mammy's Boogie using the effect in a recording for the first time.

Mammy's Boogie by Les Paul

The first recording with flanging on the entire track. (Note all of the delay effects on the guitar, too.)

The Big Hurt – Toni Fisher

The first big hit to use the flange effect was Toni Fisher's The Big Hurt. We hear this effect all of the time now, but in the 1950s it was revolutionary. The flange effect is on the entire recording.

Flanger Stompboxes and Digital Flange

Early flanging effects were created with tape (or sometimes two records). Eventually, when electronic delay technology became possible, electronic flanger units and effects pedals were developed. And now the same effect can be created digitally with software.

With these advancments, it became easier to add the flange effect to a single instrument or track.

There are tons of flanger pedals available for bass and guitar. It's also possible to create flanging with some delay pedals.

Using a Flanger on Bass Guitar

Since flanging, like phase-shifting, doesn't alter the pitch or rhythm of the bass, it can be a useful effect on bass.

Using a flanger pedal on bass can add another dimension. The swirling, in-and-out sound can sound very dreamlike.

Once again, here's my bassline without a flanger:

 

And here is the same bassline with flanging:

 

Examples of Flanging on Bass

The O'Jays - For the Love of Money

Anthony Jackson's bassline on For the Love of Money is possibly the most well-known flanging bass example.

Yes - Tempus Fugit

After a few seconds you can really hear the flange effect kick in on Chris Squire's bassline in Tempus Fugit. It gives the entire tune a giant swirling sound.

Tool - Forty Six & 2

One more example just for you Tool fans! Listen to the jet-like swoosh sound on Justin Chancellor's bassline to Forty Six & 2. It really adds an other-worldliness to the song.

Bass Flanger Settings

Settings for the flanger effect are fairly simple:

Speed or Rate – the frequency of, or how fast, the LFO is modulating the delay time. (Usually in Hz.)

Amount or Depth – the amount of delay used.

Feedback – Some flangers may take the flanged sound and run it back through itself compounding the effect.

Use your ears and good taste to find the sound you want.

Flanger Summary

A flanger is a fun effect for bass. It's one of those special effects you might use every once in a while. If it fits the song, use it. Just don't over-do it or it won't be “special” anymore.

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