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Create Better Mixes: The Flanger Tool Explained

March 19, 2024 | by Tero Potila — Explore the transformative power of the flanger effect in music production. Find out how you can use this invaluable mixing tool in your music.

male mixing engineer in front of a studio set up

The flanger effect is an audio processing technique that can add a distinct swirling or swooshing character to your music. 

When you use a flanger, you're blending the original audio signal with its slightly delayed copy. This delay isn't static; it varies over time, which is what creates the characteristic flange sounds. Imagine the sweeping effect of a jet plane passing by—that's the sort of dynamic movement a flanger can impart to an element in a mix.

The flanger effect can be applied in music production through software plugins, rack units, or hardware pedals. The choice between these options depends on your preference and the hardware setup you have in your studio, though the most common way of using a flanger in your mix is through a plugin.

Whether you're playing live or designing sounds in the studio, a flanger can be a powerful tool for transforming guitars, vocals, synths, and more. The key is to understand how this effect interacts with your audio signal to craft the right texture for your track.

Utilizing a flanger creatively opens up a world of sonic possibilities. From subtle undulations to intense, resonant peaks and troughs, the range of achievable sounds is broad. 

You can enhance your music's emotional impact by adjusting parameters like rate, depth, feedback, and when to apply the effect.

Flanger - Sound Effect

Flanger History and Development

When you think of the swirling, jet-like sounds used in classic rock tracks, you're likely thinking of the flanger effect. It turns out the flanger effect is a product of both happy accidents and innovative engineering. 

Early Use and Innovators

The flanger effect was unintentionally discovered by Les Paul when he was experimenting with sound manipulation techniques in the 1940s/50s. 

Studio engineers like Eddie Kramer, who worked with Jimi Hendrix, pioneered its use. You can hear this unique sound in Hendrix's work, which showcases how early innovators harnessed these sonic waves.

Evolution of Flanger from the Studio to Guitar Pedals

The leap from studio effect to guitar pedal was a game-changer. The first dedicated flanger pedal appeared in the 1970s, allowing guitarists to take control of this effect onstage. 

Notable models include the MXR Flanger and Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, often deemed some of the greatest vintage analog flangers.

Boss also contributed significantly with its pedals, like the DA Flanger, helping shape the music of the 80s with its rich, stereo flanging effects.

Technical Aspects of Flanging

Understanding Flanging Effect

Flanging occurs when you mix a dry signal with a copy that is delayed by varying times, typically less than 20 milliseconds. This short delay time is key to achieving the effect's signature sweeping movement across the frequency spectrum. 

The core modulation effects of flanging produce a series of cancellations and reinforcements in sound, known as comb filtering, which is responsible for its distinctive sound.

Signal Processing in Flangers

Signal processing and feedback mechanisms work together to create this unique sound effect. 

Your dry signal remains unaltered, while the modulated signal is generated by delaying the dry signal slightly and then continuously varying the delay time. 

The rate at which this delay time changes can be adjusted using the rate control control. 

The depth control determines the range of delay time modulation, and the mix/blend controls the balance between the dry and modulated signals.

Typically, a true bypass feature in flanger units ensures that your original tone is preserved when the effect is not engaged.

Feedback in Flangers

Feedback in flangers is an essential aspect that contributes to its intensity. 

Negative feedback produces a subtler, more nuanced effect, while positive feedback enhances the resonance, creating more dramatic flanging

Manual controls like the regen (regeneration) knob adjust the intensity of the feedback loop. 

The manual knob allows you to set the position of the delay time over which the LFO modulates, offering precise control over the effect.

Practical Studio Usage and Settings

The flanger effect can add a unique characteristic to your music, combining creative flair with technical settings to achieve the desired sound.

Using a Flanger in Music Production

Using a flanger offers a range of creative opportunities to enhance your tracks. The effect can be applied strategically to add depth, movement, and excitement to various elements within a mix.

You can utilize a flanger on a wide range of instruments, from guitars and synths to vocals and drums. When applied subtly, it can add a sense of space and dimension, making instruments stand out in the mix without overshadowing other elements. 

For example, applying a gentle flanger to a rhythm guitar part can help it cut through the mix and create a more expansive soundstage.

To use flanger effectively in mixing, consider the following techniques:

Instrument Enhancement

You should experiment with applying flanger to individual tracks to enhance their presence in the mix. For instance, applying a touch of flanger to a lead guitar solo can add movement and excitement, making it stand out in the mix.

Stereo Widening

You can widen the stereo image of your mix by applying a flanger with a subtle depth to stereo keyboards or synths. This will create a wider, more immersive sound.


Employ automation to control the flanger effect dynamically throughout the mix. For example, automate the depth or rate of the flanger during transitional sections to create build-ups or breakdowns.


Experiment with layering multiple instances of flanger on different tracks to create complex, evolving textures. Layering a flanger on rhythm and lead guitar tracks can add depth and complexity to the overall guitar sound.

Vocal Effects

Use flanger creatively on vocal tracks to add a unique texture or create vocal effects. Experiment with automating the flanger effect during specific phrases or sections of the song to add interest and variation.

General Tips

Overall, the key to using flanger in mixing music is to experiment and trust your ears. Don't be afraid to try different settings and techniques to find the perfect flanger effect for your mix. 

Keep in mind that its distinctive sound is best used with moderation. 

Applying a flanger effect in the mix can provide a sense of space and movement. It's akin to a chorus effect, which can thicken the sound, but you achieve a more pronounced, swirling effect with a flanger.

Start with a blend of the dry and wet signals. Avoid using the 100% pure effect without any original signal to maintain a more natural and musical tone.

Adjust the manual setting to set the starting point of the sweep in your flanged sound.

Setting Up Your Flanger

Setting up your flanger plugin, effects unit, or pedal can be straightforward with the right approach.

  • Lower Settings: Aim for a lower speed or rate and a lower depth or width setting for a subtle effect. This can give you a light whoosh without overwhelming your mix.

  • Higher Settings: Cranking up the speed and depth will intensify the effect, making it more pronounced and ideal for dramatic sections or solos.

  • Expression Pedal/Foot Switch: Consider an expression pedal or foot switch for real-time control. These allow dynamic manipulation during a performance.

  • Delay Compatibility: Flangers can be paired with a delay effect, whether a plugin or a delay pedal, but be mindful of the signal chain to prevent muddiness. Modulation effects like the flanger typically work best after most other effects, except time-based effects like reverb and delay, which should come last.

Person on couch mixing piano in Soundtrap

Soundtrap has the Flanger effect included in its mixing suite

Popular Guitar Pedal Models and Brands

Classic and Modern Flangers

Classic Flangers:

  • MXR M117R: Known for its expansive range of flanger tones, from subtle to extreme.

  • Electric Mistress: A vintage favorite, widely recognized for its unique swirling harmonic effect.

Modern Flangers:

  • Boss MD-500: A high-performance DSP pedal offering an "ultimate flanger" experience.

  • Alexander Pedals F-13 Neo Flanger: Offers innovative features in a compact pedal.

Selecting the Right Flanger for You

When choosing a flanger, consider the main differences in features:

  • Size & Footprint: Compact pedals like the TC Electronic Vortex Mini Flanger are great if space is tight.

  • Tonal Range: High-end pedals like the Strymon Deco provide a wide array of sonic possibilities, from classic to modern.

  • Budget: Consider affordable models from brands like Behringer if you're looking for a budget-friendly option.

A great flanger can complement your playing style and add dimension to your sound.

Effect Pedal Power Requirements

Most flanger pedals operate on a standard 9-volt battery or an 18-volt adapter for increased headroom. 

Be sure to check your pedal's specifications; some can function with either, while others require a specific voltage. If your pedal supports dual stereo modes, having the correct power setup becomes even more critical to handle the additional output sections without noise or power loss.

  • 9-volt batteries are convenient but might drain quickly with heavy use.

  • 18-volt adapters can offer more headroom, leading to a cleaner sound.

  • Check if your pedal is compatible with multi-power units like a DC brick or a Mini ISO-Brick.

Integration with Pedal Boards

Your pedal board is central to managing all your effects units, and knowing how to integrate your flanger pedal with it can keep things tidy and functional.

  • Utilize the pedal board's power supply to run multiple pedals from a single source.

  • A dedicated output section on the board makes routing to amplifiers or recording interfaces easier.

  • Using a power supply with isolated outputs reduces the chance of introducing noise or hum into your signal chain.


The flanger effect is a testament to historical innovation and modern sonic exploration, and it's a tool you absolutely should learn to utilize in your music productions.

About the author

Tero Potila is a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on

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