From the thick, warbling CS-80 leads of Vangelis through to the Boards of Canada’s melancholic hooks, pitch-drifting synths are part and parcel of electronic music. The effect can be achieved through unstable analogue oscillators drifting in and out of tune, or via a broken tape machine slowing down and speeding up (or both!).
Tape instability can be emulated with any number of reel-to-reel tape emulator plugins, but here we’re going to do it using Logic Pro’s bundled Tape Delay effect. It’s primarily designed for the creation of retro echoes, of course, but it can also impart analogue tape-style flavour to signals in a flash.
Step 1: We’ll call up an instance of Logic Pro’s Tape Delay over a digital-sounding pad. First, you’ll want to disable the plugin’s delay repeats: set Delay Time to an unsynced 0ms and decrease Feedback to 0%. Now pull the Dry slider down to 0% and increase Wet so that you only hear the delay signal.
Step 2: Dial in Tape Delay’s pitch-wobbling LFO and Flutter controls to make any sound appear as though it’s being played back on a broken, warping tape machine. For our pad, we keep the LFO’s Rate fairly slow and increase Smooth for analogue warble and pitch drift. We’ve heavily exaggerated the effect so you can hear what it’s doing.
Step 3: To further mimic the effect of tape, use Tape Delay’s low- and high-pass filters to restrict the signal between 100Hz and 4kHz. Finally, a layer of noise from iZotope Vinyl, mixed in via another channel, adds a final retro touch.