What is flanger? What is flange? Are flanger and flange the same thing?
Flanger is a strange word, and it also produces a strange sound.
But it is highly popular – especially among electric guitarists and music producers.
In this guide, we define flanger, what flanger is, and where flanger is used.
We also go through the difference between flanger, phaser, and chorus.
You might have heard the word and are wondering what flanger is, or are looking to find out how to use a flanger.
Whichever it is, by the end of this guide you will know everything you need to know about flanger effects.
What Is Flanger?
In short: flanger – also called flange and flanging – is an audio effect used in music, specifically in live music performances as well as music production.
As well as the effect itself, flanger refers to any effects unit (hardware or software) that is used to produce flange effects.
Flanger is produced by taking two identical audio signals, such as a guitar recording, and playing them at the same time (in sync), but with one signal being slightly delayed than the other by up to 20 milliseconds.
As a direct result, the two audio signals blend and slightly phase in and out of one another, producing a unique “sweeping” effect that can be sped up, slowed down and manipulated in various other ways depending on the effects unit.
Les Paul, the man behind the iconic Gibson Les Paul guitar, is thought to have “invented” flanging during the 1940s and 1950s.
Flange is used by music producers and DJs as hardware units and software effects, as well as electric guitarists, who would typically use flanger in the form of a guitar effects pedal (FX pedal).
What Does Flanger Sound Like?
The flange sound effect can be described as a “swooshing”, “sweeping” noise, as if the sound is being heard through a drainpipe.
Flanger is also frequently compared to the sound of a jet plane in flight.
Flanger is one of the most recognizable sound effects in music.
Despite this, flanger is not widely used in popular music.
To give an example, one of the most popular uses of flanger can be heard in the song “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, in which is it applied to the cymbals throughout the duration of the track (most notable from the 7-minute mark).
In modern music, flanger is used to a subtle degree, or as a short live performance effect by DJs.
Most commonly, flanger is used as a guitar pedal with electric guitars, for which it is most famous.
Why Is It Called A Flanger?
Why is flanger called flanger?
We know – flanger (even flanging), is a strange word.
As a music effect, it does not bear any relation to the word flange, used to describe the rim that protects the wheels on rail transportation.
While some people in the music industry surmise that it was named flanger due to the “swooshing” sound effect that flanger produces, the term flanger is actually accredited to John Lennon of the Beatles.
John Lennon is said (by the Beatles’ producer George Martin) to have produced the flange effect by chance when experimenting with a tape reel during recording, subsequently naming it “flanging”.
What Does A Flange Pedal Do?
Flange pedals refer to guitar flanger pedals, used by electric guitarists to produce flanging effects.
Flanger guitar pedals produce the same effect as any other flanger effects unit or flanger software plugin, by mixing two audio signals slightly out of sync from one another.
Flanger pedals also offer various controls (physical knobs or dials), that can alter different flange audio processes, such as the delay time, speed (rate), depth, regeneration, and stereo width.
These can be increased or decreased to produce different flanging effects.
How Do I Use Flanger Pedal?
To use a flanger effects pedal for the guitar, you will first need an electric guitar and a guitar amplifier.
Setting up the flanger pedal is as simple as plugging your guitar into the flanger pedal via the input (usually displayed), before connecting the flanger pedal to your amp via the output side of the guitar pedal.
Electric guitars use ¼-inch jack cables/ leads. These guitar cables are the same as cables labeled as 6.35-mm.
Turn on your guitar amp, with all volume knobs turned up (on the amp, as well as on the electric guitar).
Make sure the bypass is off on the flanger pedal, which acts as a gate for whether the signal is being processed through the pedal or not.
From here, simply experiment with the knobs/dials on the pedal to achieve the desired flanging effect.
What Is The Difference Between Phaser And Flanger?
Phaser is often confused with flanger due to the similar sounds that these effects can produce.
The difference between phaser and flanger, however, is that phaser works by manipulating the wavelength to feature a series of peaks.
This means that the effect is created due to a frequency change, as opposed to a time change (delay) used in flanger.
Phaser is similar to flanger, but with a more natural-sounding effect that does not feature the “swooshing” jet plane-like sound of flange.
Phaser is another popular effect used for drums as well as guitars, the latter using a guitar pedal.
What Is The Difference Between Chorus And Flanger?
Just like phaser, chorus is often confused with flanger, due to the similar sound effect that is produced.
While the two effects are similar (including the similarity between chorus and phaser), the chorus is differentiated by using longer delay times used to produce modulation.
The result is a “thicker”, more harmonious audio effect that, as its name suggests, sounds like more than one instrument being played – or more than one singer singing – in unison.
Chorus is the most popular of these three effects (chorus, flanger, and phaser), widely used on guitar and vocal tracks to make them sound thicker (more polyphonic) and wider in terms of stereo width.
To conclude, flanger is a modulating audio effect that produces a whooshing, sweeping sound by playing two identical sounds together but slightly out of time.
Flanger is used in music production as well as live performances by guitarists and DJs.
Flanger is also commonly called flange, as well as flanging.
The most popular flange effects units are guitar pedals, referred to as flanger pedals, used with electric guitars. Flanger, phaser, and chorus are often mistaken for another, despite being different effects.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.