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How to Recreate Popular Effects by Reversing Audio in Audacity

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You can use Audacity to recreate a few really common and popular effects, such as “rewinding” and that creepy ghostly pre-echo. All you need to do is start with reversed tracks.

“Reverse” Effects

Check out the audio clip below to hear how reverse effects sound.

[creepy.mp3]

The various audio effects are simply applied in reverse, from the end of the audio to the front of it. Doing this live requires good timing and well-tuned equipment because it results in a delay between playing your instrument and hearing it from the amp. Since we’re making audio samples from recordings, things are much easier for us.

Audacity has a “reverse” effect, and when you hit play you’ll hear the track played backwards.

Select what you want to edit, and go to Effect > Reverse.

reverse

This can add a lot to your projects, especially come Halloween.

Backmasking

fwd_to_bkwd-01

You can also use the reverse tool to embed reversed lyrics or phrases and incorporate them into a layered track that’s meant to be played forwards. This is referred to as backmasking and is often used for secret messages in songs. Backwards audio can often sound weird or creepy on its own, but you can enhance this by changing the tempo or adding a sliding time scale/pitch shift.

Rewinding the Tape

change speed

You can create a “rewind” effect by reversing the audio and going to Effect > Change Speed. Use a value of at least 100%. This will change both the tempo and speed, simulating an audio tape (remember those?) being played backwards.

Delay and Reverb

Delay and reverb effects lend a lot towards making the creepy echo-laden ghost-like whispers that plague horror movies. The effect is pretty easy to recreate, too. Reverse the audio, make sure there some silence at the end of the track, and add delay. Here are the settings I used to make the sound at the beginning of the article.

delay

This should give you the shallow echoes that repeat and increase in frequency up to the original sound when played forwards. Next, add some GVerb. Here are the settings I started with.

gverb

You should increase the dry signal level so that the original sound still can be heard, and you can turn the early reflection level down to enhance the “sucking in” effect.

gverb2

Play around with these settings to see what sounds best. Lastly, select your track and reverse it again, so that you can hear it forwards. Haunting!


Reversing tracks can help when trying to find particular sounds and effects. It comes in handy when making vocal samples for Halloween, too. Have a favorite reverse effect? Have some tips to make things sound even more creepy? Share in the comments!

 

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 05/13/11

Comments (4)

  1. Marco

    Coincidentially I tried out reversing audio songs and bits a few days ago. Was hilarious , some had hidden messages.

  2. Santo

    This piece of software has so many features and it is free. I would recommend this for everyone even if they are not an audiophile.

  3. Blarg

    I SEE YOU!

    <333 HTG!!

  4. unfa

    Hey, thanks for the article! I’m an audio/music geek so everything out there about sound (especially digital processing of it) is attracting my attention.

    Nice simple and interesting article :) Gonna try the “rewind” effect :)

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