What is phase?
I would refer to this as “Time” or “Sync” for example if something is out of phase it would
mean that it is out of time and vice versa. Normally when using this term in music production we are talking about milliseconds. Here is a diagram using two saw waves (1 blue & 1 red) to illustrate this:
Real life example:
Sometimes when mixing two tracks together the kick drum can almost completely disappear, this is because they are cancelling each other out like in Fg.2 (reverse polarity). An example of tracks in phase would be when you mix tracks and get a harsh popping kick, this is because the tracks are “In phase” Fg.1. To get them to “gel” you have to shift the timing slightly so that tracks are slightly “out of phase” fg.3. This is the same situation when shifting samples in music production.
You can use phase to create really wide sounds. Firstly duplicate your initial sound, pan one left and one right then detune and/or shift one of the samples a few milliseconds left or right. When doing this with Saw waves you will get a wide fat saw, follow these steps many times and you will get a “SuperSaw”. This trick also works great on vocals, guitars and other waveforms such as squares. Another term for this is “Unison” which is often found on synths.
Like the “In Polarity” illustration (Fg.1) you can line up samples in phase to get a punchy
result. An example is when I layer two clap/snare samples together. I always zoom in to both waveforms and shift one of them to try and match the peak shapes or until it sounds great. You can either listen out for when it sounds punchy or you can shift it until it sounds flat and then flip the polarity, both will result in a punchy sound. As a habit always try reversing the polarity of your sounds to see if it improves the sound, especially on percussive sounds.
I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Many thanks for reading!