Reverb can be a tricky thing to use in your mixes. It’s one of those effects that can add a lot of depth and character to your sound, but it can also easily make your mix sound muddy or cluttered.
In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about using reverb in your mixes! We’ll discuss what reverb is, how it works, and how to use it effectively.
After reading this guide, you’ll be able to create richer, more immersive mixes with ease!
What is reverb, and how does it work?
Reverb in mixing is an audio effect that creates a sense of space and depth in your mix. It does this by simulating the sound of reflections off walls, ceilings, and other surfaces in a room or environment.
Reverb can make a sound seem bigger or smaller, brighter or darker, and more or less sustained. It can also make it sound like it’s coming from a different direction. Cool, right?
Reverb is something that’s created naturally in any room or environment, but when you record and mix music, it can be difficult to capture it properly.
That’s why reverb plugins and devices exist – they allow us to create authentic-sounding reverb without the need for a physical space!
The Different Types of Reverbs
Reverbs can be broken down into a few different categories: chambers, plates, springs, digital algorithmic processors, and digital convolution processors.
The Chambers are the earliest and the most popular type of reverb, created by sending signals to speakers in an unused room and then capturing what’s reflected with mics.
The first step is to send a signal to the speaker, which will create sound waves that bounce around the room. These sound waves will eventually hit the walls, floor, and ceiling and reflect back toward the speaker.
The second step is to capture these reflected sound waves with microphones. This can be done by placing the microphones in different positions around the room or by using multiple microphones to capture a more complete picture of the reflections.
By controlling the timing and level of the signal sent to the speaker and by monitoring the reflections with microphones, it’s possible to create a reverb that simulates different types of rooms and spaces.
Plates and springs
In the early days of electromechanical reverbs, plates and springs were the two most commonly used technologies.
The audio signal would be used to set off vibrations in a metal plate or spring, and then these reflections would be captured using pickups.
These reverbs were widely used during the 1960s and 1970s, and they are still prized by many engineers for their unique sonic character.
Plate reverbs tend to have a warm, resonant sound, while spring reverbs tend to be brighter and more metallic sounding.
Today, digital reverbs can replicate the sound of both plate and spring reverbs, but many engineers still prefer the sound of the real thing.
Digital algorithmic processors
They are a type of reverb that rose to prominence during the 1980s. Because the reverb reflections are created using mathematical models, the user has a lot of control over them.
This allows for a great deal of flexibility when shaping the sound of the reverb, which can be particularly useful for creating special effects.
Digital processors are also generally very good at emulating different types of acoustic spaces, which can be helpful if you want to create a particular ambiance.
However, one downside of digital processors is that they can sometimes produce a harsh or artificial-sounding echo.
Overall, though, digital processors offer a lot of advantages and have had a major impact on the sound of popular music.
Digital convolution processors
Convolution processors are a type of digital signal processor that is used to simulate the acoustics of real-world spaces.
By recording the impulse response of a space, they can recreate the unique reverberation characteristics of that space. This allows for a more realistic reverb simulation than what can be achieved with artificial reverberators.
In addition, convolution processors give you the ability to tweak the sound of the simulated space to taste. This way, you can create a custom reverberation that is exactly what you need for your recording.
Whether you’re looking for a realistic simulation of an acoustic space or a custom soundscape, convolution processors are an essential tool for any professional recording engineer.
Reverb Parameters Explained
Once you’ve selected the type of reverb that you want to use, it’s time to dial in the parameters. Reverbs typically have several different adjustable parameters, such as decay time, pre-delay, mix, and diffusion.
The first parameter you’ll want to adjust is the reverb type. This determines the type of reverb effect that will be applied. Some common types are plate, hall, and room.
The material parameter allows you to adjust the material of the simulated space. This can range from a bright metal surface to a more absorbent material like wood or carpet.
The decay time parameter adjusts how long it takes for the reverb tail to die away. A longer decay time will create a bigger reverb effect while a shorter decay time will produce less reverberation.
The size parameter controls the size of the virtual room. This affects the length of time it takes for reflections to die away, as well as how spacious the reverb sounds.
The decay parameter dictates how long it takes for reflections to dissipate completely. Reverb tails can range from a few milliseconds to several seconds.
The pre-delay parameter sets the distance between the initial sound source and the first early reflections. This affects the perceived size of the room – a longer pre-delay gives the impression of a larger room.
Finally, diffusion (or shape) controls the complexity of the virtual room. A higher diffusion value means more reflections and a more complex soundscape.
The mix parameter determines the wet/dry balance of the reverb. This means you can adjust how much of the reverberated signal you want to blend into the original signal.
However, it’s important to note that all reverb processors are different, and some may have additional parameters or different names for the same concepts.
It’s best to refer to your processor’s manual to get an understanding of how its specific parameters work.
8 Reverb Tips to Use in Your Mixes
Now that you understand the basics of reverb and its parameters, here are 8 practical tips for using reverb in your mixes effectively:
Use EQ on your Reverb
EQing your reverb can help to shape the tone of the effect and make it less noticeable in the mix. Try cutting some low-end frequencies if there is too much rumble or muddiness or high-passing the signal to create a brighter, more airy sound.
Make sure to place your EQ plugin after the reverb in your signal chain and cut or boost specific frequencies to help the reverb fit better in the mix.
Automating reverb settings can help to make your mix more interesting and dynamic.
Try automating the mix parameter to create a more gradual transition from dry to wet or increasing the reverb size during certain sections of the song.
Try panning reverb returns
Reverb can be panned in a variety of ways to create different sonic effects.
One way is to pan the reverb to the same position as the sound it is accompanying. This will help to reinforce the spatial location of the sound clearly.
Another way to use reverb is to leave the main track in the center but automate the reverb bus so that it pans back and forth. This creates the impression of movement.
If you’re mixing lead vocals, try sending vocal tracks into two separate reverbs and pan them hard left and right. This will help to create a larger, more spacious vocal sound while still keeping the main vocal in the center.
Less is more
It’s easy to get carried away with reverb and end up with a muddy mix. In fact, using too much reverb is one of the most common mistakes when mixing.
Also, reverb plugins take up a lot of processing power, so it’s best to limit your use of them.
Time the decay to the tempo
To keep your reverbs clean, time the decay to the tempo of the song. This can be done mathematically by finding the quarter note value in milliseconds, which can be found by dividing 60,000 by tempo.
Or, you can use an instrument like a snare to trigger the reverb so that it “breathes” with the track.
The triggering approach gives the reverb more of a “human” feel and can make the mix sound more dynamic. Just make sure the decay of the reverb fades out completely before the next snare hits.
Anyone who has ever tried to record a song knows that one of the biggest challenges is getting the vocals to sound just right in a mix. One way to ensure that your vocals sound clear and full is to use a compressor after your reverb on its return.
Have the main vocal track inserted in the compressor’s sidechain so that when the vocalist is singing, the compressor will turn down the reverb. This will help to keep your mix from being too washy while still keeping a nice ambiance.
Tweak pre-delay settings
Pre-delay is the amount of time that elapses between the initial dry signal and the onset of the reverberant field. By adjusting the pre-delay, you can create a wide range of reverb sounds, from small rooms to vast halls.
Try to match pre-delay times with the size of the space you’re trying to emulate.
For example, a smaller room might have a pre-delay of 0-10 ms, while a larger space, like a hall or church, might have a pre-delay of 20 ms or more. However, these ranges are relative to tempo, pace, and density, so it’s always best to adjust the pre-delay in the context of the whole mix rather than solo.
By experimenting with different pre-delay settings, you can craft unique reverb sounds that will take your music to new sonic depths.
Know when to use mono and stereo
Mono reverb takes less space in the mix and works great for tight sounds like snare drums and toms. Stereo reverbs work best for vocals, harmonies, synths, and anything you want to be wide and open.
It’s not a hard rule, though. If it sounds good, it is good!
Hope this article has given you some ideas on how to use reverb in your mixes. The key is to experiment and find the right balance that works for your mix.
Remember that it’s always best to adjust the effect in the context of the whole mix, and don’t be afraid to try something new!