Things you should know, Tips, Tricks and Techniques of Using Reverb in a Mix
- Reverb makes things sounds more natural, as every sound we hear has some form of reverb on it, however; there is a line and it can easily be crossed. Too much reverb can easily clutter your mix.
- Pay attention to balancing the length of the reverb tail and the amount of reverb you apply.
- Experiment with stacking different reverbs that have different decay settings, sometimes using a couple subtly different reverbs can give better finishes that using one.
- Reverb does NOT fix poorly recorded material nor can it fix mistakes in a live performance.
- Use reverb sends! Seriously if you are not using reverb sends then you should be. By doing this you can control how much processed signal gets mixed with the original signal. Another advantageous thing about using reverb as a send is that you can use one reverb plugin across many channels (saves CPU) and also process that reverb further, for example EQing out the low end so the low end of the instruments you are sending the verb to are not affected. This is a great way of ensuring the low end does not get to muddy. But if you low cut after a reverb on an insert then you are cutting out your original source sound.
- Of course reverbs can also be used as inserts. I like to use plate reverbs on my snares and claps. I generally find stock reverbs are great for saving CPU and I use them on smaller sounds such as percussions or little vocal cuts.
- Use a reverb with a slow decay and long tail to create cool reverb builds. It is useful to use this as sends and EQ out the bottom end to prevent mud building up. Send the reverb to the instrument you want to build up into space and automate the dry/wet knob on your send. This will result in your instrument becoming swamped in reverb and creates a really nice build up effect. Experiment with different instruments. I even sometimes do this on hats or top lines to create tension.
- Use reverb on kicks for ‘impact’ effects. Great when going into a breakdown or on a big melody drop. You will want a nice long decay on your reverb.
- Reverse Reverb - perhaps the most commonly used reverb effect. You can use this technique on almost anything, vocals, synths, pads you name it! Here is a simple breakdown of how it is acheived:
2. Make a copy of it and drop it onto a spare channel.
3. Set up a reverb plugin on the insert of that channel and ensure the reverb has a long decay, I also like to set my pre delay to zero. You can experiment with the other parameters.
4. Bounce it down to audio.
5. Insert the audio back in and reverse it.
6. Tweak the position of the audio so that it rises up into the original audio file. In this case you will have the reverb tail build up into the ‘HEY!’ vocal.
7. You can also experiment with reversing signals before exporting, honestly try a few variations and settings, some stuff you come up with sounds amazing! Pianos sound really nice!
- Delay units can be used to acheive similar results to reverbs.
- Reverb creates the illusion of space. If you want to maintain a specific stereo placement for one or more than one sound in a mix you should consider using a mono reverb effect. Doing this enables you to pan the reverb to the position of the original dry sound or pan it to wherever you want it in the stereo field.
- Be sparing with reverb when using them on vocals. Yes they can make them sound great but they can also push them back in the mix rather than allowing them to take the forefront, usually where you want vocals to be. Pre delay values of around 60 - 100ms can usually help counter this.
- Early reflections help reinforce the dry sound, great to know when working with vocals.
- Spring reverbs are great on things like guitars and sometimes small percussions. I generally do not use these on drums.
- Plate reverbs are pretty good to use on vocals and snares. Try messing with the pre delays for good effects. I get lazy and have set templates ready to go for my snare channel, always with a plate reverb.
- Hall reverbs are also good for vocals to make them big and wide. Use halls on big synths and pads aswell, that big wide space is great on these kind of things. Hall reverbs are hugely versatile.
- Chambers I rarely use, however; you can make your drums sound quite ‘live’ by using chambers if that is the sound you are after.
- Reverb is arguably the most important effect when it comes to mixing down your music, therefore; invest some money on buying some good quality plugins. Why settle for basic ones where it makes your track sound like you are listening to it in the bathroom of a cheap motel? Buy some quality plugins guys! I already stated a couple of my favourites but there are plenty out there.
- Gating can be used very creatively when it comes to reverbs.Gates can quite easily chop off the tails of longer reverbs.
- Be very careful when adding reverb to bass! If you are the sort who adds reverb to bass of course. (trust me sometimes the artist purposly does this!). If you are going to add reverb to your bass then do not make it a long one otherwise face a huge pile of mud.
- Do not believe those who preach that reverb can’t be added to a kickdrum. You very well can add reverb to a kick, but reach for that EQ and ensure it does not effect the low frequencies. Or maybe you want them low frequencies soaked in the reverb? Experiment guys, there are no rules. If it sounds good it is good, but remember if it sounds bad, it is bad.
- Experiment with using completely washed out signals that are drowned in reverb. Set these really low in the mix. A good example of this is on vocals, sit a really low volume washed out signal in the mix and listen how it creates ambiance and atmosphere in the track. Get creative and use tremolo or panning automations on this signal to really create atmosphere in your background. Trust me the background of your tracks are very important for keeping the ear interested.
- Patch your effect processor to a gate and sidechain your sound source to that gate. Doing this ensures the gate opens and lets the reverb trough. You can have your reverb set up on a send also. An example of how this works would be with vocals: the gate opens and lets the reverb out when the singer is singing but suddenly cuts as soon as the level dips below whatever threshold you set on your gate. This can work wonders on synth lines as well. Think of that sucking effect you hear on many big trance tracks, refer to ‘Sun & Moon’ by Above and Beyond.
- Panning different mono reverbs in your mix applies interesting variation.
- Try using different types of reverbs on one sound, for example both a plate and a chamber on one sound but do not over do it as you can also make it sound awful.
- Set up a ambient short reverb in a send channel and try sending all your hats and percussions to it. Sometimes this gives them a really nice feel as they all sound like they are ‘in the same room’.
- Alternatively you can process hats and percussions separately. This is great for pushing certain things back in the mix or bringing others forward.
- Try compressing your reverb returns, if done right this can really thicken them up.
- Shorter Pre Delay times mean less of an ‘echo’. Pre delay is just the time it takes before the reverb starts working.
- Rolling each end of the frequency spectrum on instrumentl reverbs is a great way to clean them up.
- Rolling off the low end and making some mid range ‘scoops’ on the reverb send EQ is a great way to tighten vocals. Use this scoop around 2kHz and roll off the low frequencies on the EQ after the reverb send also. Notice how your vocals become a lot more clear than just leaving the reverb as is.