Learning how to use reverb is an important step in being able to produce your own music. Reverb helps to add extra depth and space to your mixes and productions, and has become an essential studio tool.
Here are some useful hints and tips that you can follow to get started:
- You probably don’t need to add as much reverb as you think you do. Less is often more!
- Too much reverb on any single sound can make it appear distant.
- Too much reverb across too many tracks will take up too much room across the whole mix – the mix won’t be able to breathe.
- Use many different reverbs subtly, instead of one reverb over everything.
- Busy or fast music works best with shorter reverb settings.
- Slower, less complicated music benefits from longer and bigger reverb.
- Don’t add reverb to any bass sounds (or the kick drum) or any keyboard pad sounds.
- Use a hi-pass filter on the reverb to remove the lower frequencies, which leaves more room for your bass across your whole mix.
- To get the reverb to blend in with the rest of your tracks, use a lo-pass filter on the reverb to remove higher frequencies.
- Shorter reverb times can cause the sound to appear closer to you, while longer times can create a feeling of distance, pushing a vocal or instrument further back in the mix.
- When mixing, bring your reverb volume up until you just start hearing it, and then lower it slightly. You don’t want the reverb in the song to be too noticeable, it works better when it’s subtle.
- If the patch or plugin has a dry/wet mix, make sure it’s set to 100% wet, as you only want the ‘wet’ reverb (the effect) to be returned to the mixing board, and none of the ‘dry’ signal (the original unaffected sound).
How to Use Reverb on Your Mixer
In the studio, reverb is usually arranged using the send/return method, where the main signal is sent to the reverb unit or plugin (such as reverb VST or RTAS plugins) via an aux send on the input channel, and the effected sound is returned to a mono channel or a pair of stereo channels on the mixing board.
- For fast and busy rock music with overdriven guitars, use little amounts of short and bright reverbs.
- If you have a slow guitar solo, a longer reverb can add extra depth to it.
- Reverb can be added alongside delays and other effects to create stranger sounds.
- If you record the guitar with one mic, use a stereo reverb setting to widen the sound.
- Depending on the style of the music, you can use short, bright reverbs or longer, softer reverbs.
- Reverbs with lots of early reflections but short reverb times can give an extra boost to the sound of a vocal.
- You can treat vocals similarly to guitars – slower, ballad-type songs have the space to use longer and softer reverbs (you can make the reverb softer by using a lo-pass filter to remove some of the higher frequencies). Busier and faster songs work better with short and bright (more high frequencies) reverb.
- Use a different audio reverb on backing vocals, and have the reverb level higher to make these vocals appear further back when compared to the main vocal.
- For main vocals, use a short and bright reverb and keep the reverb levels quite low, as you want this track to sound clear and up-front in the mix.
Discovering how to use reverb in your mixes can take a lot of time and practice – I think it’s one of the most important tools you have in your studio to make your tracks and productions sound professional. Like most things involved with production, there aren’t really any concrete rules that you have to follow, so don’t be afraid to experiment, and take the time to try out different settings on your reverb units.