Mixing With Reverb [Producers Guide]
Preserving the smooth vibe of our producer sessions here, we continue to guide you through the aspiring creative process of Mixing. Mixing is the main reason why we are here in the first place right? And if you respect mixing as passionate as we do, then you know that using reverb, one of the most common effects out there, you must stay on that same ardent goal.
Now, before we start the guidance, let`s quick-touch on that basic stuff about reverb. Most basic principles include terms like depth and space. But what a reverb should actually do is bring that emotional feel that makes a song dope. That final touch of a slick energy that fills the gaps and brings the coherent dance of different instruments together. Here`s what a science says.
Reverb – The Main Definition
In the most defined sentence, Reverb (short from reverberation) is characterized as an electronically produced echo effect. So, in human language it`s nothing more than a simple (or not so) echo. In music production, especially when it comes down to Mixing, Reverb has many roles. And is so much more than a simple-worded definition.
This is mostly because an Echo and a Reverb are like two completely different things in producer mind. And in audio production at all. An Echo is a bounced-back feed f the original sound, whether it is your voice (shouting through a cave-like room) or any other resonating instrument.
A Reverb has that same bounces occurring so much faster, like lesser that a second repetitions that bring a smooth layer to our Mixes. It`s not so much hearable as it is something you feel. Here comes some more understandable science.
The Reverb Body
Any type of a Reverb effect has these parts:
- Early Reflections
- The Body
- Reverb Tail or Decay
Depending on whether you program it to act right away or with a slight or significant latency, there`s also a fourth part called Time Delay.
Early Reflections are basically the first reflections of an echoing sound. The first wave forms that are reflecting of a wall or any type of subject on their way. Their time of appearance (since we are working on setting a virtual reflections in our DAWs) is anywhere from 1 to 30 milliseconds.
After those 30 millisecs, starts the body of the Reverb. Depending on your producer taste and needs, the body length changes.
Reverb Time, or in other words Decay Time in “Mixing With Reverb” is everything that remains after a Reverb drops below around 60dB.
So a Reverb is defined as an amplitude of sound reflection over time.
The advanced and Pro producers are also using another cool feature when Mixing with Reverb. The Pre-Delay function. More on that later.
The Room Size
Now, that`s just how you setup one side of the Reverb. But in Mixing it would be impossible to do any type of control without thinking about the initial room size of the given instrument. Or any instrument at all. This is crucial job for Reverberation.
The Size Of The Room will have the impact on Reverb`s length. Type of the Room or a space the reverb is occurring will define what kind of frequency response you will get out of it.
And that`s where the actual Types Of Reverb come to action. Turn on your DAWs and your Reverb Plugins and follow through.
The Reverb Types
Most common and definite types of Reverb in Mixing are:
Room, Hall and Chamber are all room/space Reverbs. Spring And Plate are more defined by the actual plate material (spring or metal).
Mixing With Reverb
Taking Control Over The Depth
Now let`s learn how to control the depth with a Reverb effect when Mixing your projects. What Reverb should do is put your individual instruments in a specific spot of the mutual space they take in the song.
By choosing the size of your Reverb effect and mixing it with the Instrument`s Volume, you determine should that same instrument stand more to the front or just sit nicely in the back.
Use this features alongside with panning to get the complete picture.
You`ve been probably wondering all along, how much is actually enough? Well, it all depends on a few extra factors you need to apply first. Your trained ears and your learned experience in arranging of the instruments first.
You need to know where is that usual spot each different instrument sits on. Before we give you more, please remember: Never Put A Reverb On A Master Channel. The one thing you don`t want is a muddy mix. Nor too much sharpness. Weird echos are also something you want to be avoiding. With a proper pair of studio monitors (NO HEADPHONES) you can easily master these feels.
Producer Reverb Tips And Tricks
Some useful Tips on applying a Reverb when Mixing are:
- never put Reverb on the kicks and bass
- put more Reverb on Cymbals and Toms then on Snares
- And just a slight Reverb on Vocals, because you want them to be at the front of all the instruments together (we`re talking about the lead vocals of course)
- the number of instruments decides whether to use MONO or STEREO Reverb (use STEREO if you have just a couple of instruments playing together or MONO if there are large-set instruments involved)
- use Pre-Delay with time anywhere from 15 to 75 ms (0-10ms for small-rooms, 10-20ms for medium-sized rooms and over 20ms for big spaces)
- use an EQ to cut off everything below 500Hz and anything above 10k on your Reverb Bus (to keep clarity)
- Reverb should be anywhere but in the frequency range of the instrument it is applied to
- use a Sidechain technique to create a rhythmic Reverb feel, to preserve the frequency response
- use Volume Automation
- try using the Reverse Reverb (ex. snares)
- Gate your Reverbs (ex. on your drums)
- let your guitars and synths sit behind the lead vocal
- base your Reverb on the project`s tempo (shorter Reverbs on faster tempo, longer with slower songs)
- your Springs and Plates should add a character rather than a space to your instrument
- add density with the Diffusion parameter
- Damping allows you to control the Reverberation time of different frequencies (tighten the snare or vocal with short Room Reverb with High Density and less High-Frequency Damping; Conversely, with more High and less Low-Frequency Reverb time you`ll be adding a presence to a dark snare or vocal)
The Reverb Steps You Should Avoid
For the end of this “Mixing With Reverb” chapter, I`m leaving you with some fundamental steps you should be avoiding when using Reverb. Some of them you already learned through this reading. Like putting too much of it, and putting it everywhere on every track. Just don`t.
Like mentioned, never ever use it on your Master track.
Second, do not put a Reverb effect just so you can add any type of depth so the instruments don`t stay dry at any cost. Learn the fundamentals.
Next, do not use many different types of the Reverbs on your individual instruments. Pick three reverb types max. The goal is to create a similar environment for all the instruments, like they are all playing together in one room/space.
A good example is to create a three separate Reverb Buses, one with a Short, a Medium and a Long Reverb. And then find the environment your track needs and every instrument can benefit from. Then apply the rules above and Voilà!
As final thoughts, just remember to keep everything in place as it naturally should be. If it helps, go to as much live events, or listen to as much different tracks and try to single out each instrument. To get that feel or to try to recognize different types of Reverbs.
Also, here is a great video that can help you more on this topic with “Pro Audio Files/Mixing 101” creator Matthew Weiss behind the tutor mic. Keep your You Tube channels filled with as much tutorials as you can and don`t be afraid to return to them couple of times if needed. As long as it can get your mixes to sound as Pro as any others do. Keep the hustle on!