When I say reverb what comes to mind? How about delay?
For a lot of people who are just starting out with recording and mixing, they may think that reverb is that awesome plug-in you use to make everything sound like it’s in a cathedral. And when they think of delay you may think of The Edge from U2.
The truth is, there is SO MUCH you can do with reverb and delay to enhance your mixes, and the most effective ways are usually the most subtle. I don’t use huge cathedrals and dotted eighth-note delays all the time, but I do use both reverb and delay plugins on almost every mix I do.
How do you pick between the two?
Too Much Of A Good Thing
I’ve said this before, one of the sure signs of an amateur mix is too much reverb. The same is true for delay, or really any effect. You get so excited about this new plugin, and it sounds SO good in your ears that you don’t realize that your entire rock mix is drowning in a huge hall reverb.
Subtlety is your friend. A good rule of thumb for dealing with reverb and delay? If it’s obviously there, you probably used too much. Of course you want people to hear it, but you don’t want it to be so loud that it’s distracting. It can be a tough balance.
There are times where a big huge delay or reverb is perfectly appropriate, but for the most part you want to keep it simple, keep it subtle.
Reach For Reverb First
If you’re debating whether to use reverb or delay in your mix, reach for the reverb first. And don’t go crazy with a bunch of different reverbs. You probably don’t need a separate reverb for drums, vocals, guitars, and keys.
Here’s what I do. I’ll set up a single “Large Room”-style reverb and I’ll sometimes set up a second reverb for my drums (depending on how much I like the sound of the room mics).
The job of the drum reverb is to be my room sound. Room mics sometimes don’t cut it. Or maybe you record drums in a small room, but you want them to sound like they were recorded in a bigger room. That’s how I use reverb for drums. I want it to sound like a pair of room mics in a nice big studio. So I send a small amount of the snare, toms, and sometimes the overheads to a dedicated drum reverb. The same rule applies. If the reverb is obvious, I turn it down.