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In The Studio: Timing The Reverb Delay To The Track

Like with other aspects to mixing, the use of reverb is frequently either overlooked or misunderstood.

My book, The Audio Mixing Bootcamp, differs from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook in that it contains exercises that take you through the various aspects of mixes.

One exercise might take you in a direction that intentionally sounds bad in order for you to understand why a particular action isn’t done much, while others will give you an idea of how why some other mixing actions are frequently used.

Here’s an excerpt from the Adding Reverb chapter, along with a typical exercise.
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Like with other aspects to mixing, the use of reverb is frequently either overlooked or misunderstood. Reverb is added to a track to create width and depth, but also to dress up an otherwise boring sound. The real secret is how much to use and how to adjust its various parameters.

Before we get into adding and adjusting the reverb in your mix, let’s look at some of the reasons to add reverb first.

When you get right down to it, there are four reasons to add reverb.

1. To make the recorded track sound like it’s in a specific acoustic environment. Many times a track is recorded in an acoustic space that doesn’t fit the song or the final vision of the mixer. You may record in a small dead room but want it to sound like it was in a large studio, a small reflective drum room, or a live and reflective church. Reverb will take you to each of those environments and many more.

2. To add some personality and excitement to a recorded sound. Picture reverb as makeup on a model. She may look rather plain or even only mildly attractive until the makeup makes her gorgeous by covering her blemishes, highlighting her eyes, and accentuating her lips and cheekbones. Reverb does the same thing with some tracks. It can make the blemishes less noticeable, change the texture of the sound itself, and highlight it in a new way.

3. To make a track sound bigger or wider than it really is. Anything that’s recorded in stereo automatically sounds bigger and wider than something recorded in mono, because the natural ambience of the recording environment is captured. In order to keep the track count and data storage requirements down, most instrument or vocal recordings are done in mono. As a result, the space has to be added artificially by reverb. Usually, reverb that has a short decay time (less than one second) will make a track sound bigger.

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