Study Hall

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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.

4. To move a track further back in the mix. While panning takes you from left to right in the stereo spectrum, reverb will take you from front to rear.

An easy way to understand how this works is to picture a band on stage. If you want the singer to sound like he’s in front of the drum kit, you would add some reverb to the kit. If you wanted the horn section to sound like it was placed behind the kit, you’d had more reverb.

If you wanted the singer to sound like he’s in between the drums and the horns, you’d leave the drums dry and add a touch of reverb to the vocal, but less than the horns.

If we were going to get more sophisticated with this kind of layering, we’d use different reverbs for each of the instruments and tailor the parameters to best fit the sound we’re going after.

Timing A Reverb To The Track

One of the secrets of hit making engineers is that they time the reverb to the track. That means timing both the pre-delay and the decay so it breathes with the pulse of the track. Here’s how it’s done.

The decay of a reverb is timed to the track by triggering it off of a snare hit and adjusting the decay parameter so that the decay just dies by the next snare hit. The idea is to make the decay “breathe” with the track.

Exercise Pod – Timing Reverb Decay

Before you begin any of the exercises in this chapter, be sure to have two reverbs with the sends and returns already set up. Set one reverb to “Room” (we’ll call it Reverb #1) and the other to “Hall” (Reverb #2). Refer to your DAW or console manual on how to do this.

E8.1: Solo the snare drum and the reverb returns (or put them into Solo Safe – refer to you DAW or console manual on how to do this). Be sure that the Dry/Wet control is set to 100% wet, and the return levels are set at about -10.

A) Raise the level of the send to the Room reverb until the reverb can be clearly heard. Does the snare sound distant? Does it sound bigger than before?

B) Adjust the Decay parameter until the reverb dies out before the next snare hit of the song. Does the snare sound clearer?

C) Mute the send to the Room reverb and raise the level to the Hall reverb. Does the snare sound distant? Does it sound bigger than before? Does it sound bigger than the Room reverb?

D) Adjust the Decay parameter until the reverb dies out before the next snare hit of the song. Does the snare sound clearer? Does it sound bigger?

E) Adjust the Decay parameter until the reverb dies out before the 2nd next snare hit after the initial hit. Does the snare sound clearer? Does it sound bigger?

You can get more info on The Audio Mixing Bootcamp here. There’s also a video version of the book available on Lynda.com.

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