Basic Techniques and Tips for Reverb

Depth is the key to making your mixes sound modern and professional. A good mix is more than just a good recording. It should have a sense of space. So, how do you achieve that?
Two main tools for creating space in your mix are reverb and delay.

In this article, we are going to review the main techniques of using reverb and share a few tips for mixing with reverb.


Creating Depth

One of the main reasons you must learn how to use reverb is to create depth in your mixes. You do this by applying different number and configuration of reverb on different tracks.

The more reverb on the track, it sounds further away from the listener. On the contrary, the less and shorter reverb, the track sounds closer.

Creating Cohesion

You can create cohesion in a mix by sending certain tracks to the same reverb buss within your DAW. This way, you're putting all of the instruments in the same digital space, as if everything was in the same room.

The most popular approach is to use several different reverbs. For example, you might have a shorter plate for the vocal, a room for the drums or guitars, and a large space for the pads. Thus, you'll have three separate spaces which reduces cohesion.

If you want your mixes to sound cohesive, you'll have to put most of the instruments in the same space, making it sound like they are in the same room.

This approach works best for genres that are intended to sound more realistic and natural. This could be jazz, acoustic, classical and rock.

Adding Interest

You can add reverb in different spots, on specific notes or words. Sometimes you'll be using reverb creatively to produce the vibe of the track, and not just to add depth or cohesion


1. Short Decay Times

Using short decay times is key to not overwhelming making your mixes messy.

You can use a lot of reverb in your mixes. This comes down to personal preference. But if you use a lot of reverb in tandem with long decay times it will make your mixes sound very messy.

Use shorter decay times. Your aim should be for the reverb tail to drop off before the next hit or whole note.

2. Use One Plugin

Have a reverb plugin that is your go-to. Learn it, master it, and use it every time you mix. This goes for any type of plugin: compression, EQ, and so forth. But this is even more important with reverb.

There could be quite different configuration and types of reverb. As soon as you start experimenting with different types of reverb and different plugins, you will not get the desired experience as every time you'll have to start from the beginning.

Use this tip not to become jack of all trades and master of none.

3. Use a Buss

Make sure to always use your room or main reverb on a buss channel. If you're using a different reverb on every single channel, that's going to use up your CPU very quickly.

Plus, as mentioned earlier, having a single reverb buss (or at most, two or three) helps you to create cohesion in your mixes – because you're sending certain tracks to the same space.

Then, you can configure the space using the send level. If you want to make something sound further away, you can increase the reverb; or, if you want to make something sound closer, you can use less.

By sending each channel with varying amounts of reverb to a single buss, it becomes a lot easier to create depth while maintaining cohesion.

Make sure that "Dry/Wet" or "Mix" knobs are at 100%. Otherwise, the original sound will be accompanied by the duplicate on top of the reverb. This complicates a lot the setting of signal levels.
4. The Less the Better

Always use less reverb than you think is necessary. Generally, reverb should have a more subconscious psycho-acoustic effect than an obvious audible effect.

Of course, there are situations where you're using reverb as a creative effect. In this case, adjust the effect to your liking. However, if you're just using a general room reverb on your mix to add depth, then the effect should be kept subtle.

5. Use Subtle Reverb On Your Delay Sends

This is another reason to use effects on busses.

In some cases, you might use delay instead of reverb to add space. However, "bare" delay may sound unnatural sitting back in the mix.

The best solution is to apply a bit of reverb on the track with delay.

6. Use Pre-Delay

Use pre-delay if you're adding reverb to something that you want to stay up front in the mix.

For example, try using a 60ms pre-delay on a vocal. That will move the reverb back a bit, so that the initial attack of the vocal doesn't have any reverb on it.

The effect starts sixty milliseconds later. This is a very small period of time, but since the attack and the onset won't immediately have reverb, this will help it to cut through the mix a bit more.

You can do the same with guitars or anything else where you want to add reverb to create a sense of space, but where you don't necessarily want to put it further away.

7. Experiment With EQ

This is another big reason to use your reverb on the same channel – the option of adding treatment after the reverb. In most cases this is an EQ.

You can cut the bottom end, you can remove some of the mud around the low mids, and you can fix the frequency conflicts between the original sound and its reverb. This can have quite a big impact on how the reverb sits in the mix.

A lot of reverb plugins have EQs built in that you can adjust, but sometimes it's nicer just to load up more flexible EQ after the reverb. You can clearly see what's going on, and it's much easier to control the sound of the reverb.

Hopefully this article will help bring your mixes to a new level. After all, improperly tuned reverb is the first thing that arrests one's attention regarding the mix of inexperienced producers and sound engineers.

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