Your Home Studio Dot Com
Reverb—The Big Daddy of All Effects
Reverb is the one effect that is either used too little or way too much in most amateur recordings. Knowing exactly how much and what type of reverb to use is something that requires a lot of hands on experimenting and experience to master. I’ll detail what reverb is, what type of reverb to use in what situation and how to know when you’ve crossed the line.
Firstly, what is reverb? In it’s simplest form, it is the echoing you hear when you sing, speak or play an instrument in an enclosed space. If you are in a room with no other objects, you will get a single distinct echo from the sound bouncing off the walls. When you start adding objects into the room, the sound will bounce off the objects as well and you get lots of smaller echoes. Since most recording is done in somewhat anechoic environments, reverb simulates the interaction of the sound source with an imaginary room, objects, etc to create the auditory illusion of space. It’s basically a special purpose delay effect. Back in the days before some engineer had invented a reverb effect, studios had echo chambers, which were rooms specially dedicated and tuned to produce an echo effect. The music was routed to that room and the echoes produced were added to the recording. The echo chamber used by the Beatles was on the roof of Abbey Road studios and they used to pop up there for a quick “smoke”.
How do you determine what type of reverb to use? In order to do that, you have to know what types there are. The following is a list of different types of reverb with the corresponding audio.
1) Plate—often used on lead vocals
2) Small Room—simulation of a small room with no sound treatment
3) Large Room—simulation of a large room with no sound treatment
4) Concert Hall—simulation of a concert hall with sound treatment
5) Stadium Echo—simulation of a stadium
6) Taj Mahal—simulation of a B-I-I-I-I-G space
7) Slap Back—really more of a delay than reverb
To use reverb properly, you have to consider all the instruments and where you want them to be in the sonic space you are creating. Do want the listener to feel as if they are on stage with the band or in the audience? Typically, the amount of reverb added to the track will isolate the instrument or performer in the space you want them to occupy. If you want the drums in the back, they get more reverb. The lead singer would get very little and so on. Also, don’t add a reverb to each track. Have them go to an auxiliary send that has the reverb you want and control the amount of reverb by the amount of the original track you send to the reverb effect. If you can, use the pre-fader option. The only exceptions to this would be the bass—no reverb, and the lead vocal which you could use a plate, slap back or just a delay on. (check out last months article on Phase shifting and delay)
Controls on reverbs vary from a simple mix control that varies the amount of reverb versus the original track to room size, type of walls ( wood, brick, tile, etc), decay time (how long it takes for the reverb to die out), pre-delay time ( the amount of time before the delay kicks in), high frequency cut, low cut, etc. There are even settings for reverse reverb which has the reverb effect before the original sound. With a little imagination, you can use reverb as an effect in the truest sense of the word by combining it with other effects. Try this one one for size. It’s a reverb with an infinite decay that fed into a phase shifter that then goes into a triggered wah.