Tag Archives: reverb

Thoughts on Reverb

Specifically in rock music, ambience has become a major player in the distinction between sub genres. It can make or break the production difference between indie-twee-pop and surf-chill-wave. A trashy spring reverb on guitar can imply one sub genre, where that same spring generously applied to vocals creates a whole new production direction.
There is a big difference between using reverbs and ambience in a creative manner and using them in an abusive and misguided manner. In home recordings I find that this is a major giveaway of a poor production aesthetic. Even with minimal tools in a bedroom studio, it is possible to create ambient effects that are tasteful and distinct. Often it is more about how the engineer uses the ambience than the ambience itself.
Reverb is frequently described as a mechanism to move and instrument up front or in the distance within a mix. Although on a rudimentary level this may be the case, more reverb on an instrument does not necessarily mean that the instrument is set back further in the mix. Depending upon the settings of the reverb, more reverb may just result in….. more reverb.
In a real room, when an instrument is perceived as far away it has more room reflections associated with it (reverb) but those reflections are more complex and often have a diminished high end content. The depth on an instrument is not just defined by the amount of reverb but the complexity of the reflections and the EQ of said reflections. In home productions I find that this is not taken in to consideration when setting an instrument within reverb. If the goal is to create an ambience that is lifelike, one must consider the components that make up the reverb, not just the amount of reverb.
In other productions where realness is not the goal but lots of reverb is, I find a different problem occurs. The recordist wants lots of reverb like records that they love, but their reverb muddies the mix and sounds cheap or less authentic than desired. Usually, I find this problem is not due to inadequate equipment but from a lack of EQ within reverb sends and returns.
A good starting point with reverb sends is to consider what part of the instrument being sent really needs reverb. A lead vocal that needs a crazy spring reverb may only need 3khz to be sent to the reverb. This way, the reverb can do more to the intended frequencies without meddling with frequencies that are needed for other instruments or other parts of the vocal. Likewise an EQ on the return of the reverb should be considered to shape the effectiveness of the reverb. For example the high end of a long plate reverb may sound excessive in sparse verses, but shines through nicely in a loud bombastic chorus.

EMT 140 Plate Reverb. Not pretty looking ,but pretty sounding.

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