Tag Archives: shane o’connor recording

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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A Video Tour Of Studio B @ Skyline

Skyline Recording Studio has recently opened a studio B, perfect for vocal overdubs, guitars or mixing. Check it out!

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First Single from Kickdrum

Kickdrum, a band that I engineered and mixed a single for just posted the first song from their new EP on myspace (recorded by me..) The song is called Acid Song. www.myspace.com/kickdrummusic

Nevin James at Kenny’s Castaway’s

Tucked in a less appealing section of Greenwich Village is a faux irish bar called Kenny’s Castaway’s. Although the physical space is amazing, the actual vibe and personnel in this venue have a lot left to be desired. The room had tall ceilings and a balcony, which helped both acoustically and to give an ambiance of a larger space.

I went to see a recording artist and friend named Nevin James. Nevin writes introspective, naive yet somehow timeless folk/pop/ rock songs somewhat similar to The Band. I was taken back by his earnest approach to stage banter. He honestly and thoroughly explained the meaning of each song as if it was pivotal to the experience. The audience completely took this to heart and listened to him without any banter from the back bar. This is uncommon in small NYC venues.

Hopefully, Nevin and I will be working together in the future on some recordings. His style is classic yet calls for attention. You can find his work online at www.nevinjames.com

What creates depth in a mix?

What creates depth in a mix?

– great instruments/ mics/ preamps used in tracking. It always helps to have a great foundation

– properly eqed reverbs and delays that complement the source instead of masking it.

– out of time delays and reverbs in places where the ambience should be “noticed”. In time reverbs and delays where the ambience should be “felt”.

-automation of delays and reverb levels to create greater depth intensity throughout the song. Often bridges can come off as more emotionally compelling if they have a different vocal delay than the verse.

– room mics

– room mics that are properly pumping with the tempo of the song

– automation of room mics to fit each section of the song (especially for drums)

– space in the arrangement to allow for depth to be precieved (a rest?)

– harmonic distortion from analog equipment.