I don't get Reverb. Advice?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by jwschmidt, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. jwschmidt

    jwschmidt Guest

    As a moderate newbie to mixing, I'm coming to realize that one of my biggest problems is that I can't get my reverbs to do what I want them to. The problem emerges in the full mix, not on the individual track/instrument (I can shape the individual reverb just fine, but it never sits right in the song).

    The issue seems to boil down to not being able to balance between different extremes. For example, in EQing the verbs, I always find myself struggling with the high-cut. Either the reverb is clear but with too much high sizzle, or it is muddy and washed out due to trying to get that high end less offensive.

    Another issue of extremes is in reverb volume (or effect return level). Its either audible and muddying up the mix, or not mucking things up at the expense of being inaudible.

    I like songs and sounds with audible reverb, like most stuff by My Morning Jacket, or OK Computer era radiohead. Basically anything that Nigel Godrich touches. But going after this type of sound has been a one-way ticket to mudsville for me in terms of the overall clarity of the mix. Ironically, I think the aforementioned recordings are among the crispest-sounding as well as the most reverb-intensive of the stuff I listen to.

    I feel like I need to unlearn everything I know about reverb and start over. Any advice on where I should look to re-begin?

    I also am open to the idea that other factors outside of my main Reverb Plugin (Everb on DP5) could be effecting this outcome, such as stereo panning.

    -- Bonus question:
    I have considered doing something like lowering the volume of reverb on the tracks as the song progresses and more instruments get layered into the mix (most of my songs work like that). Has anyone ever tried something like that? Would it be a good idea, or is there a more intelligent way to manage competing tracks with reverb?
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    What kind of monitors are you using? What kind of room are you in?

    The old advice that women of a certain class gave to their daughters about jewelry (put on what you think is tasteful and then take one piece off) applies pretty well to reverb.

    (I'm having a bad moment imagining a women with multiple piercings and tattoos giving this advice to her daughter. It does not translate well across cultures. Still works for reverb though.)
  3. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Are you trying to reverb the master track or individual tracks? I would advise away from putting reverb on every track in a mix..strictly. I will put reverb on a track basically as a treble cut so it won't pop so much, or as a solo enhancer. you can put reverb on a drum solo/solo fill but throughout an entire track will muddy it up. Reverb on bass is just silly in most circumstances. Reverb on vocals is fun but don't overdo it.

    As Mr. Bob said before me in so many words...get the reverb so that you can hear it, then back it off a notch or two. You can set the high cut to 2000 or lower if it is too bright, and it will give it a nice sounding timbre for solos etc. Try not to set reverb times longer than say 2 seconds as it will muddy the track. As for the mix, for instruments don't set the mix higher than 15% and for a master usually set it lower than 10%.

    Sorry if that's a lot, but main idea here is less is more.
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I have to ask how you are applying the verb. Are you using it as an insert or are you using sends? Sends are the way to go of course.

    The other thing is, are you satisfied that the mud is not coming from the dry track already? If the dry track has issues, these will only be accentuated by reverb.

    ON another note, how does reverb cut treble? Please explain.
  5. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    It doesn't from a technical standpoint, but to the ear it does. i.e. you have a guitar solo with a rather shrill high end, so rather than eqing it to death you can put reverb on there so it blends better and doesn't cut so much. Reverb tends to linger on the low frequencies so that may be the reason for the perceived treble cut. I didn't mean it literally.
  6. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    "The problem emerges in the full mix, not on the individual track/instrument "

    You printed the reverb to the individual tracks or no?
  7. jwschmidt

    jwschmidt Guest

    Thanks for the replies. Good advice, all around.

    - I don't have studio monitors (though I'm saving up for them!), So I do much of my monitoring on Sony MDR-7506 headphones. I can see how this could be problematic.

    - I am not talking about putting reverb on the mastering track. I am talking about when I choose to put reverb on individual instruments. When I say that it "emerges in the full mix," what I mean to say is that if I solo a track with reverb, I'm generally happy with how it sounds, but can't seem to make them come out well when the full band is playing. I understand that I need to mix the reverb for the song as a whole, not the instrument, and that is where I seem to be lacking skills.

    Point taken, that I should not be to generous with the number of tracks I apply reverb to.

    - Guitarfreak, no reverb on drums for the duration of the song? From what I hear in my music collection, thats a fairly common practice, especially on harder rocking stuff.

    - Hueseph, I use both sends and inserts. Why do you recommend sends? Is it just so that tracks are using the same model of reverb, or are there other reasons?
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Well, reverb on drums is a good touch if you know what you are doing. But from the topic it seems that your use of reverb is muddying the track, so I was suggesting that that's a good place to start.
  9. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    You have much more control with sends than with inserts. Also with sends you can send multiple channels to that one reverb, keeping them in "one room". Using inserts will take up cpu power and you have less options. With sends you can do pre or post fader which gives you huge control over how the reverb reacts. Post means that when you draw the fader back, less signal gets sent to the verb. Pre means that regardles of where the fader is there is a constant amount of signal going to the reverb according to the level of send.

    Edit: sorry, I had my pre and post backwards.
  10. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    as jp22 has taught us all, i think you should reach for the compressor in this case.
  11. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Lots of different things you can try.

    First of all, have you chosen the right kind of reverb? You say you like big reverbs, but ask yourself if its really the right production decision for this song: if you are struggling to fit it into the mix thats a strong indication that it isn't. You might need to use less noticeable early reflection type reverbs instead, especially for a busy or 'hard rocking' mix.

    You can also use automation to add reverb to the sparser sections that have the room for it, while drying up the sound when the whole band kicks in. (This can be a very effective production trick actually).

    Also consider compressing the reverb send so that quiet parts seem wetter than loud parts. Or do the opposite: send the reverb a totally uncompressed signal while compressing the dry sound, so that the reverb gets more noticable on the loud parts.

    If the style of music definitely does need audible reverb, try using a gated reverb, especially for the drums. This will tighten up the reverb decay and leave a bit more room in the mix.

    Increasing the reverb pre-delay can help to compensate for reverb's tendency to push sounds towards the back of the soundstage.

    For vox / guitars etc. consider using delays instead of or as well as reverb. A tempo-synced delay can provide a sense of a large space without washing out the whole mix. (Sometimes perfectly tempo synced delays have a tendency to disappear in the mix, so it might be good to tweak the delay time up or down by a few miliseconds so that its very slightly off the beat.) If you send the delay return to the reverb you can create the sense that the sound is echoing around a large ambient space, while still keeping the dry sound up-front and in-your-face.

    For solo parts it might be worth using a mono reverb return instead of stereo, and panning the reverb to the same position as the dry sound.

    Alternatively, try panning the dry part one way and the mono reverb the other. This can work well for guitar or keyboard rhythm parts.
  12. Imaginaryday

    Imaginaryday Active Member

    IIRs, excellent tips. hats off to you!
  13. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    How do you use reverb sends? I am using Logic Express so if anyone knows how to do it in my native DAW that would be great.
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Here's how I'd do it in PTLE.
    1. Set up a stereo aux input track named "Reverb" (or "Esther").
    2. Set the input of the track to a stereo bus - say bus 1-2.
    3. Insert your favorite reverb plugin into the Reverb track 100 percent wet.
    4. Use a Send to bus 1-2 on the tracks where you want to add reverb.
    5. The send level on the individual tracks control the relative level of reverb between the tracks. The level on the Reverb track controls the total amount of wet sound in the mix. I usually start with the lead vocal sending at 0 dB, adjust the reverb track to the level I want for that, and then adjust the other sends to get them where I want.
  15. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    in the mixer just click on a send slot on your track and select the bus you want to send the signal to. an aux channel with this bus is created automatically.
    then alt+click the little cycle that appeared beside your send slot to set the send amount to 0db. that's a starting point. do this with all channels you want to use the reverb (or any other effect) with.
    then put a reverb plugin in an insert slot and adjust to your liking. make sure the mix slider in the reverb is set to 100% (or wet = 100%, dry = 0%) so that you don't double the dry signal of your original track. but usually logic starts the plugins in an aux channel with the right setting.
  16. MasonBlack

    MasonBlack Guest

    How do you do this? Are you talking about rendering the reverb down, and then compressing that? Can someone please explain, as this seems like a pretty good idea.

    Thank you.
  17. ahavill

    ahavill Guest

    I think he means you set up a comp on your rev send, set it really hard- you kinda would want it to be "pumping" a bit, since you'd want the comp to slam the level down on loud parts, and let the softer parts go through un-comp'd. Thus the verb will be splashing just as much on the soft parts as the loud ones, so the soft parts will feel wetter.
    His second idea is if you want the loud parts to feel wetter; comp your dry track in the mix, so it sounds pretty tamed (the peaks don't jump oout as much. But, send the track UNcomp'd to the verb. Since the peaks will be untamed, the verb will splash more when they hit.
  18. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    The specifics would depend on your DAW.

    Suggestion 1 should be pretty simple however: create a send effect track with a compressor followed by a reverb, instead of just a reverb. Anything you route to that reverb will then hit the compressor first.

    If I was working in Tracktion I would implement suggestion 2 simply by dragging my reverb send to before the compressor on the send track. In Reaper I could set the effect send to "pre-fade/pre-FX". Or I could create a more complex routing that sent from part way through the FX chain, like in Tracktion but without the friendly graphics.

    A method that should work in most apps would be to use a sub-group for the compression: you could then send an uncompressed signal to the reverb while sending the dry signal on to a sub-group with compression inserted.
  19. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Wanted to 2nd the great post by IIRs!

    Not super-detailed, but just about every use of reverb is mentioned / discussed.
    I've got a few things I want to try as a result.
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Spot on. Exactly what I suggest.

    IMHO, Most styles of music sound better with a sync'd delay and almost no reverb to nothing. With exception to drums or like the others suggest, in lead breaks. Less is better.
    I pretty much stopped using reverbs in the early 80's. I do exactly what is quoted here and often automate the delay to hold/ sustain the end of solo or vocal note tail for effect. Then right back to delay sync with about three or so bounces that fade out smoothly in a few beats of a measure. I time them to either 1/4 , 1/2 or even whole notes. I time all my delays to the beat. Works great live, works great in the studio. Its idea for vox, guitar and keys. Most reverbs make music sound weak to me. Use it wisely.

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