how to use reverb, room etc... in the mix?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by at_the_beat, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. at_the_beat

    at_the_beat Guest


    i´m just interested in how you use reverb, room etc... in the mix at drums, guitars, bass, vocals. how do you work with the "mainreverb" and what kind of verb-fx you use on snare or kick or other instruments.

    how many different reverb-Fx you use in a track?

    i found out that this is one point why my tracks do not sound as they should.

    please let me know :)

  2. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    The thing about reverb is there has to be space in the arrangement for it to work, otherwise it will help to clutter things up in a hurry. I'm sure there are as many different techniques for when and where to use reverb as there are people making recordings. I generally use one reverb patch for drums, usually only on the toms, occasionally on snare. I use a different patch for background vocals, a different one for lead vocals (but I really like dry lead vocals), and a different one for any solo or fill instruments. It helps to be able to EQ and pan the return signal from the reverb also, in terms of making sure the signal doesn't interfere with other tracks in the mix. Think about how you want to create depth in the mix as to what tracks to use reverb on. It's about "front to back" more than "left to right".

  3. Who told you that crap?
  4. at_the_beat

    at_the_beat Guest

    thx for your postings! it helps :)

    if you ask:
    "Who told you that crap?"

    it is the "deep" in the mix what i want to create in my tracks and what i found in other productions. i find it very hard to give a track "deepness" and keep still "punchy". you know what i mean?

    i use the reverb plug ins of the UAD 1.
    what do you think about this plug ins?
  5. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    I have not used the UAD plugins, but I know a lot of people who know what they're doing on this forum use them and like them. Reverb can and often does take away from a mix's punch depending on which tracks you try to use it on, and how much you're using, using the same reverb on all wet tracks, etc.....
    You might try applying reverb to tracks other than the ones you've used it on so far in a mix, to get some sense of where reverb is most likely to be effective. Also, compare a mix that you like that uses reverb well (and take notice of a track with reverb and how the part is written for the instrument, like a snare there enough space between hits for the reverb tail to be heard and also not get in the way?) and then listen to tracks you're working on. Which tracks provide enough space in their performance to work well with reverb? In general, if a mix starts washing out when you add reverb, it's either too much of it, used on the wrong tracks, not properly EQ'd and/or panned, the arrangement makes it difficult to use well, or any combination of these. Kind of like garlic....too much ruins the food.
  6. gilligan204

    gilligan204 Guest

    Make sure that your sending the tracks to an auxillary bus, if you just place the reverb plug on the track , you will get a way to spacey of a sound. I generally use one main verb , a touch of overheads, snare, vox, possibly accoustic or electric guitars depends. never put verb on the Bass.

    sometime I use a different effect for the vocals as well. not always though

  7. Absolutely, unequivocally wrong. Wrong on every level, wrong in every way and wrong both in mono and stereo (where available).

    See below.
  8. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    Actually, Shotgun, its YOU that's wrong. I have reason to believe that what he describes is EXACTLY what he does to his own mixes.

    And you use CHORUS not verb on the bass, EVERYONE knows that!

  9. The reason I asked you "who told you that crap" is because in your original post you mentioned that "i found out that this is one point why my tracks do not sound as they should. " And that is not an entirely true statement. I can say that without ever hearing your tracks.

    I think it's important for you to understand what ambience is, and why it would be used, or NOT used in recording in order for you to understand the answer to your question. For, you see, there isn't any standard formula for the things you're asking. I understand you were just wanting opinions, but I'll get to why opinions are almost useless later. Read on.

    In the beginning (no, this is not going to be a Dwoz ripoff, it's not even going to be in strict chronological order) it was a dark and stormy night. Recording was in its infancy and there was no such thing as multitrack. Actually in the VERY beginning there wasn't even tape. You recorded directly to a disk lathe.

    Anyway, on a one track, and later two track recording, you used one and later two mics. There was no close-mic'ing. So, the mic picked up both the direct sound of the source (say, a swinging be-bop group or something) as well as the reverberations of the room in which the music was being played. Those sounds, all those complex additions and subtractions and varying amplitudes are what give our brains (via our ears) clues to where each source is located in three-dimensional space. The loudness of the sound, the frequencies in the sound, how much of it hits our left ear versus our right one and many many more things are interpreted by our brains into a little view-master picture of the sound sources. That's called the "psychoacoustic landscape" by some folks.

    So, as recording progressed, tape got wider and electronics began shrinking and soon you could get 4, and even 8 tracks on a reel of tape with acceptable crosstalk and distortion figures. So, you could have each instrument on a track by itself now for purposes of adjusting levels later on. Studios were built to sound great and so that all those interesting reverberations would be pleasing to the ear. Not sucky like when you clap your hands in a big public bathroom. Somewhere along in here Joe Meek started cramming microphones right up against things like singers mouths or guitar amplifiers or what-have-you.

    Well, that kinda ^#$%ed up the ambience (the general term for all those reverberations and so forth) that you could get from distant mic'ing. So, something had to be done. Lots of solutions emerged. Some studios build reverb chambers. That is, special rooms devoted to nothing but reverb. There was a speaker at one end of the room and a mic at the other end. You piped a signal up to that speaker and recorded the sound reaching the mic at the other end of the room. Moving the mic around got you different flavors of the reverberations. Moving it closer to the speaker got you more direct sound and less reverb, moving it farther away got you the opposite.

    Then, the folks at EMI got the bright idea to stick a speaker-like thingie in the middle of a big-ass steel plate. By "big ass" I mean something like four feet high and eight feet long or so. Then, they put one or two devices very similar to guitar pickups at one or both edges of the plate and captured the sound they picked up when a signal was applied to the speaker in the middle. It sounded very much like the reverberations in a big room, but kinda different.

    At any rate, as track counts got larger and close mic'ing got more popular there was a greater and greater need to add back in that ambience that was being lost from recording with one mic in a big, nice sounding room.

    That is what your tracks COULD BE lacking. And there are many ways to get it.

    First of all, and best of all, is to record in a large, nice sounding room. Or, even a medium sized, ok-sounding room. Ambience can be gotten from distant mic'ing any of your sources. Very common practice on drums and guitar even today. Say, for a drum set...mic it up with a mic on each drum like you see everyone do. Then, put a mic or two some feet away from the set and record what those pick up as well. There is no better "reverb" than the actual source bouncing around in an actual space. Well, as long as the space sounds good in the first place. Judgement call there.

    Another option is to use digital boxes like those made by so many folks these days. You'll find effects called "reverb" and "delay". Many of the "reverb" ones will even be further identified with names that harken to what they're attempting to simulate like "large plate" or "small room". You get the idea. Delays are similar to reverbs but different. They're intent is to simulate only the distinct, initial slapback of the sound off a surface. Try clapping your hands in that should hear a few distinct echo-ed hand claps as well as the more diffuse "wash" of reverberations.

    Another option is to use a computer and some plugins that simulate the above digital effects that simulate real spaces. Same thing really, just in a different package. You get all the same options and parameters but you click a mouse instead of twisting a knob or punching a button.

    So, what, you may ask, does ANY of that have to do with your question? Well, bud, it completely answers it. How do you use reverb in the mix? You use it to apply a feeling of ambience to an otherwise dead-sounding track or set of tracks. IF IT NEEDS TO BE THERE AT ALL. Maybe it's already there. Maybe you used a distant mic'ing technique that captured all the ambience you wanted. Maybe you need a little more.

    You may think from this explanation then, that all you should do is pick one type of reverb and add it to the whole mix based on what type of "space" you want your mix to seem to be in. That's not it either. Again, some parts of your track may have all the ambience they need. Some might not. You may decide that yes, a reverb effect on the entire mix IS a good idea. Or you may just want some on a few different tracks. Say, drums and vocals. It's just whatever works for what you're doing. Try it all and take out whatever sucks.

    Additionally, ambience effects (reverbs and delays) can be used as "special" effects. These don't so much try to simulate some natural space as they do enhance or complement the ambience already there. For example, think of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonite" track. That vocal effect. Very obviously not the same ambience that is on the drum kit or the other instruments in the track. It's a very obvious delay special effect, put there on purpose, not to sound natural, but to sound good.

    As far as how to use verbs and delays can do it lots of ways. You absolutely CAN use a verb plugin on an individual track. This is what is known as "inserting" the plugin. On a flesh-n-blood mixing desk you would patch the reverb into an "insert point" on the console's channel strip. When using effects in this manner you have to carefully set the "mix" control (which decides how much of the affected signal there is versus unaffected) to get the correct effect. You can also apply reverb on an auxilliary bus, in which case you set the verb to only give you the effected (or "wet") signal. You then choose which individual tracks are sent to the reverb by turning up the aux level on the appropriate tracks. Furthermore you can apply ambience effects to subgroups (as inserts or from an aux bus send on the subgroup) and even to the main stereo mix output (as inserts). These options are all equally viable and depend only on your needs at the time.

    Furthermore, what individual sources you apply an ambience effect to is entirely open as well. You absolutely CAN and sometimes SHOULD apply reverb or delay to a bass guitar. Or kick drum. Or bagpipe. Or nykleharpa. Or anything else. You can also sometimes NOT apply reverbs and delays to their traditional targets: drums and vocals, for some good reason.

    Now then, is there anything else? Oh ^#$% yes there is. So, recall back to the opening bit. These 'ambience' effects often play the role of giving a feeling of "true space" to the recording. But there are other ways to do that as well.

    At the risk of getting made fun of for giving out specific secrets, I'll tell you this. When I mix a tune, my first milestone is to get levels and pans right. I touch NOTHING but faders and pan pots. No plugins/outboard (well, that's kind of a lie, because I usually add compression at this stage, but that's a whole 'nother thread). But I get absolutely as much ambience and space from using levels and pans first. Then, I start LIGHTLY tweaking channel EQs. You see, as a sound source gets farther away from you, the high frequencies (which are more directional and have lower energy) drop out first. Check it out next time you hear one of those loud-ass car stereos coming down the road. You hear the bass notes first, and you don't hear the high end until he's damn near beside you. So if I want sources to appear farther away, I roll back some highs. Nearer, roll some in, or maybe just leave it alone. So through all those steps (and this usually takes like...10 or more complete play-throughs for me) I've not touched a single reverb or delay, but I have given the track space and ambience.

    Only after these steps (and several others) do I begin to think about putting artificial ambience effects on individual tracks, groups of tracks, or the complete mix.
  10. My mom won't let me buy chorus yet, so I can't really argue with you on this one. She says Chorus is dark-sided.

  11. at_the_beat

    at_the_beat Guest

    thx for your answers!
    i will try to use this "input" on my next projects.

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