Reverb philosophy (been thinking about this lately)

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Drew, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    tl;dr, I've been wrapping up the mixes for this acoustic folk-rock/roots-rock with my dad and uncle lately, and it's prompted a lot of thought about my approach to mixing in a couple areas, but most notably in how I use reverb. And I suspect that the way I look at things is going to be a lot different than how a lot of you do, so I thought this could make for an interesting thread.

    First off - when using reverb in a mix, in almost all instances I start by setting up a reverb bus, and putting a 100% wet instance of a reverb plugin in there. Then, I create sends from the rest of my tracks to the reverb bus, adjust the send volume in Reaper to balance the relative wetness of the different tracks being sent to the bus, and then adjust the relative volume of the reverb plugin to adjust the amount of reverb in the mix.

    There's a couple things I like about this approach - having an overall master "wet" knob is pretty useful - but I think the main reason why I started doing this in my mixes is that I want to have every part of the mix placed in the same acoustic "space." I generally favor a pretty non-hyped, live-sounding, organic approach, and - acknowledging for a moment that the whole recording process is one giant act of artifice anyway - want to create the impression of hearing an idealized recording of a band in a particular space. For me, having a super wet drum sound running through a plate reverb, acoustic guitars going through a small room reverb, and vocals running through a hall reverb feels (and sounds) like a bunch of disparate pieces rather than it does a unified mix. Throwing everything through the same reverb, however, adds a little more cohesion to the mix (for ME).

    I'm not saying this is the only right approach, and using a collection of different reverb plugins and settings is somehow "wrong" - it's not, its just I found myself thinking about how this is a philosophical and stylistic choice I was making while mixing, and how that's potentially something kind of interesting to talk about.

    I guess the other thing I was thinking this weekend as I worked on final mixes and compared them to a few earlier rough mixes I'd done here and there is that one of the single biggest changes between rough mixes in progress and what's now final_mix_v1.3 :)lol:) is the amount of reverb - the earlier rough mixes are a LOT wetter and IMO suffer for it, while the ones that I'm just finalizing now are much drier. I've found that for me, and in keeping with my philosophical approach outlined above, the "sweet spot" is if you can hear the reverb, you're using too much. I'm using the Valhalla Room plugin set to 100% wet, with FX sends anywhere from flat to maybe -7db (generally attuned 3-5db for most parts of the mix), with the reverb bus turned down to -22db or so. If you mute it you can definitely hear its not there, but unmuted you're not really hearing distinct "reverb" decays so much as just everything having a little more body. Much more than that and things get kind of boomy and muddy, IMO.

    In fact, I'll say this - the biggest difference between the mixes I'm doing today and those I was doing ten years ago is probably that I used to be extremely judicious with EQ and heavy-handed with reverb, and now I'm extremely heavy-handed with EQ and judicious with reverb, and my mixes are better for it. :lol:

    Anyway, I'd be curious how you guys think about reverb in a mixing situation, beyond the basics like as a way to make things sound more distant. :yesway:
     
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  2. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I used to try to do the same thing -> running all the reverb through one dedicated reverb track - but I found I always ended up having individual reverbs on things on top of that anyway.

    I tend to think in the same way that I want everything to sound like it's in the same space, but certain things need to be treated differently to get there. Even to make things sound like they're in the same room, those things are still positioned differently within that space. Hard-panned guitars I've gotten into the habit of having the reverb mostly sit on the opposite side, leaving it nice and dry on it's own side, but verb-y on the other. Drums are again treated differently because I usually have less-than-ideal rooms, which means there's already a verb in there for me to work around.

    As time goes on though, I'm agreeing more and more -> Less verb is more better.
     
  3. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Interesting re: rhythm guitars. I haven't tried this and I don't have Reaper in front of me, but don't you have pan control on the FX sends? If so, you could conceivably get to the same point by setting your FX send up pre-pan/trim, and panning it in the opposite direction as the track itself is panned, no..?

    The one thing I haven't done yet (it wasn't really appropriate for this project) but I could see down the road is running a plate verb on the snare, less for "ambience" than as to add a little more sustain with a very short decay time, but still rely on the master reverb bus for "ambience" processing. Even then, working with Superior 3, generally my reverb bus is only getting a send from the overheads, and maybe snare and toms, depending on the song, and using that as sort of a "high passed" version of the kit, to keep the low end clear.
     
  4. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Yeah, you could probably accomplish the same thing that way. :lol:
    Last time I did it, I ended up with a guitar-verb dedicated channel which just took a send from the top folder that had all guitars in it. It would flip the width -100%, then apply the effects.
     
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  5. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Well, there are many ways to skin proverbial cats. :lol:
     
  6. Lindmann

    Lindmann SS.org Rectangular

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    Don't you eq your reverbs?
    I like to stack different kinds of reverb: a short and narrow one with a mild high-pass and a longer and wider one with a low-cut that's sitting pretty high. Maybe even a third one.
     
  7. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    I tend to favor finding where the reverb is noticeable, then pulling down to where its part of the track, not a spotlighted sound (like its part of the recorded sound, not added after).

    If I want a subtle but more noticed reverb, I will do a shorter reverb but less diffused, then compress after. This lets the tail die pretty quickly but the compressor will act like a volume knob pulling up the reverb only after the main part isnt taking focus and will glue the reverb into the sound overall. I almost always highpass 500ish, low pass 10kish before the reverbs. To me, bright reverbs sound synthetic, and below 500hz the reverb just starts taking up space in the mix, and has too much energy.

    Feeding a subtle echo (2-3 repeats) into a shorter reverb is great for imparting a "screaming into a canyon" feel for growled/screamed vocals.
     
  8. KingAenarion

    KingAenarion Resident Studio Nerd

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    My process is similar in the sense of using the bus/FX send method, but I use many reverbs. Understanding what reverb does really helps. Realistically in a 3 dimensional space, more reverb makes things feel further away, and in a mix pushes them backwards INTO the mix. Too much Reverb and transient content or clarity gets muddled, ESPECIALLY if pre-delay isn't being used (ALWAYS use pre-delay on drum reverbs).

    It's great for things like vocals, because what you can do is get your vocal super centred and focused in the mix and bring it forward so that volume wise it sits on TOP of your mix, then balance your reverb so that it aesthetically feels like it's coming OUT of the mix, rather than sitting on it.

    My best advice with reverb is usually set up multiple Reverbs in parallel. I usually have a lot of different reverbs to make up my verb tone, with different instruments sometimes having their own. Usually I have a set of whole mix reverbs, including but not limited to: Tempo Verb (synced to an appropriate beat tempo length), Room Verb (smallish clean space), Plate Verb (for character), Hall Verb (for depth and bits needing to feel like they're in a space).

    For vocals I use delays to create the sense of reverberant space, but also use usually a plate, hall, and room verb that use the same settings as the mix ones, but can be treated differently. Same with drums. All my drum verbs have a transient designer cranking up the attack on snare and sustain on toms (Snare usually is plate/room and toms is always room)

    The biggest secret I've found to reverb is to add the gentlest of saturation, de-correlate it from its source material (EQ it differently and remove key zones that the source uses and find others it doesn't) and stop it from muddling your low end with both pre and post low shelves/HPFs.
     
  9. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Do people generally set up their delays to be in time with beat, or does anyone intentionally have delay times off-time with the song?
     
  10. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    I have a stock Ping-Pong delay synced to the bpm that I use for lead guitar solos, but other than that, I'll try to pick something that just works best for the song/part that isn't necessarily in stereo, ie; lead voc.
     
  11. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    By default ReaDelay is tempo-synced, and since I mostly use delays on lead guitars, I have a ping-pong delay preset I'll usually drop on my guitar melody bus as a starting point with two repeats, hard L and R, the second slightly behind the first, with a bit of feedback on both, that I'll adjust to taste in the mix. It's not that I'm a huge believer in delays being exactly on the beat, so much as it's just easier to set this up.
     
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  12. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    I actually dont use typical delays, but I try to find whefe it sits outaide of the beat a little bit, but not in a clashing way (like not quintuplets :lol: ). That way the repeats are behind new content like a vocal line, instead of being right on time with it
     
  13. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    In the old days, analog delays were ~300 ms max length, and many people set the delay time to max and left it there. This is still a cool sound for leads.

    For slap back delay, you wouldn't need to sync it to the tempo of the song, just set it so that it gives you slap you want.

    Also, much like our timing when playing, timing your delays slightly ahead of the beat gives a somewhat tense, aggressive feel and timing them slightly behind than the beat gives a more laid back feel.
     
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  14. will_shred

    will_shred Wannabe audio engineer

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    Using a reverb bus is what we're taught in audio school, so its pretty standard practice. But I end up using multiple buses for different reverbs anyway. I think that less is more with reverb, unless you want it for a creative effect. Otherwise, it just adds a bit of needed depth, especially to vocals. Same with most instruments, if you're playing post rock you'll obviously use a lot of reverb, and if you're playing death metal you might not use any. But most of the time you need just a bit to give the track some depth.
     
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  15. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Interesting - having never been to audio school, I have no idea if this was a tip someone gave me at some point, or just something I started doing for convenience and because the general approach made sense. :lol:
     
  16. axxessdenied

    axxessdenied Arium Addict

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    I usually set up any ambiance related plugins (reverb, delay, doublers, echo, etc) on their own bus and have all of them routing to an fx bus allowing for a global automation of your fx or more specific automation. This also lets you do cool stuff like send your delay to the reverb bus.
     

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