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November 18, 2017

Reverb The Icing on the Cake

Reverb is probably the single most important tool in a Mixing Engineer’s arsenal. It can be used as an effect or to place the mix in a “space”. For this post I will focus on the latter.

If all else is equal Reverb adds the depth and thickness to the mix which is the difference between a mix that excites the listener and a mix that doesn’t.

This is the first decision for the mix as it affects all other decisions. Small intimate room, clean studio, small club, concert hall etc. I personally enjoy the “live” sound, however this decision should be a collaboration between the artist and the producer.

There are several types of Reverb, each with it’s own “sound”. The selection of what type is based on which “space” is chosen.

Once the types are chosen there are three parameters that determine how effective the chosen type are:

Length:

The length is usually determined by the tempo of the song. This can get complicated as what “space” is chosen is a factor also. A general rule is the reverb should be audible for one measure and end on the downbeat of the next measure.

Pre Delay:

This setting creates the depth in the mix. Longer settings will bring things forward while shorter settings push things back in the mix.

Density:

I saved this for last as it is the key to have the mix sound great in the actual listening environment. All “spaces” contribute reflections to the overall “sound” that the listener “hears”. This gets real complicated as there is no way to calculate this contribution as words like “depth”, “width”, “center” etc. exist in each listeners head which means that every listener “hears” this differently.

What to do? There is no definitive answer. But there is a concept to apply. Let’s say that the density parameter adjusts the “thickness” of the reverb from 0 to 100%. What is needed is a density setting that allows the reflections of the environment to “blend” with the artificial environment of the Reverb used. Think of density as thick peanut butter at 100% and a fishing net at settings less than 100%. 25% density has bigger holes than 75%. I usually start at about 50% here and check the mix in different environments and adjust if needed.

Hope this helps.

Onward Thru The Fog.

Mike

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