Reverb is the most satisfying effect. Don’t you agree? It is very easy to use, but it is easy to make mistakes while using it. If you love reverb then check out this music lesson on how to use reverb with these 4 essential techniques!
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Music and reverb go hand in hand. And actually, reverb is all around us. Inside our houses, in nature. Imagine the sound of your voice in a parking garage or a big hallway. And for all the people who like to sing in the shower, our bathrooms are notorious for the reverb that they have.
Reverb is something natural, which also explains why it sounds so strange when it is missing in our music. Music is often called dry or lifeless when there is a lack of reverb. Can you imagine creating beautiful ambient pads or lush guitar swells without reverb?
Here are 4 essential techniques that you need to know for how to use reverb.
- Sending reverb to an Aux track or as a send effect
- Filtering the reverb with an EQ
- Setting the pre-delay of your reverb and playing with it
- Finding and setting the correct reverb tail.
Let’s dive into each technique and let’s get creative!
Video Tutorial: How To Use Reverb
If you want to hear how all of these techniques sound, or if you wish to see all of these reverb techniques put into real-life music examples. Then check out my video tutorial below on the 4 most essential reverb techniques.
If you want to read the video transcript see below at the end of this article.
Sending Reverb To An Aux Track Or Send Effect
The quickest way to get some reverb is by putting one directly onto your track. But there are multiple reasons why you want to avoid this.
- Reverb is a very resource-heavy plug-in.
- You have limited control over the reverb.
- Having too many different ambiances in your track is distracting.
Reverb takes up a lot of memory and is quite resource-heavy. If your project consists of 40 tracks, it is not unthinkable that 10 of these tracks need some reverb. This means that you need 10 heavy plug-ins. Can you imagine how much processing power that will take?
If you want to have more control over your reverb, save resources and be able to send many tracks to your reverb. Then you need to put it on a separate track. Or on an aux track, but this depends on which DAW you are using. So what you are basically doing, is sending audio from your track to the reverb track. This will give you the freedom to mute and adjust the reverb to your wishes.
How to put reverb on a separate track or aux/send track:
- Create a new track or aux send track
- Put a reverb on the effects slot
- Send/route your desired audio signal to this new track
- Decide how much is being sent by adjusting the send amount.
In most DAW’s the send is automatically set to post fader. This means that when the volume of your source track is lowered, then also less volume is sent to your reverb track. The balance between the reverb and dry signal remains the same! Deciding when to put a reverb on a separate track is the first step to learning how to use reverb.
Filtering the reverb with an EQ
Reverbs can quickly fill and muddy up your entire mix. This is where a lot of people make mistakes. Yes, it sounds amazing, but when is it too much? What I mean by that, is that in a reverb signal, we often have too much frequency information. So it is essential to filter out some of these unwanted frequencies. But you can only filter your reverb effectively if you have put it on a separate track.
How to filter your reverb:
- Put your reverb on a send track
- Add an EQ before or after your reverb plug-in
- Add a high-pass filter
- Add a low-pass filter
- Additionally, you can also add extra bands if necessary
These reverb filtering techniques will clean up your reverb track and your mixes will benefit immensely! Often I set my low-pass filter to about 10 kilohertz and my high-pass to 600 hertz.
Setting the pre-delay of your reverb and playing with it
How to set pre-delay on reverb is often overlooked. I think this is because it is not quite clear what it does. The question of what is pre-delay in reverb is not uncommon. The fact that it is very subtle doesn’t help. It’s more of a detail actually. But nevertheless a very important detail!
Let’s start with a question: Do you always want your dry signal and reverberated signal to sound and mix at the same time? By setting the pre-delay you have the possibility to separate your reverb and your original track. Why add pre-delay to your reverb:
- It helps separate the dry and processed signal
- Setting the pre-delay helps you place the instrument in the space or room
No Pre-delay: When there is no pre-delay, then it is as if the instrument is being played all the way in the back of the room. This is because the reverb and original signal reach your ear at the same time.
With Pre-delay: When you do set pre-delay, then you are separating the reverb and original sound. Imagine a piano or guitar player in a room. With pre-delay, the sound of the instrument reaches your ear first. And then the sound of the ambiance or reverb. What you will hear are two attacks. One from the original signal and the second one from the reverberated signal.
Check out the video tutorial below if you want to hear the difference between the two. And whenever you question how to use reverb, don’t forget about the pre-delay!
Finding and setting the correct reverb tail
This last reverb technique is subtle, but a very important one. The reverb tail or the decay time, is the time it takes for the reverberated sound to die away completely. And this might seem unimportant when figuring out how to use reverb, but it’s not. Here is why you want to set the perfect decay time:
- The reverb will flow better with your track
- The reverb will not overlap with other sounds
- The reverb will take up less space in your mix
Especially the second reason needs to be clarified. When you put a reverb on a snare drum, then you don’t want the tail of your reverb to muddy up any new snare attacks. By setting the correct decay time your reverb will lock in with your track. Thus creating a nice and tight sound! There is no fixed formula for this, so you need to do this by ear.
My Favourite Reverb Plug-in
There are thousands of reverb plug-ins. Each reverb has it’s use. But if I may offer some advice: expensive does not always mean good. My favourtie reverbs only cost 50$ each. Which is a steal if you ask me.
I am a big fan of the products from ValhallaDSP. I am not endorsed, but I just love their reverbs. They are extremely versatile. And you can buy all 4 reverbs for just 200$. I promise that you will never want to do without.
Why Is Reverb Such a Beautiful Effect?
Reverb is so beautiful in music because it adds a sense of depth, space, and emotion to sound. Here’s why I think that is:
- Spatial Expansion: Reverb makes sounds feel like they’re in a larger, more open space. This expansion dips the listeners into a rich sonic environment.
- Emotional Resonance: The ethereal quality of reverb can evoke deep emotions in people. It can also add a touch of mystery and beauty by giving sounds a dreamy and otherworldly character.
- Texture and Warmth: Reverb adds a velvety texture to the sound. This warmth and gentle touch can be emotionally moving.
- Continuity and Flow: Reverb blends notes and all sounds together. This makes transitions smoother. It’s like a musical glue that connects different elements.
- Enhancing Melodies: You can give your melodies extra emotion and impact by letting your melodies float with the reverb.
- Sonic Palette: Musicians use reverb to improvise and create rich textures. It adds sonic depth and creates a beautiful listening experience.
- Mimicking Natural Spaces: Reverb simulates the way sound behaves in real spaces, like concert halls, cathedrals, or canyons. These natural echoes and reflections add a sense of realness and beauty to the sound.
- Enveloping Experience: When used effectively, large reverb textures can wrap the listener in sound, creating an immersive experience. This feeling of being surrounded by music contributes to its beauty.
- Emphasis and Highlighting: Reverb can emphasize certain parts of a composition, making them stand out and shine.
- Transformative Power: When you use large reverbs it can take a simple sound and turn it into something truly majestic.
Probably you already knew that reverb is an amazing effect because otherwise, you would not have made it this far. I just want to emphasize that it is really important to play around with all your reverb’s parameters. Because you can easily mess up your mix or maybe you are missing out on some amazing possibilities.
A tip that I would like to give to you is that you always A/B check when you change reverb parameters. Especially when making big changes or experimenting. Just bounce the specific track and compare it to your dry track (or track with previous reverb settings).
In any case long live reverb!
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Can you hear that?
The most satisfying and addictive effect if you ask me.
The more the better!
But… Does it also have a dark side?
Reverb is often used in the wrong way. It can very easily and unintentionally screw up your mix and your music.
So let’s tame this beast and let’s get creative!
Even in natural environments and our everyday surroundings there are so many different types and flavors of reverb. Just imagine the sound of a car door slammed shut in a parking garage. A choir singing in a gigantic church or an orchestra playing in a concert hall.
To have absolutely no reverb in your song would make it sound very unnatural, dry and lifeless.
No matter the type of music, you always want to have at least a little bit of ambience to create some life and to glue the separate elements. Let’s now dive into the most important things that you can apply each and every time you slap a reverb onto a track!
Tip number one: putting your reverb onto an aux track or to a send track.
Have you ever felt that you don’t have enough control on the reverb that you put directly onto a track?
Well then this one is for you!
This is the guitar track that we’re going to be putting some reverb on.
But now i have limited control over the reverb.
If you want to save resources, have more control and to be able to send multiple tracks to one reverb, then i advise you to put the reverb onto a separate track.
As i did here.
What you’re then going to do is you’re going to send the audio, to this track.
So what you’re basically doing is now sending the audio from your guitar track to the reverb.
And i can easily mute it by doing this.
And the great thing is that the send it follows the volume of the track, because it’s set to post fader.
That means that if this track is softer, then also the reverb will be softer.
From now on you don’t have to put a reverb on each separate track.
Just put it as an aux send!
Tip number two: filtering your reverbs.
Reverbs can easily be way too much and they can muddy up your entire track without you even knowing it or being aware of it.
What i mean by that is that we get way too many frequencies and often a lot
of frequencies that we don’t want.
Since now we have our reverb onto a separate track we can do with it what we want.
And in this case i want to filter out all of these frequencies that i don’t want.
As you can see here i have a high pass until around 600 hertz and here i have a low pass until like, let’s say 10k.
This is what the reverb sounds without the filter:
And this is what it sounds like with the filter:
And now quickly i want to show you on the analyzer the difference.
So first i’m going to start off with the filter turned off or bypassed and then i’m going to turn it on. And you can see definitely here in the low area a big boost when the filter is turned off. So you can see it but definitely you can also hear it!
Tip number three: Separating the reverb from your dry signal.
An often forgotten parameter is the pre-delay.
And let me ask you a question: do you always want to have your reverb sound and your original signal to blend or mix at the same time? By setting the pre-delay you have the possibility of separating the reverb and the dry signal.
So the first track is my dry track, the second one is the one with no pre-delay and the third one is the reverb sound with pre-delay.
Can you see a difference?
Setting the pre-delay also helps you place the instrument in the room.
For example if there is no pre-delay then you hear the reverb sound and the dry signal at the same time.
You should visualize it as the performer playing all the way at the end of the hall and you’re at the beginning of the hall. This way the original and the reverb sound reaches you at the same time.
This is the dry signal:
And this is the signal with reverb with no pre-delay.
If there’s pre-delay then first you hear the dry sound and then you hear the reverberated sound.
The fact is that you first hear the performer and then you hear the ambience.
And it can be quite beautiful.
Just check this out:
This one is less noticeable on first hearing but that doesn’t mean that it’s less important!
Here comes tip number four: Setting the perfect reverb tail.
The reverb tail or the decay time is the time that it takes for the reverb sound to die away completely.
Very often the reverb tail is way too long and it overlaps with the new attack.
Sometimes you want this because maybe it can glue something in your performance, but very often you don’t want new attacks to mix with each other.
But have a listen to this snare sound.
This one has way too long decay time.
So as you can probably hear the reverb is just like completely wiping out all the attacks.
In this case what you want to do is you want to lower the decay time. For the snare to really sit nicely into the track you want it to lock in with the timing.
I think this sounds a lot better. And this tightening up of the decay time you really need to do this by ear because each reverb has a different decay time. And each and every one of them responds differently to what you do.
After this video you will never ever have an excuse not to take control over your reverbs.
And something that you can also take control over is if you’ve already liked this video.
And if not, i invite you to do so.
Thank you for joining me all the way to the end.
You’re the best!
And i hope you learned something!
And for now…
See you next time!