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8 Ways to Use Reverb as a Special Effect

Let’s have fun. When it comes to EQ, compression, distortion, we don’t always have carte blanche to do whatever the heck we want. There are tons of creative ways to use all of them, but they tend to be fairly noticeable (particularly on lead elements and vocals). But when it comes to reverb, people kind of expect us to be creative and maybe a little weird.

Here are eight ways you can get funky with reverb.

1. Gated Reverb

I did a little video demonstrating how to construct a gated reverb effect, but I’ll sum it up here. Gated reverb is when the tail suddenly cuts out, creating a somewhat jarring effect. It usually involves either a really long decay or a reverb that’s been compressed so that the tail is very present, until the gate triggers, and it immediately disappears. This can add a lot of pop to a sound. Gated reverb is traditionally used on snares, but can be used on any short sound in an arrangement.

2. Reversed Reverb

Reversed reverb is exactly what it sounds like. I did a video demo of this as well. The natural state of reverb is to decay out over time. A reversed reverb does the opposite — it swells up until it stops. Reversed reverb can happen after the sound that triggers it, creating a pushing movement into the next moment of the song. Or, it can be moved ahead of the source sound and used as a swell, pulling the listener along.

3. Mono Reverb

We don’t generally hear reverbs in mono. Not natural ones at least. But unnatural ones like springs are often mono — and really, any reverb can be summed mono or split mono. Mono reverbs are fantastic for coloring a sound without making a mix washy. They are also especially good on hard-panned elements. Stereo reverbs will contract the width of the image ever so slightly. Sometimes this has a nice gluing effect that helps make hard panned sounds feel bonded with the mix. But sometimes we want the wideness to stay as wiggidty-wide as possible. Mono reverbs, hard panned to the same position as the source sound, may just be the way to go.

4. Triggered Verb

Sometimes you just want one moment to stand out like a gunshot in a quiet room. Pulling up a send and muting it, then automating the send to unmute at a key moment, and returning a big ol’ cavernous reverb from it can turn a “meep” into a “ROAR” real quick.

5. 100% Wet

If you want to make an element really unique, set a reverb as an insert and set it 100% wet. This can be used to send something far into the backfield. Or it can be used as a sound design tool to make something sound ghostly and weird if the reverb time is very short. Or, you can automate the sound to move from 100% wet to 100% dry as a means of gradually bringing the sound forward.

6. Re-triggered Reverb

A fun way to create a vast soundscape is to create two return channels. Set one to a reverb, set the other to a slow delay (1/4 or 1/2 note — or something around there). Set the output of the delay return to feed right into the input of the reverb. From your source sound, set two sends — one into the delay, one into the reverb. This creates an effect where you get your reverb, but then the entire reverb cycle starts again. This creates a very dramatic reverb sound.

7. Modulated Soundfields

If you want a particularly wide image you can spread a reverb out using a slight time delay on one channel of a stereo reverb. Or you can spread things out by slightly pitch-shifting one side up and slightly pitch shifting the other side down (like +3 and -3 cents). You can also chorus the reverb return. All of these will effectively create a wider soundscape and when pushed to the extreme will create a surreal, ethereal reverb.

8. Octaved Reverb

A really neat way to add polish to a sound is to duplicate the track and pitch shift it up an octave. Feed just the slightest amount of this pitch-shifted track into your main reverb channel and listen to what happens. You get this immediate “glowy” quality that can add a lot of spark to a sound.

So that’s eight ways you can get creative reverb, but in truth, there’s probably a million more. What are some ways you use reverb as a special effect or in a unique way?

Reverse Reverb + Gated Reverb Videos

Mixing with Reverb Course

To learn more about how you can create an exciting, evocative, three-dimensional mix using reverb, check out our new Mixing with Reverb course, 6+ hours of in-depth training that will help you take your mixing skills to the next level.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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