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How to Record – Lesson 11: Reverbs & Delays

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. I hope you’re doing marvelously well, and today in lesson 11, we’re going to talk about time based effects. That’s basically reverbs and delays. So we’ll open up our Amanda Hardy track, and we’ll go through and see how I’ve been using delays and reverbs on this song.

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Okay, so let’s go and check out our session. Firstly, our vocal, and see what effects we’ve got going on there.

Now, I have multiple effects that I use, and let us go through it. So first of all, I have a plate reverb. In this instance, I’m using a Waves Renaissance Reverberator. So let’s just turn off the other effects and go through one at a time. Okay.

Here’s the reverb.

[vocals with reverb]

Now, it’s about 1.1 seconds. It’s a pretty large sized room, and of course, I set it to 100% wet/dry. These effects are setup on busses, so they’re separate auxiliaries. They’re not on the vocal itself. Now, you can put a reverb on a vocal, you can put a reverb on the vocal track itself. You can put a delay on the vocal track itself.

However, if you do that, you’ll end up doing so much more automation, and this track itself will become very, very complicated to move around, so I like to keep the separate.

There are times when I might put a reverb or delay plugin on a vocal if it’s a background, and it’s like a special effect. Sometimes it’s easier if I’ve got a single line that I want to suddenly create a little reverb, I might separate that one line out, put on its own track, and then put a ton of reverb or delay on it.

Otherwise, I usually, almost 99.9% of the time, keep this on a separate auxiliary. So these effects are being sent from the vocal sub here. So my vocal goes into a sub, which has volume automation written on it here, and then that is sending from this vocal sub to these independent effects.

Now, you’ll see, my reverb that I’m using is turned down somewhat in the verses.

[vocals with reverb]

And as the track gets more dense, it comes up.

[vocals with reverb]

Now we’re going to come to the chorus, and it’s going to get significantly louder. Now, I like plates. I’m a big fan of 70’s music, and a lot of the stuff I love from the 70’s, especially the Bowie stuff had a lot of plates, so I tend to use them quite a lot.

Now, that’s quite a lot of effects, however, there’s a lot of guitars to soak that up. Let’s have a listen. We’ll go into the pre-chorus into the chorus, and you’ll hear.


So it’s getting really soaked up by a lot of that stuff. Okay.

So next, we have a tiled room. Now, the tiled room is essentially exactly what it sounds like. It’s a smaller room. I’m using the same reverb plugin, but as you can see, I’ve got a short, so smaller room size, and the time is much shorter.

[vocals with tiled room reverb]

So for me, often even where a vocal is apparently dry in a mix, it’s never quite 100% dry. So if you listen here…


So that seems relatively dry, but there’s the plate on it pulled down, there’s a tiled room on it, and again, the same thing, I’m using two different reverbs, and I’m pushing the reverbs in the choruses, and the pre-choruses, depending on the density of the music, the reverb gets to be bigger. Okay.

So now, next is a dynamic delay. Now, what this is is a delay with a compressor across it, and what the compressor is doing, if we hit this little button up here, we’ll keep our plugin on the screen, and then we hit our compressor here.

Now, there are dynamic delays that you can use. You can use — that come with Pro Tools, already done. I like to control my own dynamic delays.

So what I’ve got here is a sixteenth note delay in EchoBoy. It’s a distorted delay, because this is an edgy sounding rock song, and it’s set to the tempo of the song, which is 65 BPM. So sixteenth note, only one feedback. So it’s just literally one slap. It’s distorted, the tempo of the song, and what is happening is I’m sending from buss 10 here, I’m sending from buss 10 to post-reverb — if you see the reverb, it’s after the reverb.

Now you might, ask what’s that doing? Well, what it does — a dynamic delay does, is the compressor works with the vocal. Watch the compressor here.

[vocals with dynamic delay]

So once the vocal stops singing, the compressor stops working. What that means is — let’s go to somewhere where the delay is loud here.

[vocals with dynamic delay]

So what you’ll hear there is you’ll hear, [singing], so the delay comes in at the end of every phrase. It’s there in the vocal, but it’s compressed under the vocal so it doesn’t muddy the vocal, it doesn’t get rid of the enunciation. You’ll hear everything that the singer is singing — you can hear everything that Amanda is singing, but between her singing, the delays come up, so they create this sort of illusion of a lot more delay than there really is. It’s really pleasing to the ears, and I personally love it. Dynamic delays are fantastic.

So let’s go to the next one. This is an eighth note dynamic delay. We’ll get rid of that for a second, hit this to keep it on the screen, so we can see it. Hit this for the compressor, and this one is set to a quarter note, so a lot longer delay, but have a listen.

[vocals with delay]

Now, as you can see, I’m not compressing it as hard, therefore, it’s only once the delays are super, super loud that those can come in. I could get more aggressive on it, but the quarter note gives me a nice sort of fullness.

Okay, so below here is the Decapitator, we don’t need to look at that. Okay, now I have some printed effects. If you go to my vocal thickening tricks, you’ll see what I’m doing. You can check that out in our vocal thickening video, but essentially what it is is a delay and a pitch change. I’ll play it so you can hear it. Cranking it so you can hear.

[vocals with thickening trick]

It’s a delay on one side and a delay on another. Super, super short delay, and then I’m pitching it. I’m detuning it and tuning it up. Each side. One side is sharp, one side is flat, and I’ve — they’re done at three different levels, 0.3 up, 0.3 down, second one is 0.6 up and 0.6 down, and the last one is 0.9 up and 0.9 down. Now, that’s 9 cents. Nine percent of the tuning.

So it gets quite thick. If you listen to all three together…

[vocals with thickening]

It’s subtle. Without it…

[vocals, no thickening]

Put it back in. It just thickens the vocal up. I use it all the time, it’s a very old trick. It’s probably — the best example I can think of is Pink Floyd. Dave Gilmour’s vocals a lot of the time use that trick, back in the day, using the H3000, hence the name, H3000 on here.

That’s — that Eventide H3000, the Eventide effects have been around since the 70’s, believe it or not.

Here we have a tape delay, and this tape delay is distorted.

[distorted tape delay]

It adds some edge. So I’m running a very, very short delay, and then distorting it.

Now, there are plenty of delay plugins that have distortion built in. In this case, I’m just wiping off some of the bottom end so it doesn’t get too muddy, but you can use all kinds of tape delay and distortion to create that. I would say off the top of my head, if we just go to delays here, you could do a couple of different things. You could go and get a generic short delay and put it on like this, and then you could put distortion on it afterwards. You could use a SansAmp plugin, you could use all kinds of different stuff.

What I tend to do is distort the whole signal, but then only — you know, wipe off some of that top end, because the distortion and top end might be a little bit too much, and make the vocal a little too lispy, but what it does really, you can obviously put a de-esser on it as well, but what it does is it thickens up the vocal sound, and you know, I was told a trick by — the reason why I do this, I was told this trick by Jack Douglass.

When he was recording John Lennon on Double Fantasy and other records before that, they would take crowd noises, cheers, and they would gate it to the vocal, and it’s just literally energy and noise, and it was super quiet and below the vocal, but it added this kind of energy to a vocal.

So that’s my way of doing that. I’m just distorting and trashing out a vocal track, and then putting it underneath, and I’m using a delay on it so it’s just slightly late.

Okay, so those are our basic vocal time delay effects. The main trick I’m doing that I think is worth knowing is I’m pushing my effects up based on where I am in the song. Where there’s a small amount of instruments here…


It comes up. Then we get to the chorus, and they’re really pushed.


They’re very pushed there. For illustration purposes. On our background vocals, just done a very simple thing, just take the backgrounds here, solo these four here.

I’m sending from busses, and what I’ve done is I’ve panned the vocal one way to the left, say here for this one, panned this one to the right, this one to the left, this one to the right, and then I’m correspondingly following that sending to my background vocals effects here.

My background vocal effects, as you can see, is an EchoBoy, and the reason why you might ask is it’s set not to 100% wet, this is why, because this time, I’m doubling up my effect, so I have a delay. I’ve got an EchoPlex simulation, which is like a trashy, cheap sounding tape delay, which I love. I actually physically have one of those. So it’s an eighth note, and I’ve got it to 65 BPM, so it’s the actual time of the track, but the reason why it’s set not to full wet is the next plugin that comes afterwards is a reverb.

So what I’m doing is I’m doubling up my effects. I’ve got delay and reverb together.

[vocals, reverb and delay]

What I love about that is it completely separates itself from the other effects that are on the vocals. I mean, it adds some thickness and stuff like that, but it’s a whole different way of doing it. You know, being able — delaying first, and then putting reverb on the delay, you can hear it’s almost like a huge hole.

[vocals, reverb and delay]

And that just sort of that delay, and the verb around it is really tasty.

So it’s a nice little trick. So you run a delay, and then you put a verb after it, and it gives you a different effect than just having a delay and just having a reverb. It has a very unique sound, and it separates my lead vocal and my background vocals from each other.

Okay, so let’s move on and see what other effects we’re using.

Now, I think you’re going to guess some of the most obvious ones here, if we go to our kick room, coming out of buss 5 and 6, what I’ve done is I’ve taken my kicks here, and I often do this, I just trigger from my samples as opposed to my live kick, because then I get a cleaner reverb, and the live kick has a lot of bleed, or some bleed, and I don’t want to add a lot of reverberation to the cymbal bleed, and something, and a snare or something like that, so I tend to favor the samples, and then I blend the send the way I want.


So here, you can hear the kick, and the reverb is just our good old friend D-Verb, which comes free with Pro Tools. It’s a medium sized room. I’ve always favored 750 milliseconds on a medium sized room, just because the room I used to track a lot of records in over the last ten or fifteen years sounded very much like this.

[kick with reverb]

So it’s just where I end up. You can get bigger, but I find it a little bit too washy. This is a controllable amount, so it’s sending from there, it’s a very generic reverb, I love it, it’s just a medium room set to 750 milliseconds. Obviously, the mix is set to 100%. I don’t want any phase issues of trying to blend it against it. I’m putting on its own auxiliary, its own track here as opposed to putting it on individual kicks. That’ll give you all kinds of nightmare and not being able to control it.

Now, as you can see, it’s pretty consistent all the way through the song, I don’t do much automation to it, however, now if we move to our snares, which we have quite a few, let’s go and pick these ones here. There’s a snare verb here, and this reverb is a — back to the Renaissance Reverberator. The size is a little bigger on the snare, just to make it sound just a little huger. It’s not a big room, but it’s a longer time, and I also have the MV2 on it to just even it out, so I’m parallel compressing. This is like a parallel compressor in a box on my reverb.

And you’ll see the snare here.

[kick and snare with verb]

Now, watch the automation come to the pre-chorus. It comes up more. It’s all just the samples triggering the reverb. Here comes the fill… That’s louder and louder.

What I would do there and I didn’t do, is I would’ve stepped that a little sweeter, so like this, bring this down, because I actually heard the reverb come up unevenly, so let’s just bring that down. Now let’s listen.

[snare with reverb]

Now you see the reverb has come up, so I’m automating the verb there.

Great. So it’s a bigger reverb on the snare than I’m using on the kick. I just like it that way. Okay, we’ve got guitars here, and they’re heavy guitars, and what I’m doing is I am sending opposite each other. This is a trick I do all the time with reverbs. I’ll take a guitar on the left hand side, and I’ll send reverb to the right. I’ll take a guitar on the right hand side, and I’ll send reverb to the left.

That helps widen my guitars.


So let’s do this. Let’s set this pre-fade so you can hear it. I’m going to mute the guitar. Have a listen.

[guitar reverb]

It’s quiet, but you can hear it. It gives the guitar a room to live in, but it’s panned exactly opposite, and again, just good ol’ fashioned D-Verb. Comes free with Pro Tools, set to 750 milliseconds. It’s not super loud, it just gives some space. I stole this trick from many, many guys that do this.

Okay, so — and the same thing with the opposite one here, it’s just doing exactly the same thing. I can set that to pre-fade, so you can hear it.

[second guitar reverb]

Like that. Okay, let’s put them all back in, take off my pre-fade, and you’ll see how much wider the guitars sound. It’s great in a mix.

[guitars with reverb]

With. Without. With. It just adds a little bit more space around those guitars, it’s a nice trick. You can even try — you can even try pitching it lightly, just so it feels wider. You’ve just got to be careful, because sometimes, chorusing on guitars being too obvious is cool, but you need to be judicious with it, because unless you’re trying to get an 80’s chorus guitar sound, unless you’re deliberately going for that, be careful.

Okay, so next we have more guitars, same tricks.

I’ve got a reverb here, I’m using the McDSP Revolver reverb, which I really love, and again, panning left and right so you can do exactly the same thing. Okay, let’s go to synths.

Most of this stuff is already affected the way I want. Here, it’s just a panning delay. Let’s go to that. It’s only on this one track, but it’s a great little trick.

[panning with reverb]

You know? It’s just panning. It’s not even delaying. God bless it. But there’s a little revolver reverb on it, which is set, only slightly. 20%, 19, 20%.

[panning with reverb]

That’s great. That’s basically all of the multi-effects on this song. Not a huge amount, but they’re being used in judicious ways. The thing is, with the keyboard sounds, is I am — I’m creating the keyboard sounds the way I want to hear them, so sometimes, quite often, I don’t need to put multi-effects on them, because they’re the way I want them to be when I print them.

We do our keyboards mainly in Logic, because we love the Logic stuff, but also, often, of course, we use Xpand which comes free with Pro Tools, which is fantastic. The only other thing I can say is of course that there is some tom verb. We find a tom section here, let’s go and find just to illustrate it. And they’re just being triggered from tom samples that I’ve put in. These live toms, but there’s tom samples in there. Then here’s your tom verb.

[tom reverb]

I’m gating it slightly, just because there’s a little bit of bleed in there, but you can see.

[tom reverb]

I’ll show you some tom tricks as well on another video.

So that covers the basic use of reverbs and delays in a mix that I did. Now, delays on vocals can be very interesting. I like light slap, and what I tend to do with a light slap is distort it. I like longer delays, I need them to be cleaner. I’ll distort them if I’m trying for a special effect, but I tend to keep those cleaner. So you can saturate your slap delay, just to give some energy, and sometimes I make that so close to the — only a couple, few milliseconds away from the lead vocal, it just adds that distortion and energy like I did on that EchoPlex there.

But I tend, with the longer delays, to keep them cleaner, but I might take off some of the top end and EQ a little bit of the top end off, so they’re a little bit more like a tape delay, just because sometimes, being too bright can take your ear away.

Having said that, if you want the opposite, and you want the illusion of movement, like you want to have, you know, [singing imitating delay], you might do the opposite. You might take off and high pass it, and take off a lot of the lows off it so there’s more top end, because you might just take a word and have that bounce around.

If I’m doing that, I might make it very bright, and also make it a little distorted, so it really takes your ear. So delays are fantastic, and there’s a lot of things you can do with them. Like I was saying, you can pitch your delay for width, but you can also pitch a delay for multi-effects. You could take a delay and detune it so it’s like, [imitates detuned delay], you can do all kinds of fun stuff.

What I’ll often do when I’m treating separate vocals and stuff like that is just take a line and put it onto a different track, and process it in a different way, as opposed to trying to set up tons of you know, multi-effects on the lead vocal and automating it, I try to keep it very simple.

So please, as ever, leave some comments below. Let’s have a great discussion about this, this is so much fun, I love doing this stuff, and I love your comments, and I would love to know what you do with multi-effects, and of course, if there’s anything that you don’t feel like I covered, and it needs explaining, please leave that in the comments below, and I thank you ever so much for watching. Please go to and sign up for the email list, and we’ll send you loads of free stuff. Thank you very much for watching!

Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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