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How to Use Compression to Shape Reverb and Delay

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How to Use Compression to Shape Reverb and Delay
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Hey folks, Matthew Weiss —,

This lesson is going to be about shaping the perfect timing constants for our reverb and our delay. So I’m going to play this vocal real quick.


Now, I think that there is merit to leaving this vocal completely dry. There’s, like, an edge and an aggression that I think that brings to it, a rawness to it, but I think that there’s also a good argument to be made for putting some kind of a reverb and delay on there, because it’s sort of got this darker tone going in the overall music bed, and it might be sort of cool to have this sort of warehouse-ish sound, so I’m going to go with that.

The thing is is that especially with rap, but anything that’s moving fast and has a percussive element to it, we don’t want our reverb or our delay to cloud the attack or the punch of what we are trying to bring forward.


So I’m going to bring on this reverb here, it’s just a plate reverb using the VerbSuite Classic from Slate, and let’s give that a listen real quick.

[mix, vocal with VerbSuite]

And so, my immediate thought is that I like the color of this reverb. It’s got this sort of like, dark but open thing going on, which I think is pretty spot on for the vibe that we’re trying to create. The problem is it’s pretty washy.


And I mean it’s not terrible, it’s about in the right place, but it just makes the overall vocal feel a little bit too swamped, so we’ve got a few options, right? One thing we can do is we can just simply turn the reverb down. Nothing wrong with that.

[mix, reverb lower]

That’s not bad, but maybe we want something that’s a little bit more characterizing, a little bit more present as a reverb, in which case, we’re kind of losing the reverb as a result of turning it down, obviously.

So another option to make it less washy that we have is to shorten the decay time. So let’s turn it down to like, maybe say, one second instead of one and a half seconds.

[vocals, one second reverb decay]

And that sounds, timing wise, really good, right? It allows the vocal to breathe. And you can see what kind of a quick difference that makes.


Right. Pretty quick difference, pretty obvious where suddenly, the vocals become a lot more clear, because there’s just a lot less masking them. However, we still have this very, very wet vibe, and so we’re still faced with the same problem of is it too much reverb, is it glossing over the vocal too much, what happens when we turn it down?

Well, now when we turn it down…


It sounds super dry, it’s like we didn’t even put the reverb there, so is there a way we can have our cake and eat it too?

Well, let’s say we use this short timing constant, but we also use some compression.

[music, vocal reverb with compression]

This allows us to have a very present reverb because it extends the tail, essentially, but it takes down some of the attack tone where the vocal is really present. So this way, we have the clarity of having less reverb, but we have the tail and the color of having more.

So using compression on a reverb buss can actually be very effective. So let me take that off.




[song, reverb compressed]

And so we get this cool effect where the reverb is still pretty present. We know it’s there, we hear it pretty clearly, but it’s not sinking the vocal back in the mix, it’s not washing it over in any way.

So we can do this also for delays. Let’s say we have a delay that we want, maybe this one, because it has a really, really cool sound to it…


And you can hear I have a sort of almost slappish kind of thing going — not like a slap, because it’s definitely an eighth note, but it’s on the tighter side. Then I also have this very short feedback going, because I don’t want it to have that wash over effect, same thing with the reverb, right?


But the problem is when I turn this down…


I lose a lot of the fun of the echoes. So again, I can use compression to just shorten those first immediate delays, and then allow the final delays to just extend a little bit further.

[mix, delay compressed]

We hear that reply of those delays come in a little bit clearer, but we don’t have those initial delays really throwing us off.

Without it.

[mix, no delay compression]

Let’s really listen to this very fast line here.


It gets pretty smear-y pretty quick. I’m going to throw on the compression.


We hear the articulation of the words, just way better, and in the spaces, we hear the delay a little bit more clearly, and so now if I combine the two…


We actually have very, very present ambience on this vocal, but the vocal still feels like it’s very forward and very articulated.

Now, I can probably turn it down just a little bit. I think it’s still a little overly present for the style, but once I’ve got it locked in, dialed in just to the right spot…


Yeah. Sounds really cool. Alright guys, so I have a tutorial out, it’s called, “Mixing with Reverb,” you can find it at It goes very, very far in depth into everything that you would want to know about reverb, things that you can do to affect it, like I just demonstrated, but also how it works, how it functions, getting the exact kind of reverb that you want right up front, whether it’s on vocals, or guitar, or drums, or whatever it may be.

Alright guys, don’t forget to hit that like button, hit that subscribe button, and I’ll catch you next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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