Tips for Using Different Types of Reverb in a Mix

Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com/members, and mixing101.co.

Welcome to the Ask Weiss series, and today’s question comes from Daniel Carol via YouTube, and Daniel asks, “Hey, would you advise using different types of reverbs to create depth, like a room reverb with less decay for drums, and perhaps a hall reverb with a long tail for pianos?”

Daniel, that is an excellent question. It is an involved question, and I’m going to try to answer it the best I can.

My answer is yes, I do recommend experimenting with using different reverbs within a mix. It is an old school technique to use one reverb, and then have different amounts of sends to it, and then to couple that with delays in order to create your mix.

It’s a more new school technique to have multiple reverbs that perhaps have different settings, but produce a different sound so things have different front to back depth, and it is a very modern idea to have lots of different spatial components all working together in a mix, and this isn’t modern strictly in the sense that it was never done in the past, it’s just more common now.

A lot of the times, when we’re using reverb, we’re not strictly using it just for the spatial properties, but we’re using it also for the tone, the texture, and the rhythmic properties that it embeds into a song.

So I’ll give you a couple of examples of that. So here we have this record. It’s something I downloaded off the Shaking Through Project from Weathervane that’s curated by my friend, Brian D. McTear. It’s a great studio in Philadelphia. If you ever get a chance to record at Miner Street, I love that place.

This is the artist, Tories, and her song is New Skin. So I just wanted to plug that real quick.

[mix]

So in this, we already have a drum room. There was a couple of room mics put up.

[room mics]

But the snare still sort of comes off as a little dry, so I want to couple that with a reverb. A really common choice is to use something like a plate or a spring off of the snare, because the qualities of plates and springs are a little bit less defined in terms of where the room boundaries are, and things like that, because there are no room boundaries.

So springs and plates tend to play really nicely with other reverbs in general, so there’s just less work on my end, but watch what happens when I put the snare plate in.

[mix with snare plate]

It’s not really just affecting the perceived depth, it’s also extending the duration of the snare, which gives it a rhythmic feel. So instead of this, “Boom, boom, bah, boom, boom, bah,” it’s “boom, boom, paaaaaah, boom, boom, paaaaaah.”

So it connects those grooves, and for this style of song, I think that that’s really useful, and that’s just the stock D-verb plug-in, by the way. Which actually, I really like for this kind of purpose. Just the mono plate is really good for extending the length of a snare.

I’m going to give you a couple of other examples off of this lead vocal, just to give you an idea of why I would choose one reverb over perhaps another, and maybe do something that isn’t so global.

[mix]

So, in the bedding of the record, we have a sense of space, right? We do have multiple room captures that are up that kind of puts the whole record into one room.

So one thing that I could do is I could try and emulate the sound of that room using one of my own digital reverb processors, just solo the room returns, solo the reverb return, and maybe try and EQ it to match it.

I’ve done that a couple of times in some videos before, but I can also just use some reverbs that perhaps provide a contrasting texture that could be interesting.

So for example, I will bring in my XL305 spring reverb here. Let’s give that a listen.

[mix, with XL305 reverb]

So you hear how there’s a little bit of accenting going on in the slightly rougher upper-mid quality from that reverb, and there’s a little bit of wobble. This is actually a very smooth spring reverb. This is much smoother than most spring reverbs are.

Then there’s kind of this open lower mid-range, and it provides a nice sense of texture to the vocal without being overwhelming, or I could use something like my Bricasti, and I really like this London Plate preset here.

[mix]

Right. So that’s a very smooth, very open sound, and so when I’m choosing these different reverbs, they’re all creating slightly different effects that can complement the record in different ways, and so I would use my judgement to pick which one, or I could just take the plate reverb that was provided.

[mix, plate reverb]

A little more resonant and a little less smooth than my spring, so of all of those, I do want a certain sense of texture going on, but I don’t want it to be overwhelming the vocal, so I would probably go with my XL305 in this particular case.

[mix, XL305 spring reverb]

And they evoke slightly different things too. The M7 to me is evoking a slightly lonelier sound. It’s a little bit more solemn to me. It’s a little bit more distance.

The spring is giving me a little bit more texture and a little bit more energy. So it just ultimately depends on what I want, but that is to answer your question, yes, experimenting with different types of reverbs on different sources is absolutely something that I highly encourage.

So Daniel, thank you so much again for the great question. If you or anyone you know has a question you’d like me to answer, feel free to drop it in the comments section below, or post it up on theproaudiofiles.com Facebook page. Don’t forget to like this video and subscribe to this channel.

I hope you learned something. Until next time, guys.

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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