Simply put, mixing is taking multiple different sound sources and balancing them into a space that translates clearly to the listener’s ears what the music is trying to convey. There are many tools, techniques, processes and tricks that enable us to achieve this balance; compression, EQ, reverb, delay just to name a few. This week we’ll look at reverb in a bit more depth.
As a producer I hear a lot of amateur demos and productions, be it from clients, songwriters or artists, and one of the common problems I find is the misuse of reverb; be it too much, too little or the wrong selection of reverb sound itself.
Reverb has many different uses; blending sounds, adding textures, lengthening notes, creating a sense of space, and much more. Natural sounding reverbs such as rooms and halls will help to manipulate a sense of space, whereas unnatural reverbs like plates, springs and infinite tails will give you creative tools to reshape and enhance sounds.
Filtering reverb sends is also extremely important to help fit your reverb sound into the context of your track. In reality, you don’t need anything bellow at least 300Hz, as too much action in this region is a very fast way to wash out the bottom end of the your track. Adding EQ to your reverb is a brilliant way of shaping the tonal character of a sound. Bright reverbs will sound more obvious at lower volumes, so be ready to filter out the top end if you want your verb to be less obvious.
Listen to your reverb sounds in the context of the entire mix, and use your mute buttons on your FX return often to hear the difference that your verb is making to your track.
Adding compression after your reverb is a useful tool to be able to draw out the quieter characteristics of the reflexions you are creating, but be aware that his will make the tail of your verb sound longer – you might just discover some hidden textures within the sounds.
Using automation on your reverb sends/returns will give you greater control over the way your track evolves. This technique is particularly useful on vocals and drums. Riding the levels of the sends/returns through different sections of the song is a great way to help your song build up or break down.
Reference other commercial recordings; listen to their vocal sounds and the use of reverb on instruments like snare drums and synths, this will be a good indicator of how much and what types of reverb professionals are using.
Next week in the final installment of “Advanced Mixing Techniques”, we will discuss balance, width, automation space and particularly mixing vocal sounds effectively.