Is this your thought process when you’re using reverb:
“Oh, this needs some reverb for depth.”
“This needs some reverb to be pushed back into the mix. “
“Ah, and this needs some reverb for extra ambience.”
Not to knock reverb but it doesn’t need to be on everything.
Use Reverb as Glue
Reverb makes everything fall into place. -Click to Tweet!
Reverb creates the stage in which you set your mix. Think of it this way: If you want your song to take place in a big cathedral, then use the big cathedral reverb. If you want a tight studio space, then use the space that sounds like a small studio space.
But by all means, don’t use nothing.
Skipping the reverb will result in a cluttered and difficult mix unless you’ve carefully recorded everything with a specific room sound. But not many bedroom recordists do that.
If you’re ever lucky enough to record in a great sounding room, take advantage of it. The best reverbs are the natural sounding ones.
Like this amazing saxophone solo recorded in a cave in Iceland: The Most Amazing Natural Reverb in the World.
Even so, sometimes it can be harmful to record with reverb.
Group Your Elements
As I’ve said before, you can make it easy on your DAW by using groups of similar instruments. If you’ve already mixed your guitars then you can group them together and send them to the same reverb. The same thing can be done with any number of similar sounding elements, such as drums, vocals or synths.
This one time I grouped together my vocals, my drum and percussion tracks as well as my guitars into three separate groups. By using three short, but different reverbs on each of these groups they all fell into place in their own space.
Just like that had my mix been transformed from a cluttered two-dimensional shouting match to a nicely separated 3D image.
Reverb Holds Everything Together
It’s good to use a small room setting of around 0.5 to tie all the elements together but if you go adding different kinds of reverb to each and every part of your mix you might run the risk of it sounding too wet for comfort.
If you are going for an airy ethereal sound, a careful selection of long reverbs on defining elements is great to create that specific feel.
Figuring out which reverb to use can be tough because there’s so many to choose from. Take a break from this page and jump over to read my Easy Way to Choose the Right Reverb.
But remember, keep some elements dry to anchor the mix down. You don’t want your mix floating away on a cloud of cathedral reverbs.
Too much reverb is a sign of an amateur mix so if you are just starting out, try to be conservative on the reverb.
Sometimes, delay is better. Delay sounds nicer than reverb on many different occasions:
- For guitar solos.
- For rhythm guitar
- For lead vocals
- For percussion
- For organs
For the reasons why, Check out my 5 Reasons to Skip the Reverb!
Overcompensating Due to Acoustics
Adding too much, or too little reverb is not always a byproduct of bad mixing skills, but bad room treatment.
A bad sounding room can have all sorts of effects on your mixes. Adding too much low-end or too much reverb, it has nothing to do with you being an terrible mixing engineer. Sometimes you just have to fix your room.
If you’re really confused about acoustic treatment(we’ve all been there) then check out the chapter on building a home studio in the Recording & Mixing Strategies bundle:
You don’t have to completely redesign your studio or go into credit card debt to make your room sound better. There are a ton of cheap(and free) solutions to improve the sound of your studio.
Wipe the “home recording” sound out of your home recordings. Using just ONE of the tips inside will make your home studio sound that much closer to a pro studio.
Next time is our final lesson where we talk about mono and tie the whole course together(just in case you forgot something). Checking your mix in mono is really important, and as you’ll see in the video content next time you might run the risk of your guitar solo completely disappearing.
Stay tuned for our final lesson in just a few days.