This simple technique makes your reverb sit perfectly in the mix
Do you remember the first time you put reverb on a track?
It was magic, wasn’t it? All that space made your song sound so big!
But when enthusiasm wore off, you realized your mix lost all definition.
With a grudge, you reduced the amount of reverb. Definition restored. But all that space… gone forever.
Seems to be a vicious cycle, right?
You either have a track with larger than life reverbs and no definition, or a track that’s dry as sand but with clearly defined instruments.
What if I told you that you can have your cake and eat it, too?
Yes, you can put large reverbs in your mix – without losing definition.
All you need is an equalizer. Here’s how it works:
1) Use a send-return configuration to add reverb to your track
The technique I’m about to show you requires processing the reverb independently from the source sound.
So go ahead, add a return track and insert your favorite reverb (I love Comet these days). Dial-in a decent amount of reverb using the send controls on your source track. Set the dry/wet control to 100% wet.
2) Insert an equalizer after the reverb
It doesn’t need to be a fancy plug-in – the stock EQ of your DAW will work perfectly.
The only condition: It needs to have a high and a low-pass filter.
3) Filter the high and low frequencies
Use filters with gentle slopes (6 dB/octave). A good starting point for the cutoff frequencies is ~300 Hz for the high-pass and ~8 kHz for the low-pass filter.
Keep the filter as flat as possible.
4) Experiment with cutoff frequencies and send levels
In order to make the reverb fit perfectly, fine-tune the cutoff frequencies. If the track is not too busy a less extreme filter might work better. With busier tracks, be a bit more extreme with the cutoff points.
As you start cutting you will realize that your track becomes less cluttered. Now go ahead and increase those send levels you’ve been craving for.
As a rule of thumb the more frequencies you cut, the more reverb your mix will accept without losing definition.
5) Use more complex EQ curves on your reverb
Using filters is just the beginning. With a parametric equalizer, you can create a tailor-made frequency response of your reverb. Imagine a snare with a ringing frequency that cuts nicely through the mix. How about reducing that ring just in the reverb tail? Or maybe increasing it a bit? Just activate another band in your EQ and tweak those frequencies.
I recommend working mostly subtractively when you EQ your reverb return. If you add something, be careful not to clog up the mix.
6) This technique works with ANY send effect
It doesn’t matter if it’s a delay, a phaser, a chorus… this EQ trick works on all of them. So next time an effect refuses to sit well in the mix – don’t reduce the send level. Equalize its return first.
You’ll be amazed how much you can add before your mix clogs up.
The EQ curve you see in this post is often called Abbey Road EQ since it was first used by the white coats in the famous studio.
If they do it at Abbey Road, you should do it, too.