How To Use Reverb to Push Things Way Back in the Mix
Today’s tip is a quick one about reverb.
More specifically, it’s about understanding the flexibility of using pre-fader sends on your reverbs to create effects.
Many DAWs default to a post-fader or post-pan send setting. So, once you’ve found the fader balance of the dry track and decide to send the track to a reverb, the dry track fader is mostly in control.
A Big Drum Reverb
Let’s take a drum group as an example.
Once you’ve mixed the drums as you want them with EQ, compression and maybe some saturation, you’ll want to add some depth to them with a reverb.
So you create a drum reverb bus that’s just long enough to give the drums some space, without cluttering up the mix with too much reverb.
So far so good.
Then you send the drum track to the reverb track to add space. Not too much to get washed out. Not so little that you can’t hear any difference. A Goldilocks amount. It’s just right.
And because the send is post-fader, whenever you change the fader level of the drum group, the reverb level stays consistent throughout.
However, there’s a breakdown part in the middle of the song where you want the drums to sound weirdly distant. You want the drums to sound like all you’re hearing is the reverb instead of the blend of the two tracks.
One way would be to mute the drum group without muting the reverb, but that’s tricky in some DAWs.
And if you lower the fader volume of the drum track, the reverb volume goes with it because it’s a post-fader send.
Use a Pre-Fader Send
That’s when a pre-fader send comes in. By switching your sends to pre-fader, you can control the amount that goes to the send independent of the level of the original track.
With a pre-fader send, you can lower the volume of the drum group all the way down, and it wouldn’t affect the send level going to the reverb. That way, you can make the reverb dominate the track as an effect if you want to make something sound distant and washed out.
I use this trick all the time when I can’t get the right dry/wet ratio when I’m doing weird effects. It’s great for pushing big lead lines to the back of the mix and creating textures in general.
Keep in mind that you should use this trick sparingly. It’s an effect, not a way to glue your tracks together. But it can come in handy when you need to push things wayyyyy back in the mix. In our drum group example above, you could lower the fader volume all the way down in the breakdown, and all you’d hear was the heavily reverbed drums in the distance.
I hope that gives you some ideas to try out in your mixes. If you need more traditional mixing help, especially when it comes to adding reverbs to drums that sound punchy and big without sounding washed out and distant, check out my Drum Mix Toolkit for everything you need to know about mixing drums.