Dry is nice, but momma I got reverb!
Do you love reverb? Now we have talked about how awesome dry mixes can be, but the truth is, reverb ridden mixes can be just as nice, on their own way. Well, almost. -.- Anyway. It’s just such a relaxing feeling when you hear a well recorded instrument floating in a reverberated “bed”, so to say. However, there’s only a fine line between creating a beautiful ambience or making a thick sounding cacophony with no definition or focus left in the mix. When it’s good, you can either hardly notice it, unless you listen very carefully and critically; or it’s made to sound like a very obvious and peculiar effect. In other cases, it will simply suck giant elephant balls. For practical reasons, we need to avoid that. Unless we want to sound like the 80s of course. And not every 80s mix sucked anyway, despite (or thanks to) the fairly new digital reverb technology.
Of course the 80s
As seasoned pro Bob Clearmountain said, he used what he thought was way too much reverb on the 1982 “Avalon” album by Roxy Music. Recently he got into a much dryer sound himself, so when a few years ago he had the chance to remix “Avalon”, he tried everything to make those tracks sound drier, kind of more modern. He had to give up; it just didn’t work. Those reverbs just sound pretty darn good.
Roxy Music – “While My Heart Is Still Beating”
Another example of how to make a good amount of reverb work can be heard in Chuck Ainlay‘s mixes. His work on each of Mark Knopfler’s solo albums is quite spectacular, even if lately it feels like they are playing safe with that kind of sound. Reverb is fairly audible on these tracks, as it fills out the empty, quiet spaces.
Mark Knopfler – “Prairie Wedding”
Effect only – a bold move
So what’s with that “reverb used as a deliberate effect” kind of sound, you may ask. Well, check out this touching song by Gillian Welch, mixed by Mike Piersante. While most of the elements – her lead vocal and her acoustic guitar – are completely dry, you can hear Dave Rawlings’ electric guitar from quite a distance; almost as if it were playing underwater – it’s either pretty much drenched in reverb without any predelay, or we are actually hearing the reverb only, without the direct sound. T-Bone Burnett’s piano has quite an amount of reverb on it as well.
Gillian Welch – “Whiskey Girl”
Giant snare hits
However, no reverb article is complete without an absolutely obnoxious, bigger than life snare sound, swimming in gated reverb, so here you are. Mixed by Eric “ET” Thorngren.
Robert Palmer – “Addicted To Love”