Learning how to use reverb should preferably come from a lot of practice (I mean, years of practice) and tinkering with the thing itself. That being said, we have decided not to leave the absolute beginner on her/his own. So here are some practical or completely whacked out tips for you all. Because who knows, maybe even some pros will be able to get something useful out of this. So you want to know how to use reverb? Here we go.
How to use reverb – useful tips
- Send ’em: Unless you want to use a different reverb on every single one of your elements (tracks), you better set up your reverbs on AUX sends (don’t forget to set the reverb mix 100% wet). This way, you can send every track into the reverb separately, and with setting the send level, you can get different amounts of the same reverb on your tracks.
- The power of pre-delay: With the use of different pre-delay settings, you can actually place your sounds in the front-to-back plane. Shorter or no pre-delay will result in the perception of a sound source being further away from the listener. Longer pre-delay settings (around 40ms) make your sounds sound closer to your ears, without having to compromise the actual reverb effect. Even longer pre-delay settings will effectively turn your reverb into an echo device. Think of very large places. Like a big stadium, a canyon or a forest.
- Don’t let them overlap: Most music have a rhythmical quality, it’s especially true when it comes to pop music. Thus, we can hear the separate transients fairly easily. It’s crucial when you’re learning how to use reverb. Because of this, it’s worth to try to time our reverbs, the following way. Try to set the decay time or tail length of the reverb, so most of its sound is gone when the next transient – usually the beginning of the next note – occurs. This way your reverbs won’t make your mix muddy. Either go by ears, or use a tempo/delay chart. Some reverbs have tempo sync function as well, you can also use this (I prefer the ear method).
- Gate it: The above technique works pretty good, but it’s somewhat limiting. It takes control over the possible size of your reverbs. It’s because with not letting your reverb tails overlap with the following transients, you can only use a given tail length. Determined by the tempo of the song. So how to use reverb without the above limitations? With adding a noise gate to your reverb, you can cut off the tail of it wherever you want to. Just play around the gate settings, until it cuts the reverb tail at the right point. This way, you can use enormous reverbs with still having absolute control over the length of it. Think of the famous 80s snare sound.
- EQ it: Sometimes you want your reverbs to be very audible and distinct effects. But if you want to know how to use reverb so it remains as invisible as possible while still doing their job, check this. Equalize them! Usually the built-in tone/EQ controls do a perfect job for this. You’re gonna want to remove both the lows and the highs, so the reverb won’t mask up the low end and won’t protrude above the original sound in the treble. If it’s still not enough, you can also cut the mids, where most elements have some energy. This way you help cleaning out the mix as well.
How to use reverb – useful tips
- ER only: Aka how to use reverb to make it sound like there’s no reverb. When you are going for the invisible reverb sound, sometimes EQ is not enough. If you still want to use reverbs and not delays, you can choose to have early reflections only. At least if your reverb allows it. Since our brain tends to identify the quality of an environment mostly by those precious early reflections, you can get away with using only those. No reverb tail this way, but a very clean, dry-ish sound. ER only can sound more like a delay, while still being a more complex thing that “just” a delay.
- Be creative: While learning how to use reverb, you’ll quickly realize that not all reverb has to be a perfect simulation of some real environment. If you feel inventive, just add some crazy stuff to your reverbs. Modulate it with tremolo, vibrato, chorus or flanger. You can also distort the heck out of it. Use those saturation devices, or put your favorite overdrive pedal on it. Enjoy!