Long reverb vs short reverb

The long reverb vs short reverb is one of those eternal decisions you have to make. At least if you are into audio engineering, and I bet you are. On one hand, it can be seen as a signature of mixing engineers. Sort of an aesthetic footprint, if you will. Whether you fall into the long reverb or the short reverb group is up to taste (and of course there’s also the quite prominent “no reverb group”). But things don’t have to be black or white. In fact, it’s all the better if you learn to use both long and short reverbs, even if your preference is clearly on one side. And I mean, really use them, not just stumble upon some usable sounds randomly.

Long reverb vs short reverb

long reverb vs short reverb

The golden rule: Okay, so how to tackle this long reverb vs short reverb thing. Well, it’s pretty simple: the longer the decay time of the reverb, the least amount you can use without it ending up being too much. We all know what too much reverb sounds like. It washes out your mix and turns it into a tacky mess, with no definition and details. So when you decide to use a short reverb, you can adjust the send amount (or the wet/dry ratio, if you use it as an insert) higher. It’s because the decay slope is much more abrupt for a short reverb, so the chance of the tail getting in the way of the following sounds and transients is much lower.

Watch your tempo: When you start pondering the long reverb vs short reverb question, you will stumble into two other things that originate from the golden rule above. One of them is the tempo dependence. At a slower tempo, you can use your long reverbs at a higher level. While you can always calculate things using a delay chart, I advise you to use your ears instead. It’s because the audible part of the reverb tail can differ from reverb to reverb, depending on the tone of the effect. With darker EQ settings, the tail will not be as prominent as with brighter settings.

Long reverb vs short reverb

It’s up to space: The other thing you need to listen for in the long reverb vs short reverb debate is the actual amount of space present in the musical piece. The sparser the arrangement, the longer the reverbs you are allowed to use. This will create the desired “glue” in the mix, so it will sound pleasant. Of course the available space in a song depends highly on the above discussed tempo. There are fast tunes with a few amount of elements however, where you can use your longer reverbs to fill the empty gaps safely.

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