Have you ever ended up adding too much reverb to your music? Like, way too much? I have, too. It’s said to be one of those beginner’s obstacles. Once you get over it, you’ll be on the right path. It just doesn’t happen all that quickly for most of us, mere mortals. You of course have to listen to some existing music, preferably the kind you want to imitate, to get the sound of all those different approaches in your head. But you also have to know what to listen for. The latter is something that not many books or online courses discuss, or even mention. So why do we make the mistake of adding too much reverb? Let’s see.
Reverb: sugar for the mind
First of all, reverb tends to sound awesome. And I mean awesome in a very obvious and not at all subtle way. It’s pleasant to hear your tracks dressed up in that lush ambience. We know our recording places and sound sources all too well. Instruments we practice with, usually at the same place. Especially our voice and the unflattering way it sounds when listening back to it completely dry. All those analytical, self-criticizing thoughts arise. With reverb, we can cover it up to some extent, while adding a surprise element to it at the same time. We simply surprise ourselves with adding something to the sound that we don’t hear that often. It’s like buying chocolate to yourself. That’s usually why people fall for it, and add a lot of reverb, at least at first.
Looking at reverb the following way will get you to the core of the problem, and you’ll be able to judge the amount you need better. Now think about it; there’s always a gap between two musical tones. It’s either the sound of their own decay, some other instrument, a kind of noise, or – rarely – complete silence. Knowing that, the solution is easy. Try to look at reverb as something to fill the gaps with. Simple as that. You’ll be able to focus on the gaps better as well. That way, you are forced to add only as much as needed, just by listening to the ever changing contrast of what the louder and quieter parts do. Then simply control it with reverb. You’ll see that reverb is really just a jolly joker instrument, with its own variables.