Here are three quick changes that will make your reverbs start sounding good.
1. Predelay – wait before you come
Pre delay is the parameter of the reverb that decides how much time after the original sound, the reverb starts sounding.
Why is this parameter important? When reverb is applied on a sound without pre delay (or pre delay set to 0ms or thereabouts), it sounds as if the original source is coming from the walls of the room.
Keep increasing the predelay, and you get to hear the original sound. Now the reverb is perceived as the room quality, the nature and size of the room.
By setting proper pre delay values, we get to hear the original sound as it is and then the reverb from the walls of the room.
Keep the pre delay around 90 ms. Listen to the sound. If it is a guitar lead, is the initial hit sounding clearer now. On notes with slower tempo, notice if the reverb sets in only after sufficient time has been given to hear the original sound of the guitar note.
Setting the pre delay right will make your guitar or vocals sound clearer. It will let the original quality sound through without being drowned by reverb.
2. Reverb length / volume – a balancing act
Too much reverb length, and the tail of the reverb will mush everything that comes after.
Now if you try to adjust the mushiness by reducing the volume of the reverb, then the reverb may not get heard enough.
Balance between the reverb length and volume.
- Try increasing the reverb tail while decreasing the volume.
- Or try reducing the reverb tail length if you want the reverb to be heard more, without compromising the clarity of the mix.
A 3 second long reverb tail is long. You want to use such long tails with much care. Adjust the level if the reverb is drowning other sounds that it falls on.
Note : Short reverbs are useful for in the face vocals, and are preferred these days.
3. Two reverbs – division of labour
e.g. for the vocals :
- A short plate reverb to add some body
- A hall reverb to give the ambience
This gives you a lot of freedom. You can increase the short plate reverb level high if you like that effect, while not worrying about any long tail being added to the mix. When using two different reverb instances for short and long, you can adjust the long reverb separately.
How do you set up two reverbs and its sends?
If you are using a sequencer and software vst plugins effect for reverb,
- open one instance of your reverb plugin
- choose the short plate reverb preset (or equivalent settings in your plugin), adjust the parameters
- open another instance of reverb plugin
- choose the hall/ cathedral preset (or equivalent settings), adjust the length and other parameters
- in your individual track (vocal track, guitar track etc), take the send effect section, set the send effect to send part of the vocal sound to each of the reverb plugin, using two send effects.
- adjust the send levels to taste.
Here is an additional fourth change you could make. This is about the way the effect plugin is set up and routed : if you are not using reverb as send effect, consider doing so.
4. Use reverb as send effect – Least of Burden
CPU and RAM
Saving as much cpu and ram resources as possible, is a primary concern for someone making music with computers. Using reverbs as send effect helps save resources because you will be opening only one instance of each kind of reverb you need.
If you have more than one track to add reverb to, and if you use reverb as insert effect on each track, that will consume more resources than if you were to set up reverb as send effects.
As the number of track goes up, it is not practical to keep on opening more instances of reverb plugin for each track's needs.
A common acoustic space
When you have a common reverb setting to send each of your tracks to, the different tracks in the whole project can be made to sound like they share a uniform sound space.
Practice the changes
- Note the predelay settings you are using now. Change it on your reverb plugin interface or hardware and see the difference.
- Try using different reverb types – plate, hall, cathedral, short, long etc. Note the reverb length value associated with each. Listen to how they affect your mixes. Balance the volume and reverb length values to make reverbs that sound well without muddying the mix.
- Try opening two instances of reverb with different reverb types. Use send effect on individual tracks to use the reverbs.
- If you are already not, start using reverb as send effects instead of insert on individual tracks.