Using reverb effectively
Video: Using reverb effectivelyReverb is a crucial part of creating a successful mix. Because re-creating in an acoustical environment is a complicated task, reverb plug-ins are often filled with hard-to-understand parameters. In this video, we will learn what those parameters actually represent and discuss some guidelines for using reverb devices effectively. Reverb is the effect that gives us a sense of spatial dimension to a recording. Where delay effects are fairly simple devices which create a few echoes or reflections at a time, a reverb simulates thousands of tightly spaced reflections that are perceived as a single entity.
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Ableton Live 8 Essential Training with Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton's live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. The course includes tutorials on compiling live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples, applying MIDI effects, warping audio, and recording and producing songs in any number of contemporary styles. Exercise files are included with the course.
- Putting together a DAW system
- Setting up Ableton preferences
- Importing and exporting content
- Recording MIDI
- Editing and quantizing MIDI data
- Recording audio
- Recording in Arrangement view
- Using sends and returns in the Live Mixer
- Grouping tracks
- Signal processing
- Creating and editing automation envelopes
- Using fades to mask audio pops and clicks
- Looping and warping audio clips
- Mapping device controls to a MIDI keyboard
- Working with virtual instruments
- Integrating Live with Pro Tools and Logic
Using reverb effectively
Reverb is a crucial part of creating a successful mix. Because re-creating in an acoustical environment is a complicated task, reverb plug-ins are often filled with hard-to-understand parameters. In this video, we will learn what those parameters actually represent and discuss some guidelines for using reverb devices effectively. Reverb is the effect that gives us a sense of spatial dimension to a recording. Where delay effects are fairly simple devices which create a few echoes or reflections at a time, a reverb simulates thousands of tightly spaced reflections that are perceived as a single entity.
So that add reverb to a Live set, we typically do that in a manner that allows us to share a reverb across several tracks. That means that we are going to actually put that reverb on a return track. So I've got a session set up here, and I have got my Live Device browser set up to the Reverb category. Now I am going to grab one of those presets and drop that over here on this Drum Verb return track. Then all I need to do to add reverb to these tracks is increase the send amount on the various tracks that I want to add reverb to.
So I have got two things set up here for you to see. Now I have got the drum track set up as one track, where I have got a loop that contains kick and a snare and a hi-hat and all the other drum parts on one particular clip. Oftentimes, that's a very difficult way to work and add reverb because when I add reverb, it's going to be the same amount to every individual element of the drums. Here the things I did here, was I set up a drum rack where each instrument is a different element of the drum set. And that's going to allow me to add differing amounts of reverbs to each particular instrument.
And setting up drum racks is something that we will discuss in a later video. So, for example, if I want more on the snare, I can turn the send up or down as necessary. And in this case, I don't have any setup on the kick track. So my individual mix here is on the sends, and then the total amount of reverb is controlled by the volume slider on the return track. So let's take a closer look at the actual plug-in. The first part of reverb that we hear is the early reflections, which contain a single reflection as sound bounces off one object and then bounces back to the listener.
And that amount of time before that early reflection's start is determined by the predelay amount that I have here. And you can roughly say 1 ms per foot helps us determine the distance that we are traveling to that object and then the distance we are traveling back: so about 20 feet in each direction. And as I play this and increase or decrease the predelay time, you should get a sense of the room being larger or smaller. Let's check that out. (Drums playing.) Yeah, and especially there at the high end, we are hearing the room sound extremely large there.
But as I dialed that smaller, we did hear that that dried up a little bit. And it sounded like it was a little bit tighter space. I can also determine the kind of shape and color of the early reflections using the Shape setting here. And small values are going to result in a little bit slower, more natural decay. And higher values are going to be a much shorter decay. The spin aspect here actually adds a little bit of randomness by de-tuning the early reflections and adding a very subtle amount of chorus effect to that.
Let's hear what sounds like. (Drums playing.) It's subtle, but it's definitely sounding a little bit richer. Now, in the middle of this particular plug-in, we've got some global settings. One of those has to do with the quality of the reverb and the amount of CPU resources that are being used. So I can either said that to economy, or Eco, Mid, or High. And depending upon how many reverbs you're using in a session will determine the setting that you'll choose there.
Now you can check your CPU resources by simply looking at this meter over here. And if you're up there, pushing 80%-90%, you are definitely going to want to consider switching your reverb into an economy mode. I can also have an impact on the size of the perceived room by using the size parameter. Let's check that out. (Drums playing.) And that's particularly noticeable when I move to a smaller room size.
And we get that very metallic ringing sound. It's almost like you're playing in a bedroom where you don't have any furniture and you are really hearing that ring that's in the room. So a more modest setting there, or medium setting, is going to end up in a more natural sound. (Drums playing.) The Stereo parameter that's available here actually sets the width of the stereo image that's being output from this plug-in. And if you go all the way up to 120, it's actually outputting a discrete left and discrete right image.
The second half of the plug-in here has a lot more to do with the global reverberation, or those reflections that happen after the early reflections. And again, those are those reflections that are so tightly packed that we hear those as one entity. So first of all, I can set a delay length or a decay time. And just in general, I'll tell you that when you're working with drums, oftentimes you are going to want to set a shorter decay time. In the neighborhood of about two seconds, give or take a little bit, is a good place to start. And then with other instruments in vocals, you may want to try something that is more approaching three seconds.
Let's hear what that sounds like. (Drums playing.) So you heard, as I dialed that shorter, that it really got dry quickly, and then as I went to a longer decay time, it got a little bit ridiculous. But right there, around about two seconds-- especially with the drums--you get a sense of ambience without having that kind of washed out sound.
At other times, you may want something that is much more aggressive, but that depends upon the context and the situation. In addition, I have something up here that's referred to as the diffusion network. And that has a lot to do with setting a sound of the reverb and the actual materials that are in the room. So if a room is made up of cement or glass or marble or metal, it's going to be highly reflective, and that's going to be particularly noticeable in the high frequencies. If a room has drapes or a lush carpet or people wearing clothes in it, there is going to be much more sound absorbed, and the reverb is going to be less active sounding.
And that's because those high frequencies are being absorbed. So essentially what I have here with number 2 is a low-pass, or high-cut, filter that lets me roll off some of that higher frequency. Let's check that out. (Drums playing.) So you can hear that immediately kind of tighten up and dry up. And then in addition to that, we can again add a little bit of randomness with this Chorus setting, which is going to de-tune some of those global reverberation reflections.
And then lastly, again, I am going to set a dry/wet percentage with my reverb. Again, remember that when you put a time-based effect like a delay or a reverb on a return track, you want to set that Dry/Wet to 100%, because the dry sound is exactly coming out of the individual tracks and our reverb sound is coming out here. So you are going to control your reverb return with this volume slider and your individual dry amounts with these sliders. And if you need to add a little more reverb to an individual track, then you go to a send and increase or decrease that as necessary.
So now you know how to set up a reverb and adjust the device parameters. Try listening to some of your favorite recordings and analyze what the engineer did with the reverb setup. Then try to re-create that sound with one of your own songs.
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- A: For the most part, yes. However, there are a few limitations. For example, there are some drum sounds that won’t work with the Lite version. Lite also has a limited track count, which may cause problems with some of the larger Live Sets in the course. If you do not have the full version of Ableton Live, you can download a demo of Ableton Live Suite (http://www.ableton.com/download-suite-trial), which will run for 30 days. This will allow you to do everything in the course, and get a look at what the full version can do at the same time.
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