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This installment of Foundations of Audio explains one of the most essential ingredients in audio mixing, reverb—the time it takes for sound to bounce, echo, and decay during a live performance or recording. Reverb gives a natural richness to your recordings, which is possible to reproduce. Producer and audio engineer Alex U. Case covers the acoustic, mechanical, and digital means for creating reverb, and charts the parameters (room size, density, etc.) you'll need to know to take advantage of the original recording space and enhance it in post. He then shows how to simulate reverb digitally with effects, adding timbre, texture, and contrast, and improve the sound of your mixes with a sense of space and depth.
These techniques can be practiced with the free Get in the Mix sessions, currently available for Pro Tools and Logic Pro.
Room tracks aren't the only way real rooms contribute reverberation to our studio recordings, we can also use a reverb Chamber. Recall from Sabine's Equation for reverb time that the Reverb Time increases as the cubic volume, the three-dimensional size of the room is increased. But this doesn't mean that a small volume can't reverberate. Small spaces can still offer long reverb times as long as they have little to no sound absorption. Small sound reflective spaces dedicated to the purpose of creating reverberation are called reverb Chambers.
The focus on sound reflectivity narrows our options. Most residential construction is sheetrock, which isn't a full bandwidth reflector. That is sheetrock doesn't reflect all frequencies evenly, but concrete, stone, tile, these are reflective materials begging to make some reverb. This suggests we should consider bathrooms and basements, maybe a garage, or even the kitchen as potentially valid spaces for creating a reverb Chamber. Here is the sound of a snare drum using a bathroom as a chamber.
(music playing) I know things are starting to sound a little homemade as I suggest you generate reverb for your mix from a kitchen, a basement, or a bathroom, but the history of recorded music is rich with examples of doing exactly this. The old grand studios in New York and Los Angeles often used bathrooms, basements, and attics as chambers. Old-school, high-end recording studios, with their carefully designed live rooms and control rooms, made reverb Chambers out of any other odd space available.
You've heard it in music recordings that you've listened to from the '50s and well into the '80s. The short bright glow on vocals from the early Beatles recordings comes courtesy of a storage closet. That bright shimmer on so many Motown recordings was created in an attic. Listen to the vocal reverb on Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and you're hearing glorious all-analog chamber reverb. Seek out recordings from studios such as Abbey Road, Columbia Studios, A&R, The Power Station, Avatar, United Western, Gold Star, Motown, and Capitol Studios, to name just a few.
Some of the most important recordings in the history of recorded music came from these studios, and their chambers were a featured part of their sound. If reverb chambers are good enough for them, I think they're good enough for us. We need to choose a space that's sound reflective, and that's quiet enough to do this work. We put a loudspeaker in this space to energize the chamber and a pair of microphones or more in the space to capture the chamber. In this way your found space becomes a source of reverb for your multi-track recordings.
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