Foundations of Audio: Reverb
Illustration by John Hersey

Foundations of Audio: Reverb

with Alex U. Case

Video: Get in the Mix: Changing the scene by changing reverb

It would be a mistake to think of reverb Reverb is a very powerful way to create a change of scenery sonically.
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  1. 9m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. What you need to know before watching this course
      2m 18s
    3. Songs you should listen to while watching this course
      2m 46s
    4. Using the exercise files
    5. Using the Get in the Mix session files
      1m 44s
  2. 6m 44s
    1. What is reverb?
      2m 35s
    2. Why do we use reverb?
      4m 9s
  3. 24m 33s
    1. Capturing reverb acoustically through room tracks
      5m 33s
    2. Creating reverb acoustically through a reverb chamber
      2m 51s
    3. Creating reverb mechanically using springs and plates
      5m 8s
    4. Creating reverb digitally via algorithms and convolution
      4m 51s
    5. Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources
      6m 10s
  4. 39m 10s
    1. The anatomy of reverberation
      3m 8s
    2. Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters
      5m 36s
    3. Understanding the frequency dependence of reverberation
      4m 56s
    4. Tapping into advanced parameters such as diffusion, density, and more
      4m 37s
    5. Reference values from the best orchestra halls
      5m 40s
    6. Hearing beyond the basic parameters
      5m 31s
    7. Touring the interfaces for six reverb plugins
      9m 42s
  5. 1h 32m
    1. Choosing the right reverb for each of your tracks
      2m 17s
    2. Simulating space with reverb
      5m 42s
    3. Hearing space in the mix
      6m 33s
    4. Timbre and texture
      3m 36s
    5. Shaping tone and timbre with reverb
      5m 49s
    6. Creating contrasting sounds for your tracks
      4m 43s
    7. Using nonlinear reverb to help a track cut through
      4m 25s
    8. Emphasizing the reverb using predelay
      3m 24s
    9. Strategically blurring and obscuring tracks
      1m 46s
    10. Get in the Mix: Changing the scene by changing reverb
      7m 37s
    11. Get in the Mix: Gating reverb to emphasize any track in your production
      5m 52s
    12. Reversing reverb to highlight musical moments
      9m 36s
    13. Synthesizing new sounds through reverb
      6m 42s
    14. Get in the Mix: Supporting a track with regenerative reverb
      6m 31s
    15. Getting the most out of room tracks
      17m 39s
  6. 11m 32s
    1. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The architecture
      2m 2s
    2. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The audio
      4m 8s
    3. Using convolution correctly
      2m 32s
    4. Getting great impluse response
      2m 50s
  7. 1m 29s
    1. Next steps
      1m 29s

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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Audio: Reverb
3h 5m Appropriate for all Dec 14, 2012 Updated Jan 24, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • What is reverb?
  • Understanding how acoustic reverb works in rooms
  • Working with the signal flow, effects loops, and available CPU resources
  • Understanding core parameters, like reverb time and pre-delay
  • Simulating space
  • Creating nonlinear reverb
  • Building pre-delay effects
  • Using reverse reverb
  • Using convolution correctly
Audio + Music
Logic Pro Pro Tools Waves
Alex U. Case

Get in the Mix: Changing the scene by changing reverb

It would be a mistake to think of reverb as an effect only to be applied track by track. We've got a long list going of all the reasons we reach for reverb. But we don't make those decisions based on the snare, and then the vocal, and then the guitars. We really have to serve the song. We have to serve the artist. We have to serve the art. So a critical motivation for reverb is tied not to the tracks, but to the song itself, to the songwriting, to the story and to the structure of the song. Reverb is a very powerful way to create a change of scenery sonically.

We create different but appropriate reverberant signatures for different sections of the tune. As the mix plays the sonic environment advances as the song progresses. Obvious opportunities for a reverb driven scene change are when the song moves from intro to verse, or verse to chorus, or chorus to bridge and so on. Let's see how that works and how it sounds in an actual mix using a song by the artist Iyeoka called Millionaire. Here's verse one into chorus one. Notice the pronounced shift in reverb when we hit the chorus? Our mix is changing pretty radically here.

The verse has been mixed rather dry, with lots of lo-fi elements where vocals and vocal effects are aggressively filtered, overcompressed and distorted. This sets up a terrific contrast with the chorus where things are allowed to get better sounding, cleaner, brighter, fuller, and far more reverberant. This is motivated entirely by the sentiment of the song. She isn't a millionaire, but she feels like one because, you know, life is good. That millionaire feeling of the lyric is magnified sonically through the lushness, the exaggerated lushness of a large-hall reverb appearing in the chorus.

It wasn't much there in the verse. And the reverb time far exceeds the typical two-second concert hall. Here it's pushed to four and a half seconds. We get away with it because we only put this large-hall sound on certain key tracks. The entrance of the background vocals in the chorus is a common occurrence in pop music, and treating these vocals to a good bit of ear candy is often appropriate. So while the lead vocal in the verse includes filtered and natural sounds for her voice, they all remain quite dry. When the background vocals enter, supported by more than four seconds of flattering resonance, the song is transformed.

Mission accomplished. Listen to the background vocals with all that verb. These background vocals aren't the sole indicators of our Millionaire reverberation. The arrangement of the song offers us some supporting tracks to help us assert the scene change. There's a synth that enters in the chorus, offering great tamboral interest to the mix. The songwriters and producers built in tracks like this to give the listeners new sounds at the chorus and advance the meaning of the song. As mixing engineers, we should follow their lead and give this synth the lush reverberant treatment.

Acoustic guitars, made edgy with guitar amps, get softened in the chorus with a dose of large-hall reverb. Tambourine and other minor parts also move into sweeter, more reverberant sounds as we go from verse to chorus. We've orchestrated a crescendo of reverbs, so the chorus transports us to a new place, so that we feel like millionaires and don't mind if we aren't. The tune rewards us with some great moments for the scene change. For example, there is this nice breakdown right before the last choruses.

We let it return to the drier, more direct sound, the more forward sound quality. And when the chorus hits, it's huge. Listen to the moment when the background vocals come in singing their, oh, oh, oh's. That might be my favorite moment in the song. The scene change is pretty compelling and her vocals deliver. It is a millionaire feeling. Of course it would be silly, distracting, and annoying to overdo this mix move. We aren't required to change scene with each change of song element from verse to chorus to bridge.

But as a mixer, it's important to notice, when the song invites this sort of a treatment, deliver it.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Foundations of Audio: Reverb .

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Q: This course was updated on 4/16/2013. What changed
A: We added a bonus chapter, "Advanced Reverb Techniques," with new movies on setting up your own reverb chamber, using convolution to simulate a space, and getting great impulse responses.
Q: This course was updated on 01/24/2014. What changed?
 A: The Get in the Mix videos have been updated to the most recent version of Pro Tools. Also, the course now includes free Get in the Mix sessions for two more DAWs: Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 11.
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