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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.
While both Stratocasters and Les Pauls are electric guitars with 6 strings, 22 frets, pickups, and so on, an experienced guitarist, given a choice, still has an opinion about which one to play in a recording session. There are indescribable differences in tone and playability not captured by the simple factual descriptions of their features. The same is true for reverb processors, and we audio engineers need to develop an ear for the nuances that distinguish them.
The last few videos have surveyed the most essential parameters that we will specify as we tailor our reverbs to our production, but it's worth recalling the technologies used to create reverb. Remember, we walk through a list of acoustic reverse like room tracks and chambers, mechanical reverbs like springs and plates, and digital reverbs whose algorithms can create any sort of reverb from real to fictitious. These technologies remind us that parameters like Reverb Time, base multiply, pre-delay, et cetera, never completely define the sound of her reverb.
A plate with a two second Reverb Time never sounds the same as a hall with a two second Reverb Time. And it's our job is recording engineers to specify the full and most appropriate sound qualities in the reverb to suit our tracks, to satisfy our artists, and to satisfy ourselves. So let's make a comparison of a plate reverb to a large hall reverb where the parameters are the same, but the technology creating the reverb is different. I want to make the point that the type of program whether it's a chamber, a plate, or a hall defines many subtle attributes of the reverb which transcend any of the adjustable parameters we discussed like reverb Time, Pre-delay, Frequency, Multipliers, and so on.
Let's have a listen to a snare drum to hear the impact of choosing the type of reverb program. This snare drum gets treated to two different reverb types, a plate, and a medium room. Both set to a Reverb Time of one second. You'll hear the plate first, then the Room. (music playing) The Reverb Time should feel like they have the same decay time, but they have very little else in common.
To my ear the plate reverb adds a mid-frequency texture that emphasizes the buzz and rattle of the snare. The medium room on the other hand evokes for me an image of the snare drum in an actual room. It's more natural sounding and doesn't color the snare as much as the plate. Meantime, it's worth noting that the plate doesn't actually create much illusion of a real space. Its resonant qualities are more about tone than space. We'll explore this important concept in an upcoming movie. So we're beginning to see that a reverb time of one second has no universal meaning.
Our choice of reverb type is quite important. Let's try a similar experiment with this vocal. (music playing) Here we'll reach for a two second Reverb Time, one is a large warm hall, the other is a chamber. I will play them back to back for immediate comparison, the hall comes first, then the chamber.
(music playing) The hall program creates a convincing illusion of our singer in a large hall.
At 2 seconds it really sounds like a concert hall. Don't forget this is a simple close mic studio recording, but at a good sounding reverb like this, and you can transport the singer to another place. The chamber reverb on the other hand has a more unusual sound. I hear it is more of a pleasing decoration than a realistic simulation of space. Recall that a chamber is a much smaller space than a concert hall. As a result, it has strong resonances that probably wouldn't work for an orchestra, and there's no guarantee it will be flattering to your vocal track.
With chambers we tend audition them, and if their spectral pockets of resonance pair well with the track, we go for it. If it turns out that the frequencies emphasized by the chamber don't fall in the best places for the track, we try another chamber. So again we see that the sound of a reverb includes many other hard to describe sonic features not captured by the all-important reverb parameters. In the next chapter of this course we've created more than a dozen movies on reverb techniques so that you can navigate the decision-making and creative process of adding reverb to your multi-track projects.
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