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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.
Pop and rock tunes might tempt us to have a very dry view of effects. But many productions like this track by Midatlantic called Shine invites some simulation of actual space. (music playing) Let's zoom in a bit, focusing on the lead vocal and the background vocals.
There are two complementary reverb effects here that we should pay attention to. Take a listen to the reverb treatments on the lead vocal and the background vocals as I play the end of verse 1 into chorus 1. Let's listen first to the background vocals. (music playing) The production goal here is to make sure there's an emotional lift in the chorus, that the sincere sentiment--it's a love song--is supported sonically.
So we give these background vocals polish and airiness and sweetness by way of a reverb set to a large bright hall, replacing the tight close-miked harmonies in a lush space. (music playing) The rest of the tracks in this mix avoid such rich treatment, sticking to the expected alternative rock vibe of being forward, in your face, and relatively dry.
The entrance of the background vocals in the chorus placed in a large space fills the stereo field left to right and envelops the listener. The high harmonies soar, feeling human and real, the chorus lifts as intended. Have a listen to these background vocals as I turn the reverb off and back on. (music playing) Too much of this type of reverb and things get mushy and crowded, but playing it safe and leaving them as dry as the rest of the tracks in the mix misses the opportunity for a bit of bright hall magic in our mix. We search for just the right touch of reverb.
Meanwhile, there's this lead vocal, it gets a dose of reverb too. (music playing) You might be tempted to keep it dry, wanting to avoid a washy, weak sound and trying to keep the edginess in the production.
But listen to how the vocal becomes too simple, too plane, too thin to carry the tune when I turn the reverb off. (music playing) The reverb add subtle but important sonic traits of a real room.
It takes the singer out of the Studio and puts them back on stage with the band. In fact, it's pretty rare to leave the lead vocal bone dry. This one gets a splash of a medium room sound. We want to make sure that no matter what the ban does, no matter how huge the guitars get, we need the emotion in this male vocal performance to cut through. Whether someone's listening in ear buds on a subway, or at home on a tricked out hi-fi system, we need the singer's feelings to somehow be heard. We need to know that this lead singer is doing something brave and fragile and risky, he's daring to have these feelings and to sing about it.
So we add a bit of realism to the track, courtesy of a medium room reverb effect. Let's have a listen to the vocal with and without the liveness to make sure were adding to it but not overdoing it. (music playing) Soloed this may sound like too much reverb, but as always, it's important to listen to it in the context of the full mix.
With the rest of the band playing, it no longer sounds overly processed. (music playing) Just give him room to breath, give him some air to push. These treatments on the lead vocal and background vocals are typical examples of how we use reverb to simulate the sound of a space.
If there'd been a need to put a 12-string acoustic guitar into a cathedral, we would have done that here as well. If the song suggested we should put a string section into a symphony hall, we would have done that too. We create what ever realistic reverb the song calls for.
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