Foundations of Audio: Reverb
Illustration by John Hersey

Hearing space in the mix


Foundations of Audio: Reverb

with Alex U. Case

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Video: Hearing space in the mix

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.
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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

Hearing space in the mix

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.

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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