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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.
This course is rich with audio examples, clarifying animations, DAW project files, and actual recording sessions, all part of an experience that I hope you'll find informative and fun. But the best classroom for studying reverberation is your favorite music. Professionally produced records by the top talent in our field are rich with sonic examples of the very reverb effects we need to master. We must listen and learn from them. I keep a reverb listening list at the website, recordingology.com. Just click your way to the reverb section to see some of the most iconic examples of reverb effects.
The list reflects my research and includes contributions from many others in our field. I invite you to add to the list. You might notice that many of the recordings are a bit old, from the 90s and before. There are two reasons for this. First, I believe it's difficult to know the historic significance of a recording--even a favorite recording--if it's less than about 20 years old. Classic iconic status is earned by a recording in part by proving itself relevant for decades.
We all have music we absolutely loved three to five years ago that isn't so interesting to us anymore. We listen to music from before we were born that still inspires us. To separate the bad fads from the real deal, the listening list is tilted towards the past. The second reason the list favors older recordings is because simpler times created more revealing recordings. Before the Digital Audio Workstation--which is to say before the mid-90s--when the DAW finally became a professional grade production platform, track count was far more limited.
24 tracks was nearly the peak and the days of 16, 8, 4-track stereo and mono aren't so long ago. Today's track count regularly exceeds 100 tracks. Those days of fewer tracks gave us mixes where different effects were more exposed, presented with less distraction and competition from the other tracks. That makes it easier to hear what's going on. The same mix moves happen in today's productions, it's just a lot harder to hear it, break it down, and figure out how to do it.
So allow yourself to like the older music and give yourself the chance to learn from it. Read through the listening list, spin the tunes you already own, consider picking up some of the others, and give them a listen while you experience this course. The songs make great study breaks and they can serve as a kind of soundtrack to the course. Hearing the real world realizations of the reverb effects we study here will accelerate your understanding and raise the quality of your mixes.
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