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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.
Artists often live on the edge, and musicians are no exception. There is something to be said for music when it gets almost out of control, when it's on the edge of what we can comprehend, what we can keep up with, what we can understand. And so while reverb can be used to bring clarity and emphasis as discussed in the prior movie, we sometimes deliberately use reverb for the opposite, to blur and obscure elements in a mix. Putting too much reverb in a mix is a well-known and messy problem. A lot of reverb on the snare can create a sustained rumbling mess that covers your entire mix, making it hard to understand the vocals, hear the genius and the guitars and worse.
So too much reverb is certainly a challenge, but a greater challenge for us as recording engineers is to try sometimes when the music calls for it, to flirt with that limit of what counts as too much. There are times when the music wants to spiral out of control, and so there are times when we allow our mix to get a little too reverberant, too messy to help enhance that feeling. It can help listeners feel the loss of control as they struggle a little bit to hear what's going on in your mix too. It creates some mystery so that there's some wonder, leaving the listener to ask what was that line? Is that actually a guitar making that sound? Are there two guitars there? No, wait, I think I hear three.
Most of us who do this love listening to other recordings and discovering details in a mix that we didn't even hear until just now, even though we've heard the tune more than a hundred times. Of course we have to be careful here. Too much reverb accidentally muddying a mix is unacceptable. But deliberately pushing the boundaries for how much reverb we can safely enjoy in a mix, well, that's a limit to be explored.
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