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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.
I hope you have seen that reverb is the basis for some pretty out-there effects, from nonlinear reverb, to gated reverb, to reverse reverb, we've see how reverberation can be the basis for synthesizing wholly new sounds. While the idea of reverb comes from real rooms, the reverb we create in a studio take some left turns. But we're not even close to done yet. Let's take a look at some other unusual uses of reverb that fabricate new sounds. The goal here is to show you that there are many avenues to explore. If you're feeling inspired, go for your own modifications, variations, and entirely new inventions.
Convolution offers a really exciting opportunity for using reverb processing to manipulate our sounds. Recall that convolution allowed us to take the impulse response of any space and apply it to any of our audio tracks to create the illusion of our tracks having been performed in that space. But convolution isn't limited to impulse responses for fancy halls and performance spaces, we can also use convolution to create the sound of our tracks in other innovative or alternative spaces. If you don't feel like a symphony hall or an opera house will do, you can use convolution to create the sound of your track in a pipe, a water tank, a power plant, a chimney, or a shoebox.
If you have the impulse response of any other sort of space, you can convolve it with your tracks to get an entirely new sound. And you can also convolve your tracks with non-space waveforms. That is why not involve your vocal with a snare drum, or your snare drum with the sound of breaking glass, or your ukulele with the waveform of didgeridoo note? Convolution as an application can convolve any audio track with any other short waveform. Let's take a listen to one example. This percussive groove has room for a bit of wacky convolution.
(music playing) (music playing) Hidden in the loop are some quick muted strums on guitar, offering a very short percussive detail. And because someone was kind enough to put the resonance of an empty 5-gallon glass water bottle in a convolution reverb, we can convert the strum into an interesting new percussion sound, rounder and fuller.
(music playing) Add some interesting echo... and drop it in the mix. (music playing) Convolution can be taken to rather absurd extremes. I love this stuff, so I'm counting on you to explore this further. And speaking of absurd extremes, let's return to reverb Chambers.
reverb Chambers can be a beautiful, honest, acoustic way to introduce reverb to your production. But there's nothing stopping us from processing those reverb Chambers. What if you introduced pitch shifting to your Reverb Chamber? For example, here's a Reverb Chamber in which the return from the reverb was pitch shifted down by one octave. And I also allow it to be time stretched. So now the reverb tail is an octave lower, and it lasts twice as long. A snare becomes a kind of gong. (music playing) You can shift it up or shift it down.
You can increase the duration, preserve the duration, or shorten the duration of that reverb. When you're synthesizing new sounds, aggressively manipulating any reverb can lead to outrageous and sometimes inspiring tracks, whatever suits your production goals. All too often reverb effects are dialed up, tweaked, set, and left to run on their own, static for the entire mix. I'd like to encourage you to fiddle around a bit more. Why not apply a reverb effect to a single note, hit, fill, word, or phrase? Listen to this groove as we transition from an A section to a double time B section.
(music playing) The first snare hit here as we transition from the A section to the B section is begging for an extra kick of reverb. We don't want this much reverb every single time to snare hits, that would clutter our mix, but we can get away with a little extra just this once. Listen to the extra kick of reverb when the tune jumps into double time.
(music playing) And just as the reverb can come and go when we need it, we can also use the automation in our Digital Audio Workstation to manipulate the reverb parameters themselves during the course of our mix. The Reverb Time can be allowed to get longer or shorter, to get brighter or duller, to get warmer or thinner, it's up to you. Listen carefully, because the manipulation of certain reverb parameters can lead to audible artifacts.
Listen for clicking and zipper noises as the reverb parameters are changed. When that happens, you're out of luck. You'll need to reach for a different parameter or a different reverb or make the parameter moves more slowly or do the move when the reverb is muted, if the music allows. But many reverb devices pride themselves on letting you massage and manipulate and modulate various parameters within the presets, live, without unwanted sonic side effects. So you can manipulate the spectral content of the reverb in tempo with the tune, or change the Reverb Time in a way that's tied to the groove.
All the tracks in your mixes are probably quite dynamic, you ride faders, muting and unmuting tracks as you wish. Your effects, especially reverb, can be just as dynamic as your tracks. There's nothing to stop you from changing the reverb from verse to chorus to bridge, and even from bar to bar and beat to beat. This sort of dynamic reverb that changes so often can be an intriguing kind of ear candy that pulls listeners into your mix and sets it apart. Convolution craziness, chamber reverb creativity, and dynamic reverb all drive home one essential point: reverb is a rich effect that loves to be part of a more elaborate signal processing scheme.
I hope you're feeling creative, because there's much to explore, and that's what we'll do in the next movie.
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