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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.
When we record we can choose to place our microphones, musicians, and their instruments in environments that have a unique sounding reverberation or in an environment with very little reverb at all. When you're working in a live room, which is how we describe rooms that have naturally occurring ambience and reverberation, you're going to want to capture the sound of the room using a separate microphone. Have a listen to the sound of a close-miked acoustic guitar in a live room with the sound of this room mike added to the mix. (music playing) The ambient room contributes to the sound by adding a bit of shimmer and glow, particularly to the more articulated notes in David's performance.
While recording the unique reverberant quality of our space can lead to amazing tracks, most of the time we record with little to no natural reverb, and add artificial reverb later as a separate effect. Here is the sound of the same guitar in a sound booth, acoustically designed to have very little reverb. (music playing) And now I'll add the reverb.
(music playing) There are a few reasons for recording our tracks with very little reverb. The first has to do with our desire for isolation among our tracks. Musicians need and like to record together in the same space to hear each other as they play, but there's some pressure on us as engineers to record tracks in isolation, so the sound from one instrument doesn't leak into another player's microphone.
We like to manipulate each track giving them their own distinct effects as we mix. Working in studios that are highly sound absorptive helps us reduce the so-called leakage. To further that goal we often push the microphones in closer to their targeted instrument. Another reason our tracks often have no reverb stems from this close microphone placement. Getting in close enables us to capture vivid timbres, and that larger than life quality that we've come to expect in sound recordings.
Lastly, we don't always know what type of reverb we'll want on the day we track it. We record it dry so that we can add the perfect reverb effect later when we have a better sense of the full arrangement and can make the reverb decisions in the context of the entire mix. All of these forces then conspire to make us record most of our tracks with little to no natural reverberation we add it in later. In pop music we typically gather sounds with a microphone up close and personal for maybe 6-8 inches away, to as close as--well as close as we can get without damaging the microphone or the instrument.
This isn't necessarily the case for classical and some jazz techniques in which we often place the microphones some distance away from the orchestra or band, simultaneously recording the sound of all the players, plus the sound of the room. Most of us will likely be doing multi-track production in the studio and not recording orchestras in concert halls, so recording with close mikes on individual tracks and adding reverb to them later will be our standard practice. reverb processing in the studio releases us from the constraints of real room acoustics and frees us to explore so many options, realistic, surrealistic, more beautiful, more bizarre, we explore all the options in this course.
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