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The anatomy of reverberation

From: Foundations of Audio: Reverb

Video: The anatomy of reverberation

At first, I think we all have a pretty intuitive reaction to reverb. The unique reverberant signatures of concert halls and cathedrals, stadiums and stairwells, are noticed by almost everyone, not just audio enthusiasts like us. Kids clap in caves, sing in showers, holler in halls, and shout at subway stops. This intuitive flirtation with reverb is very much driven by the unmissable sonic reaction of the space to the sounds we make.

The anatomy of reverberation

At first, I think we all have a pretty intuitive reaction to reverb. The unique reverberant signatures of concert halls and cathedrals, stadiums and stairwells, are noticed by almost everyone, not just audio enthusiasts like us. Kids clap in caves, sing in showers, holler in halls, and shout at subway stops. This intuitive flirtation with reverb is very much driven by the unmissable sonic reaction of the space to the sounds we make.

While a child plays with reverb without much thought, making musical use of the effect is the much more daunting challenge presented to us every time we record. It's a tough concept to truly master. To describe reverb we need a set of parameters, and we need to assign them some values. But let me warn you ahead of time trying to describe something as ornate and expressive as reverb with just a few numbers is clumsy. The numbers will never fully define a reverb. Imagine trying to describe the sound of your favorite piano, the tone of your favorite vocal microphone, or the flavors in your favorite fish taco, using numbers only.

In the end, our understanding of any given reverb is always an aesthetic judgment, our own individual artistic assessment. Use the parameters as guides, but as always listen carefully and be opinionated. Go for what you like, never mind the details. One way to gain insight into reverb is to look at how it reacts to a specific test signal known as an impulse. An impulse is the shortest of clicks, a simple wave shape that snaps up and immediately snaps back down to silence, short and simple.

Play an impulse in a room, record the result, and you've captured the room's impulse response shown here. It consists of three key components, landmarks really. First is the direct sound, that's the original impulse itself. This is followed by some visible spikes of early energy which are known early reflections. This in turn is followed by a dense wash of decaying energy. This is the much more complicated energy coming from the later reflections in the room, this is the reverb tail.

Dividing your thinking into these building blocks can help even as we play music tracks instead of impulses. The direct sound is your original, likely close to mic to track, the kick, the snare, the vocal, the bass trombone. It's the dry part of the mix. As we had reverb to these tracks, we are adding a complex kind of sustain that includes the early reflections and the reverb tail. We will sometimes focus on the properties of the early reflections and other times focus on the reverb tail, each has sound qualities we need to get under control as we record and mix.

With these three components of reverb in mind, we are ready to look at the most important adjustable parameters in our reverb devices, the knobs we turn, the buttons we press, and the sliders we push, as we add reverb to our music.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Audio: Reverb

39 video lessons · 8795 viewers

Alex U. Case
Author

 
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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
      55s
    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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