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In this course, author Bobby Owsinski reveals industry tips, tricks, and techniques for producing professionally mixed audio on any digital audio workstation. He offers recommendations for setting up an optimal listening environment, highlights the most efficient ways to set up and balance a mix, and shows how to build a powerful sound with compression. The course also explains how to master the intricacies of EQ; incorporate reverb, delay, and modulation effects; and generate the final mix.
Since the lead vocal is usually the focal point of a song, reverb setting is critical because of how it can make the vocal sound. Pick the right one and it'll add the extra professional sounding sheen that all hit records have. Pick the wrong one and it'll sound washed out and lost in the track. In this video, I'll show you how to get the best reverb sound for your vocal. Many times the lead vocal has a lot more reverb on it than it seems, but it's disguised by the way it's tailored in that it uses a high-pass filter and a low-pass filter and maybe even some additional reverb so it fits better in the mix.
Other times it's really important that we hear the reverb and every effort is made to maintain or even equalizes its high-frequency response just so we can hear it and it sticks out. Bells that have a long period of space in between vocal lines will usually benefit from a longer reverb decay that's obvious in the mix. So let's have a listen to the lead vocal here and see what we can do in terms of some reverb. Let's listen to it just by itself. (Music playing) So now what we're going to do is we're going to assign this to our second reverb.
The first one is pretty much for the drums, so I'll go to the second one on Bus 13 and 14. Let's bring up the Reverb settings and have a look at it. This is set to a large plate, which has a Decay time of about 1.8 seconds. Let's listen. (Music playing) That sounds pretty good. Now 1.8 seconds is actually timed to the track. We timed it with our snare drum and if you don't know how to do that, go back and look at the movie on timing your reverb to the track.
So now the next thing we want to do is add some pre-delay. Now we know that this song is at a 104 beats per minute. And again, if we go back to the movie about timing our reverb to the track, we can figure out from the formula that it comes out to about 72 milliseconds for a 16th note Pre-Delay. So let's hit that tp 72 milliseconds. Let's have a listen now. (Music playing) Now with no Pre-Delay.
(Music playing) It sounds a lot better, doesn't it? The Pre-Delay adds some space in between the attack of the vocal and then the attack of the reverb. If the attacks are both on top of one another, they tend to blur together. In this way the Pre-Delay actually makes them both distinct, so it sounds a lot bigger and it keeps them out of each other's way. Let's listen in the track now. (Music playing) Now let me mute that and then I'll play with the reverb so we can hear both of them.
(Music playing) You can hear it adds an awful lot. Now what we might want to try to do is actually cut this in half. From 72 milliseconds, we'll cut it down to 36. Have a listen to what that sounds like. Let's solo it up. (Music playing) It sounds pretty good. It's less distinct and that might work better in the track. So let's listen.
(Music playing) It sounds really good. Now you can see that the Pre-Delay is really important and it's something that if we time it to the track, it especially works very well. We're going to go one more step and we're going to add an EQ in front of the reverb in the signal chain. So let's bring up our friendly 4-Band EQ. But now what we're going to do is we're going to dip right in the presence range of where the vocal is.
Now what this will do is it will keep those frequencies out of the way of the vocal and it will actually open up a lot of space. Let's solo up the track, have a listen. (Music playing) Now let's listen in the track. (Music playing) Now usually at somewhere between 2 and 5K, it's in the presence region of the vocal.
And if we attenuate those frequencies just a little bit, and again, there's no set amount to do this, this is pretty much by ear, but you'll find that the reverb will fit a lot better. We can go another step here though. Let's add our high-pass filter and we'll cut this off at about 200. Now again, 100 to 200, even 500, works really well. The famous Abbey Road reverbs use 600. So actually, let's go to 600 just so we can hear what it's like.
I can do this easily. I can just type it in, 600. Let's have a listen now. (Music playing) Now you can hear how thick it is when the EQ is bypassed and how it fits into the track and sounds so much more natural when EQ is in. (Music playing) Let's listen in the track.
(Music playing) Let's go back and listen with the EQ bypassed and then I'll put the EQ in as we're listening. (Music playing) This is why many hit records have a lot more reverb than you think. The reverb is actually tailored frequency-wise so it fits better in the track and this is a real secret.
Another thing that we might do is put another high-pass filter in. We can't do it on this particular EQ because we have limited resources, but if we could, we would also roll off the top end to about 10K and that would help as well. So all those things help to make it fit better in the track. If we look at background vocals, we'll have a slightly different approach. Let's have a quick listen. (Music playing) I'm going to go to a different place in the song for the background vocals.
I'm going to hit Command+5 and it brings up our Memory Locations. I'm going to hit this particular chorus here. Let's get rid of the Memory Locations again and have a listen to the background vocals against the lead vocal. (Music playing) Now background vocals sometimes are just put into a space and pushed back farther in the mix on the lead vocal.
But sometimes they're made bigger than life thanks to a really short reverb and that's somewhere less than about half a second or so. If the background vocals are singing harmony with the lead vocals, sometimes they need to have the same reverb as the lead vocal. But most of the time, you want to have them distinguished differently, so a different reverb actually works better. Let's solo these up and have a quick listen. (Music playing) Now what I'm going to do is add another reverb just for the background vocals.
So let's add one more. We're going to add an Aux Input and we're going to drag it over with our other reverbs. Here we go! Let's add another D-Verb. I'm using the D-Verb because I think it's the smoothest sounding reverb of the ones that are included in the Pro Tools software. So the first thing we're going to do is let's say we'll put this in a room. I'll put it in a Large room. And since we know that 1.8 seconds work good on the other reverb, let's make it 1.8 over here.
And 72 milliseconds might work really good, and again we're timing it to the track and we want the reverb to sound somewhat different. Let's see what happens. So again this is a brand-new aux track. We're going to call this Rev BG for background vocals and we're going to put this input on a different bus. We can see here the ones in yellow are already used. So 19 and 20 isn't used. That'll be our input to the new reverb.
We'll come up here and we'll add a send and 19 and 20 is what we need. Let's have a listen now. (Music playing) Now one thing we have to do is come over here and solo it. Also, we want to hear it. (Music playing) Now there is a trick that we can do over here. We can put it into something called Solo Safe. And the way we do that is Command and then hit the Solo button, and now what happens is no matter what other solo is engaged on any other channel, this solo will always be on on the reverb background channel that has a Solo Safe on it.
And that's usually what we do with effects channels. We put them in Solo Safe so we don't have to worry about always soloing one channel and having to go back to solo the reverb channel just to hear what it sounds like. It's a quick shortcut. (Music playing) Now that might work. Now take notice there is a lot more reverb but we're putting it in a different space than the other vocal and then also the other instruments. Let's listen what it sounds like in the track.
(Music playing) One more time, let me mute it and then I'll unmute it just so you can hear the difference. (Music playing) So you can hear the background vocals are in a different space and there is a fair amount of reverb on there, so they are pushed back more in the mix.
Now if I wanted to tailor the reverb like I did on the lead vocal, what I would do is add an EQ and then I would notch it in the presence frequencies, 2-5K, and then add high- and low-pass filter, and once again that would make it blend a little bit better in the track. But that's how you do it. So that's how we add reverb to a vocal. Many times a lead vocal has a lot more reverb on it than it seems, but it's disguised by the way its bandwidth is tailored by a high-pass filter and a low-pass filter and maybe an EQ. Other times it's important to hear the vocal and every effort is made to maintain or even equalize its high-frequency response.
Background vocals sometimes are just put in the space, pushed back in the mix from the lead vocal, or even made it bigger than life, thanks to a very, very short, like a 0.5-second, reverb. Remember you're usually trying to put the vocals in the space, not push them back in the mix, which is the opposite of what you're trying to do with the background vocals.
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