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Understanding reverb parameters

From: Audio Mixing Bootcamp

Video: Understanding reverb parameters

Although many sophisticated reverbs have a wide variety of somewhat obscure parameters, you can get exactly what you need for any mix with only five. Let's take a look at a native Pro Tools reverb plug-in. Most software reverbs have four environments that you can dial in: a Hall, a Room, a Chamber, and a Plate. In this case we have a Church instead of a Chamber and we have a couple other ones too. I have ambient and nonlinear and let's forget about those for a second because most reverbs don't actually have those parameters. A Hall is a large space that has a very long decay time and lots of reflections while a Room is a much smaller space that can be dead or reflective but has a short decay time of less than 1.5 seconds or so.

Understanding reverb parameters

Although many sophisticated reverbs have a wide variety of somewhat obscure parameters, you can get exactly what you need for any mix with only five. Let's take a look at a native Pro Tools reverb plug-in. Most software reverbs have four environments that you can dial in: a Hall, a Room, a Chamber, and a Plate. In this case we have a Church instead of a Chamber and we have a couple other ones too. I have ambient and nonlinear and let's forget about those for a second because most reverbs don't actually have those parameters. A Hall is a large space that has a very long decay time and lots of reflections while a Room is a much smaller space that can be dead or reflective but has a short decay time of less than 1.5 seconds or so.

A Chamber is an electronic representation of a tiled room that many of the large studios used to build just to create a great reverb sound. Phil Spector's Wall of Sound was built around in an excellent acoustic chamber at Gold Star Studios as an example. A Plate is a 4 foot hanging piece of metal that has transducers on it that many studios use for artificial reverb when they couldn't afford to build the chamber. Each of these reverb types have distinctly different sound and there's no rule on which one to use. Also in this Pro Tools D-Verb plug-in that we're looking at is also a size parameter that can select between a small, medium, and large space and that means a hall could either be a small hall or a medium or a large hall.

In fact, you don't see that on a lot of other reverbs. Probably the most important parameter is the Decay parameter and what this does is it represents how long it takes the reverb to fall off to where we can no longer hear it. So in other words if it's set on 4.5 seconds, it takes 4.5 seconds until the reverb tail falls below a level that we could hear it. The longer the decay time is the more it pushes a track further back in the mix while short ones under about a second or so make it sound bigger.

One of the things you have to worry about in almost all artificial reverbs is the very shortest decay times, because they tend to boing and usually that's how you can tell if a reverb actually sounds good or not. If it boings or sounds funny or metallic at a very, very low decay time, then usually it's not going to sound all that much better at longer ones as well. Now the other end of the spectrum is the longest delay time and what will happen is you'll also hear some boinginess or ringing or just some funny artifacts as a reverb is dying out.

Sometimes it doesn't matter so much because it's cover-up in a track, but if it was the very last note of a song for instance and you had this dying reverb tail that all of a sudden has sounded boingy or funny or had some artifacts in it, then it's something obviously you wouldn't want to use. So if you stay anywhere in between the shortest reverb time and longest reverb time it usually sounds a whole lot better, but that's how you can tell whether a reverb is going to sound good or not or the quality of the reverb is. Let me put this back here to somewhere normal. The third parameter is Pre-Delay.

Pre-delay delays the entrance of the reverb. So in another words a pre-delay of 0 milliseconds means that the reverb begins exactly when this sound does. But sometimes it actually muddies up the mix. So it's better if the Pre-delay is actually moved to 20 milliseconds or even more, which we will cover in a later movie. What this will do is add some space between the entrance of the sound and the entrance of the reverb and that space will clean it up considerably.

Suddenly instead of the reverb sounding kind of muddy, along with vocal let's say, you'll hear the vocal distinctly and then the reverb distinctly, and even though it's 20 milliseconds or 60 milliseconds or something very, very short, it really does make a difference. Though this is very important. In the days before electronic reverbs Pre-delay was achieved by using a tape recorder and what would happen is they would listen off the playback head and there a delay between the record head and the playback head, because there's a distance between the two heads and that would pre-delay the sound of the reverb.

It's a lot easier to do it without digital plug-in these days. So the Pre-delay can be usually adjusted from 0 to 120 milliseconds or so and that's about an eighth of a second. Usually, a 120 milliseconds is way long. We don't use it that much. It's usually somewhere between 20, 40, 60, 80, somewhere in there, but it's a very powerful parameter on reverb and something that you should learn how to use because it makes a huge difference in the sound. The next most important parameters are the high and low pass filters on a reverb.

Now many times these aren't included in a reverb plug-in and you would do this externally to shape the tone of the reverb. And that's another very important thing in mixing, where the tone of the reverb is shaped to make it fit best in the mix. In this case we have a high cut filter which is really important. There is a low pass filter which is basically the same thing and I'm not quite sure why they actually put two of the same thing in here, but the high frequency cut filter is very important and it will be used all the time.

If you want to clearly hear the reverb in the mix, you wouldn't cut the high frequencies at all. If you want the reverb to blend in with the mix, you cut the high frequencies and sometimes you'd cut them down to 8K and sometimes you cut them down to 3K, and this will make the reverb fit a lot better in the mix. On the other hand if your mix has a lot of low-end and it's already busy, too much low-end on the reverb would just muddy it up and that's why we would use a high pass filter to roll off anywhere between 50 Hertz and maybe as high as 600. It should be noted that the reverbs at Abbey Road that have been heard on hundreds of hit records over last 50 years and of course every Beatles record, they set their low pass filter at 10K and their high pass filter at 600 and that's a real secret to the way their reverbs sound.

Finally, the dry/wet control, which is sometimes called the mix control, allows you to mix the reverb signal with the dry signal. Normally, we'd set that at 100% wet when inserted into a dedicator reverbs effects channel. Many reverbs have a diffusion parameter and what that does is it simulates how reflective the walls in the particular space are. For instance a more diffused environment has hard walls with lot of reflections while one with softer walls has few reflections. A simple way to think of this is that high diffusion provides a thicker sounding reverb and low diffusion is a thinner sounding reverb.

So to sum it up, the reverb types selects between different reverb environments. Decayed time represents how long it takes the reverb tail to fall off to where we can't hear it anymore. Pre-delay delays the actions of the reverb so the reverb doesn't get in the way of the track. The high and low pass filters help shape the sound of reverb and the dry/wet control determines the mix of the dry to the affected signal.

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This video is part of

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Audio Mixing Bootcamp

103 video lessons · 18973 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 16s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
  2. 8m 20s
    1. Determining the listening position
      2m 27s
    2. Fixing acoustic problems
      2m 5s
    3. Setting up your monitors
      3m 48s
  3. 20m 17s
    1. Setting up your session
      5m 52s
    2. Setting up your subgroups
      7m 50s
    3. Setting up your effects
      6m 35s
  4. 8m 45s
    1. Developing the groove
      3m 46s
    2. Emphasizing the most important elements
      3m 44s
    3. Knowing what to avoid
      1m 15s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Learning the principles of building a mix
      1m 1s
    2. Assigning the drums to a subgroup
      3m 55s
    3. Building the mix from the kick
      10m 8s
    4. Building the mix from the snare
      8m 46s
    5. Building the mix from the toms
      5m 25s
    6. Building the mix from the overhead mics
      3m 53s
    7. Checking the drum phase
      4m 44s
    8. Balancing direct and miked bass channels
      3m 36s
    9. Building the mix from the bass
      3m 26s
    10. Building the mix from the vocals
      4m 19s
    11. Balancing the rhythm section
      2m 44s
    12. Balancing the rest of the instruments with the rhythm section
      5m 22s
    13. Making a mix without building it
      4m 20s
    14. Balancing the harmony vocals
      2m 35s
  6. 23m 2s
    1. Looking at the three main panning areas
      9m 23s
    2. Panning the drums
      6m 9s
    3. Avoiding pseudo-stereo
      7m 30s
  7. 1h 17m
    1. Understanding compressor parameters
      3m 42s
    2. Setting up the compressor
      14m 44s
    3. Compressing the drums
      7m 53s
    4. Compressing the room mics
      4m 9s
    5. Compressing the bass
      5m 24s
    6. Using the New York compression trick
      4m 23s
    7. Compressing the clean electric guitars
      4m 40s
    8. Compressing the distorted electric guitars
      4m 48s
    9. Compressing the acoustic guitars
      8m 7s
    10. Compressing the piano
      6m 35s
    11. Compressing the electric keyboards
      4m 32s
    12. Compressing the vocals
      4m 34s
    13. Compressing the horns
      3m 55s
  8. 25m 36s
    1. Learning noise gate basics
      9m 23s
    2. Using the noise gate on guitars
      3m 57s
    3. Using the noise gate on drums
      7m 38s
    4. Learning de-esser basics
      2m 15s
    5. Using the de-esser on vocals
      2m 23s
  9. 36m 4s
    1. Understanding equalizer parameters
      10m 16s
    2. Learning subtractive equalization
      8m 57s
    3. Learning frequency juggling
      8m 28s
    4. Using the magic high-pass filter
      7m 39s
    5. Learning the principles of equalization
      44s
  10. 49m 46s
    1. Equalizing the kick
      6m 7s
    2. Equalizing the snare
      2m 57s
    3. Equalizing the rack toms
      5m 4s
    4. Equalizing the floor tom
      4m 32s
    5. Equalizing the hi-hat
      4m 56s
    6. Equalizing the cymbal or the overhead mics
      6m 49s
    7. Equalizing the room mics
      5m 13s
    8. Equalizing the bass
      3m 59s
    9. Editing the bass rhythm
      4m 21s
    10. Equalizing the rhythm section
      5m 48s
  11. 47m 58s
    1. Equalizing the electric guitar
      8m 15s
    2. Equalizing the acoustic guitar
      4m 55s
    3. Equalizing the hand percussion
      3m 28s
    4. Equalizing the lead vocals
      6m 5s
    5. Equalizing the background vocals
      4m 14s
    6. Equalizing the piano
      4m 46s
    7. Equalizing the organ
      6m 49s
    8. Equalizing the strings
      6m 4s
    9. Equalizing the horns
      3m 22s
  12. 30m 47s
    1. Learning the principles of reverb
      1m 59s
    2. Understanding reverb parameters
      6m 49s
    3. Timing the reverb to the track
      6m 6s
    4. Equalizing the reverb
      2m 51s
    5. Using the two-reverb quick setup
      5m 35s
    6. Using the three-reverb setup
      7m 27s
  13. 59m 8s
    1. Adding reverb to the drums
      7m 56s
    2. Adding reverb to the vocals
      11m 59s
    3. Adding reverb to the guitars
      5m 17s
    4. Adding reverb to the piano
      4m 19s
    5. Adding reverb to the organ
      3m 43s
    6. Adding reverb to the strings
      5m 36s
    7. Adding reverb to the horns
      2m 57s
    8. Adding reverb to the percussion
      4m 46s
    9. Using reverb to layer the mix
      12m 35s
  14. 46m 8s
    1. Learning delay principles
      1m 40s
    2. Understanding delay parameters
      6m 54s
    3. Timing the delay to the track
      1m 28s
    4. Using delay timing variations
      2m 51s
    5. Equalizing the delay
      4m 23s
    6. Understanding the Haas effect
      2m 51s
    7. Using the three-delay setup
      7m 23s
    8. Adding delay to the vocals
      8m 43s
    9. Using delay to layer the mix
      9m 55s
  15. 21m 35s
    1. Understanding the types of modulation
      2m 43s
    2. Understanding modulation parameters
      4m 13s
    3. Modulating the guitars
      4m 7s
    4. Modulating the keyboards
      3m 17s
    5. Modulating the vocals
      4m 17s
    6. Modulating the strings
      2m 58s
  16. 12m 22s
    1. Mixing with subgroups
      5m 5s
    2. Using mix buss compression
      4m 21s
    3. Understanding the evils of hypercompression
      2m 56s
  17. 39s
    1. Goodbye
      39s

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