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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
So again, a reverb's goal is to simulate an acoustic space. When a signal is fed into a reverb, it is if that signal was played back in a space, a room, a hall, etcetera, and allowed to bounce around. Some of the frequencies are going to be reflecting back off the surfaces, while some are going to be absorbed. So think about different spaces that you have been in, like an airplane hangar or a closet with lots of clothes. The goal of a reverb is to sort of simulate the effect of the waveforms bouncing off and reflecting off the walls and coming back to you along with the dry sound.
So the D-Verb is Pro Tools stock reverb plug-in. We pull that up here on one of these tracks and it's a very straight ahead digital reverb with a simple set of controls and a really easy to use user interface. And it might not be the best sounding reverb on the market according to some. But learning its controls is going to allow you to be comfortable with almost any reverb unit. So let's look at the D- Verb setup in Take Me Down. What I'm doing is again I'm using sends and returns.
This method of sending the signal from a track and feeding it or collecting it into a return as a group processor, a group effect. So if I look at the Room Verb here at the end, the Room Verb's input on this aux track is set to Room Verb and that's a bus and this is where the D-Verb is going to live and any other plug- ins that I want to feed in line. Now anything that's sent to Room Verb, here like the background vocal sub, the lead vocal effects, the B3, all these elements are going to collect across that Room Verb bus and eventually make their way back into the Mix Bus, via this returns output.
This is typically how we want to setup out reverbs and delays and a send-return relationship. Reverbs and delays tend to be very DSP-intensive. So if we can share them, this help save on CPU processing. And it's also going to allow us to create a common space for all of the elements to sort of combine into. So it is actually beneficial to combine these tracks across to bus and process them with a common effect. So the way I typically set up reverbs in my mixes is I like to at least have something short like a smaller room or a shorter room and something long.
When I talk about time, I'm talking about the size of the space and the amount of time it takes for the reverb to decay. So if you think about being in a really large space, it might take a long time for all the sound to die down after you clap your hands. Whereas if you are in a very small place like a closet, you might not hear any reverb tail at all. So if we look at and we go through some of the settings here in D-Verb, again, this is great way to familiarize yourself with a different kind of reverb sounds you are going to find in a digital reverb.
The first thing we'll see is Input and how D-Verb comes up stock as the Input is attenuated a bit and this is just to make sure you don't overload the plug-in with your send. You could actually turn this up to 0 if you wanted to boost that Input a little bit more but the stock setting has it down at -4. Now, the next parameter is mix and that's going to allow you to blend the dry signal. 0 will be all dry with the reverb tail or the wet signal, the sound of the reflections.
Now, because I'm using it in the send and return set up, I'm going to leave the return set to 100% wet, because what we are getting is the dry sound. So for example, on this lead vocal effects, it's being fed into the Room Verb. But the dry sound is coming out this track here, straight into the Mix Bus. So we are recombining it with the wet sound over on the return. So we are going to leave out Mix set to 100%. It's typically how it goes. Now, if we were to use the D-Verb straight up as an insert on a track, that's when I would start playing with the Mix parameter.
However, there are no hard and fast rules, I generally use my reverbs on effects, returns, but sometimes you put them directly on a track. I mean a lot of old school engineers would say this is a no, no. But I see tons of people who make really amazing music and they use reverbs as inserts all the time. So just know why you would want to put them as a effect send and return versus why you would use them as an insert and use the Mix parameter accordingly. Now, the Algorithm here is going to determine primarily how this reverb sounds for the tonal quality of the reverb.
In all these different settings here, I'm going to give you a different sound and each one really kind of corresponds to some different default settings as I switch through these here. So the best way I found to learn these different sounds is just take some audio, take local and run it through these different sounds and kind of listen to the tonal quality that you are going to get. Hall is going to be more of a natural sounding verb, sort of a general purpose concert hall. The Church is a very large, more diffused space, long decay times, lots of tail build-up, can get muddy, so you want to be careful.
The Plate sort of simulates a metal plate reverb. So it's very metallic, it's also very diffused, can work great on snare drums and vocals. The two Room presets kind of simulate smaller, more compact spaces. One is sort of a medium sized room whereas two is a smaller brighter room and it's a little bit better for drums and percussion. Now the Ambient setting is going to give you a really tight short reverb, something that's probably not going to sound like a reverb at all.
It's kind of going to just give you a sense of a bit of space and it's kind of nice on things like dialog, when you are working in post production, or maybe just putting that little bit on your main vocal and then processing the delays with more of a longer tailed reverb. Now the NonLinear algorithm, this is going to model a gated reverb. That is the tail is cut short from its natural decay, which is really going to give you that kind of that fill colon snare sound.
That 80s really big huge reverb sound that dies down quickly, at something cool is kind of a dated effect, so kind of use that to taste. Now, the Size settings here, they are going to control the decay but they are also going to call up different algorithms as I go through the main algorithm. The size setting is not just the decay. It's actually going to call up some other parameters that you can't manipulate. For the most part, you can think of it as small as going to be a shorter tail.
So the reverb is going to not last as long, whereas large, we are going to have a longer decay setting or the tail is going to be longer. So if we think about this next parameter Diffusion, Diffusion is going to determine the echo density. So the number of discrete delays built up over time, higher settings are better for percussive sounds, because it's going to tend to avoid those kind of discrete delay, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha sounds on your snare or your kick drums, things like that. Whereas more legato sounds, vocals and things like that, you can get away with lower diffusion settings which is going to be sort of more discrete delays.
So play around with it, see if you can hear that. Probably the most important parameter we are going to find is Decay time. So shorter settings is a shorter tail, longer settings, longer tail. Let's see if we can listen to this, because it is kind of an important setting here and we'll call up the lead vocals effects here, where I have got a little Room Verb. I'll pull up a section where they are playing. Select that and let's listen to really short amount of reverb here. Switch that off.
(Male singing: Let me drink you away, let me drink you away.) (Male singing: The harder I try, the more that I seem to pay.) (Male singing: Let me drink you away, let me drink you away.) (Male singing: The harder I try, the more that I seem to pay.) So what happens with the Decay is when it's too long, it's kind of going to overpower the mix and the cool thing about D-Verb is you can actually set the Decay to infinite.
So the tail will just last forever and this is kind of a neat thing to automate in and out, especially if you are doing kind of really cool sound design stuff, stack a couple of delays in reverbs with infinite decay to get these really washed out distant sounds. But generally the Decay setting kind of want to manage that within the tempo and what the instrument is doing. So things that are doing more rhythmic or I should say faster rhythms, you generally don't want to have really long decays on.
So if you think about a snare drum playing on the two and the four, you generally want that decay to be almost completely died out before the next hit. So it's not washing over the next hit and this can kind of play into your tempo, because if your tempo is really fast, that two and then the next four is going to come much sooner than in let's say a really slow ballad where you could get away with a really long Decay setting. But like I said, I like to have something short and something a little bit longer for the less rhythmic sounds, to kind of really give them a long space to live in.
Now the pre-delay is going to essentially hold off on the tail for as many milliseconds as you set here. Now, this isn't you something that we can really manipulate in nature so much. This is kind of something that we can do when we are using digital reverbs. The idea of pre-delay is that we can actually in a sense separate the sound from the tail and in effect, we are almost creating sort of a delayed reverb.
If I back this up a lot and we listen to this, you definitely going to hear the initial sound with the delayed reverb. (Male singing: Let me drink you away, let me drink you away.) (Male singing: The harder I try, the more that I seem to pay.) So what you are hearing is sort of that reverb as a delayed-in-time signal and you know you can do some cool things with pre-delay. Depending on what you are processing, the pre-delay can help separate sort of the initial transient or the first section of a sound from the tail, so it's not obscuring some of the present.
So I find it especially on vocals and things like that, I might use a little pre-delay to separate the initial dry sound from the tail. And then sometimes, I'll go really crazy and do completely delayed reverbs so that there may be an eighth note or even a quarter note separated from the original sound. So you can kind of play with that. Now, most reverbs have some sort of built-in EQing parameter, where you can actually equalize the tail.
And the reason we generally want to equalize the tails with these brighter sounding algorithms like the Plate and even some of these other ones like the Rooms and the NonLinear. If you want a darker quality reverb and the algorithm isn't giving it to you, you can achieve that through EQ. So I can cut the high frequencies and Low Pass filter them. So these are two EQ settings that allow me to kind of kill out the high frequency sounds. So let's see if we can make a really dark sounding hall here.
We set those back again. (Male singing: Let me drink you away, let me drink you away.) (Male singing: The harder I try, the more that I seem to pay.) So with the tail there, you could hear how some of the silibance came out a little bit more when I didn't have the High Frequency Cut, and generally what's happening already is I'm going to EQ out some of the low end from my reverb.
A lot of times I avoid using the built -in reverb controls and I just opt to place an EQ afterwards. So you can see on the Plate, what I'm actually doing is I'm EQing out some of the brittleness and any of that silibance that might be making its way through the plate, as well as some of the low end mud, right? So if I'm treating any low frequency stuff with the reverb, I'm not accumulating even more mud into my tail. So sometimes it's a good idea just to slap those EQs right at the end of your return.
So again, D-Verb is a great learning tool and it's surprisingly a decent reverb, if you give it a chance. Learning all of its controls will help you graduate to more complex reverbs, like the reverbs in the air collection and other third party reverbs. Take some time to listen to the different room types and kind of commit their unique sonic texture to memory, kind of keep them in your lexicon of spaces in your head. Think of yourself sort of like a director scouting for locations for your next shoot.
It might be not be appropriate for this mix but you never know when that texture could come up. Take some time to listen to some of the reverbs inside of Take Me Down. Like I said, there is a short Room Verb, a longer Plate and then a specific Drum Room Reverb. So listen to those and get a good idea of how reverb is used in this sort of mix context.
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