If your mixes often sound too dry or muddy, it’s apparently because you don’t use reverb as good as you can.
In this guide, I will cover all the basics and all the critical tips you need to know to start using reverb the right way.
WHY WOULD YOU USE REVERB?
The reverb creates a simulation of space, so it makes your mix sound like its being played in a real space, which is excellent, as long as you don’t use it too much.
It can also help a lot to a muddy mix, to a narrow mix, and a too dry mix.
Another thing reverb can help with a lot is with making smooth transitions, and filling up space.
PARAMETERS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The decay determines the time it takes to the reflections to fade away.
In most songs today, reverb decay times are between one to three seconds.
In most cases, You would want a short decay on your drums (0.3s-1s), a mid-range decay for your chords and leads (0.8s-2s), and a long decay for your pads and other background elements (1.5s-3s).
The room size simulates the size of the room your reverb is created in, with the stereo width of the reverb.
In most cases, you would want a small size for your drums, a mid-range size for your chords and leads, and a large size for your pads and background elements.
Sometimes you may get into a situation where your reverb has some kind of an artificial sounding high end.
To solve it, you can use damping. The more damping you add, the warmer your sound will be.
This sets the balance of dry and wet sound.
In most cases, you would want to use a low percentage mix for your drums (5%-25%), a mid percentage mix for your chords and leads (15%-40%), a high percentage mix for your pads (25%-45%), and a super high percentage mix for your background elements (30%-70%).
THE TWO WAYS TO APPLY REVERB
Insert FX way
This way is really easy to use, but it also gives you much less control over your reverb.
To use it, add a reverb effect to your channel effects rack.
Send FX way
This way is a bit more complicated, but it gives you a lot more control over your reverb.
To use it, add a send FX channel, then send your track to this channel, add reverb effect, and put the mix on 100% wet.
To add a send FX channel in Cubase
Go to the mix console, right-click the channel, and click on “Add FX Channel to ‘Your Channel Name'”.
To add a send FX channel in Ableton
Right-click and select ‘Insert Return Track’ when you’re in session view, and then mess with the send knob in your channel.
To add a send FX channel in FL Studio
Go to the mixer and select your channel, then find a new empty channel, and click on the little arrow at the bottom of the mixer.
Elements You Should Put Reverb On
First of all, it’s essential to understand that there are no rules here.
In the end, the only thing you should count on is your ears, so if you find it right to add reverb, add it.
Just try not to wash your tracks with reverb.
- Leads – Recommended decay – (1s-2.5s)
- Chords – Recommended decay – (1s-3s)
- Pads – Recommended decay – (1s – 3s)
- Background Elements – Recommended decay – (1.5s – 4s)
- Atmosphere Elements – Recommended decay – (1.5s – 4s)
Should Your Reverb Be Mono/Stereo
Since the reverb is supposed to simulate the reflections of a real space, the logical answer to this question is using reverb in stereo.
How ever, you might want your reverb to be a little more narrow sometimes.
For example, when you put reverb on drums, you probably want it to be narrow.
Times You Should Use Reverb
- Something sounds too close – To fix this, you can try two things – expand the stereo image, or add some reverb.If you decide to add reverb, you would probably need to have a medium-large room size and a medium-long decay.
- Something sounds too short – If you have an element which is shorter than you would like it to be, there are two things you can do.The first is messing with the adsr, and the second is adding reverb.
- To make a smoother transition – to make a smooth transition, try to add a long decay reverb and then automate the mix, so it starts from zero and goes up to a point where it blends in nicely.
- To fill out empty spaces – A great thing I recommend trying is adding a medium decay reverb to a send channel and then automating the send channel volume, so it fills up those empty spaces.
My Top 5 Tips For Using Reverb
- Try to sidechain your leads’ reverb – Side-chaining the reverb will make your leads sound alive.It creates sort of a breathing effect that keeps the energy of your track going.
- Equalize the reverb – Even if you cut off all the low-end of a track, the reverb may produce enough low-end to create a mess.So to fix that, all you need to do is cutting the low end with the built-in eq options in your plugin or with an equalizer on your send channel.
- Watch out for stereo width problems – Most of the times, your reverb will be really wide.And even though this may sound great on stereo, when you hear it on mono, it’s probably not going to be the same.To fix it, you can decrease the room size/stereo width setting, or you can use mid/side eq.
- Automate the on/off switch – This tip is especially helpful when effecting chords.When you put a reverb plugin on your chords, the reverb from the first chord might leak into the reverb of the second chord, and create a sloppy feeling.So to fix it, automate the on/off switch, so it quickly turns off and then on at the beginning of every chord.
- Avoid too many reverb types – If you’re using too many reverb types, your track will end up sounding a bit strange.It happens because of the reverb’s space setting.If each reverb in your track simulates a different kind of space, the result will sound weird and artificial.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
- Don’t use reverb to mask problems – Even though reverb can solve many problems in your mix, you shouldn’t use it to fix problems that are not related to reverb.When you use reverb to fix problems that aren’t related to it, you don’t fix the problem. You blur it. If you have vocals that are a bit out of tune – tune them, if you have a track that gets in the way, figure what’s wrong and fix it.
- Don’t ignore the Pre-Delay – When you add reverb to something it makes it sound like it’s further away, and even though it may be great sometimes, that’s not always what you want.For example, when you put reverb on the leads you still want them to sound centered, and upfront.To add reverb without pushing your sounds backwards – Add Pre-Delay.
By adding Pre-Delay you separate your dry centered signal from the wet reverb, and make room for both of them.
- Don’t put reverb on everything – Reverb creates reflections that make a simulation of space. It makes your tracks sound like they’re being played in a big space, and that’s not always what you want.When you put reverb on everything it makes your tracks sound powerless, and unbalanced.
- Don’t replace delay with reverb – Even though reverb is easier to use and may sound more realistic than the delay, there are times when you should add delay instead of reverb.I recommend replacing the reverb with delay when you want to keep the details of something really defined.
- Don’t forget to use short reverbs – Short reverbs don’t require as much space as long reverbs, and they can add a lot of depth to your tracks. Try using shorter decays, and smaller sizes. You have no idea how helpful and beneficial this may be.
To find out more about reverb mistakes and how to fix them, check out this great article of “Pro Audio Files” – “7 Reverb Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making”.