Simulating a space vs creating an effect with reverb

Simulating a space vs creating an effect with reverb

When you apply reverb to a mix, you can go one of two routes. You can either use your reverb to give the impression of a group of instruments playing in one space. Or, you can use reverb as an effect, caring less about simulating a single space, and using different reverb types to enhance your mix in a creative way. In this lesson, we’ll have a closer look at each so that you can apply the most appropriate approach to your mixes.

Simulating a space:

One option is to create the impression of a group of musicians playing in a real space. This could be something like an orchestra playing in a concert hall, or a band or a singer/songwriter playing in a club. If that’s the case, you’ll need to use the same reverb for all of the tracks in your mix. Such an approach is common in classical and jazz music. Rooms, halls and churches are all ideal as they simulate real spaces.

Creative Effect:

If, however, you’re not trying to simulate a performance taking place in a real space, then you are free to use multiple different reverbs in the same mix, and to incorporate reverbs which don’t emulate real spaces, like spring reverbs and plate reverbs.

When going this route, many producers like to use a few different reverbs in a mix, perhaps one reverb type for the vocals, another for the guitars, something different for the drums, etc.

Being able to use multiple reverbs allows you to apply reverbs more freely in a way that best serves the different tracks in a mix. On the drums alone, multiple reverb types might be required for different parts of the kit. A healthy amount of plate reverb might be applied to the snare. Meanwhile, although many producers keep the kick drum dry like they do with the bass guitar, applying just a touch of room reverb can sometimes help a kick drum to sit better in the mix. In this case, two different reverbs are utilized in different ways to achieve different things from different parts of the kit.

Strike a balance:

Of course, there are no prizes for using as many reverbs as you can. Using tons of different reverbs can potentially make the different tracks in your mix sound unnatural and foreign to each other. So it’s important to strike a balance. For example, it often works best to send all of the backing vocals to one reverb type, rather than each backing vocal to a different reverb, which can sound unnatural and distracting. So do what makes sense in the context of your mix. Don’t be afraid to utilize a variety of reverbs, but make sure you’re not adding so many that things start to sound disjointed or the variety of different reverbs becomes unappealing.

Some producers might use just 2 or 3 reverbs, others use substantially more. How many reverbs do you use in your mixes? Leave a comment below.

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