Saturday, July 28, 2012

HOW TO USE REVERB WHEN MIXING (with free Vst Plugins Included) PART 2/2

After we've seen what is a Reverb and which are the different types of reverb available, it's time to take a look at the most common controls featured on the majority of the Vst reverbs, like the ones suggested on the First Part of our Reverb article.
There are LOTS of controls on the most recent Reverbs, allowing us to tweak any single detail of the effect, but the most important controls that will help us on our mixing phase are basically four:

- LENGHT: often called Decay, or Reverb time, or with other names, is basically the "Tail" of our effect. The longer this value is, the bigger the "room" will be, ranging from a "shower-like" ambience to a cathedral, up to the most psychedelic space effects. This will be the core control of our effect.

- PRE-DELAY: is the amount of time that will pass before the effect will be applied to the signal. I.e.: if the Pre-delay is 1 second long, the effect will begin affecting the audio track one second after it's started. This aspect is crucial to control the Transient of our sound: if the reverb start affecting a sound with a fast Transient such a Snare drum too early, it will smoothen it up and push it towards the background of the mix. Increasing the Pre-Delay value, instead, will give to the attack of our snare drum the time to leave its Transient unaffected, thus mantaining its place in the mix, and will give it a pleasant Reverb tail that will begin-some place in the middle of the wave.

- STEREO SPREAD: controls how the reverb will be reflected on our virtual room: the higher the value, the more the reverb will reflect widely on the soundstage, and it's used usually to spread the Upper-Mid frequencies. This control can be used in Mono tracks as well as in the stereo ones, just beware not to overdo with it, as it can create some weird resonance or Eq-Masking problems with the other tracks.

- EQUALIZATION - FILTERING: a solution for the above mentioned Eq-Masking problem is to Equalize the Reverb. Many producers tend to roll off or just High Pass the region from the Low Mids down, starting from around 300hz or less, to preserve headroom and avoid the Reverb Tail to mask the other instruments, since the Mid Lows, and Lows area is the "Mud Area", so the clearer the sound is, the better, unless we don't want a specifically dark sound.

Now that we have found the right setting for our Reverb (typically starting from a preset and tweaking the four basic parameters we have analyzed), we have created a "virtual room" where to put our single tracks in order to make them sound like the musicians are playing together in the same ambient. So like we've already seen on the First Part of this tutorial the idea is to create an FX track, load the Reverb there, Equalize the track, if we feel like we need it, and send it to the single instruments. Then, via the WET/DRY control of each track, we decide the amount of effect to be sent: for example, a little more on the Vocals and the Toms, a little less for the Snare, even less or none for the Guitars.

There is also a final use for our Reverb: the Mastering Reverb. This is to be used only in rare occasions, when our mix is too Dry and thin, and we need to add it a little bit of fullness or realism.  
It is used especially on electronic or pop songs, where almost every instrument is sampled, so everything may sound a little bit too artificial and harsh. The settings of the reverb should be low, the Wet/Dry ratio set low as well, and it's a good idea to add a high pass filter around 2000hz to avoid reverbering the vocals sibilance, and a low pass filter from 100hz down. Do some test bypassing the effect and turning it on again, to see if it's really useful, but be careful: it can really ruin the mix if overused!


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