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A guide to mixing music - Part 79

Choosing Reverb Sounds

Today we'll follow up on the previous article by discussing the presets for five of the nine reverb buses of the template I proposed.

Depth of voice

The order of the buses I told you about last week is by no means random. In fact, while all of them have an impact on the sense of space created, the first five of them are aimed mainly at providing some fullness to the tracks they are used on. So it's only logical to start working on that before tackling the "glue" effect or the placement in the sonic puzzle.

Let's start with the vocals. Why? Well, basically because in "modern" music the vocals are often the main element of the mix, which ought to capture the attention of the listener. Hence, it makes sense to put special attention on it. This is how I go about it:

WaveArts MasterVerb
  • Algorithm choice ─ Generally speaking, I go for a plate to get a rough or vintage touch, or a hall to get a more "neutral" sound.
  • Preset choice ─ Depends on the sonic puzzle.
  • Pre-delay ─ Not too short so the vocals stay in the front, not too long to keep the reverb sounding natural.
  • Decay ─ Always linked to the tempo! The reverb ought to help the vocals breathe in rhythm with the song.
  • Balance between early reflections and diffused sound field ─ Generally speaking, the preset chosen as the starting point is already well-balanced, but you sometimes need to make some slight adjustments to make it adapt better to the mix.
  • Fine Tuning ─ By this I mean the work with the EQs, compressors, etc. to give the finishing touches to the reverb, so that it never steals the attention from the instrument it's supposed to enhance ─ the vocals in this case ─, while at the same time keeping it from it encroaching upon the rest of the mix.
  • Balance between the source and reverb signal with the bus Send control ─ In this case it's all a matter of taste and/or coherence with the vision of the sonic puzzle. It can be either discreet or clearly audible, depending on the artistic direction of the song.

It's all a matter of taste...and color

Once I've done this for the vocals, I apply the exact same method to the four other buses.

For the snare I usually use a Plate algorithm, out of personal preference, but you are obviously free to pick whatever rocks your world.

Regarding solo instruments, if any, I like to work with the same preset as for the vocals, but with a different pre-delay and fine-tuning. This makes it all more sonically coherent without blurring the distinction between vocals/solo instrument. I sometimes also prefer to use a delay effect instead of a reverb here, when the production allows it.

Finally, for the last two buses I usually use two completely different reverbs. One with a very typical spring or plate sound and the other one with a more neutral hall or chamber algorithm, both with very similar pre-delay and decay settings. These buses are obviously optional, but used discreetly and intermittently on a couple of elements of the mix, they can provide a sense of depth and/or liveliness to the entire song, since they add to the idea of contrast I am so fond of.

And that's it for today. See you next week for some new adventures with reverb!