Reverb is a difficult effect to mix especially when applying it directly to a source mix channel. The technique demonstrated in this tutorial will give you precise control over reverb without altering the dynamics of your sound source.
Sidenote: Reverb is seldom a singular reflection. I often apply 2 reverbs to broad spectrum instruments, a short reverb for base frequencies and long reverb for high frequencies. As a result, this process takes some tinkering and practice to get right.
First, as demonstrated in part 1 of this 3 part tutorial, we created the source mix channel and "Boost" parallel channel. Next we create a second parallel channel (labelled "Hall") to apply the reverb effect. Tip: Always label channels with unique names for easy identification. Now, apply the following settings to your "Hall" parallel channel as shown below in figure 1:
- Set channel to "Insert Pre" to place the Insert Effects before the Dynamics and EQ sections in the signal path. This allows us to apply compression for better control over the Insert Effect's dynamics.
- Switch compressor on
- Set attack to fast unless your sound source is a pad
- Turn on low pass and high pass filters
- Turn on EQ
- Turn on Effect Send for your reverb of choice
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF
EQ, Compression and Input gain all effect each other, so you will have to make adjustments as your reverb develops. For example, a long compressor release will add sustain to a reverb, EQ can amplify or cut sustain and input gain can cause increases or decreases in compression. Therefore, as we begin, its important that we set everything at unity gain where it applies, the mix channel level, Effect send, and the Effect rack itself.
I find that short reverbs work well with bass and drums; in fact long (hall) reverbs muddy these up so I avoid them on bass and drums. On the other hand, long reverbs work well for air in the high frequencies. Also, using phase invert can actually clean up convolution and phasing in some cases.
Input gain is going to push your reverb and compressor is going to squash it. Depending on how much you want to compress you're going to need to boost your input gain accordingly. Reverbs should be heavily compressed so a heavy amount of input gain is typically necessary. Input will also give us some extra gain for the overall mix channel. After EQ and compression I'm trying to get my reverb channel to peak at 0dB with the mix channel fader at 0dB. This will again provide high resolution for more dial in later.
At this point we want to tune the Reverb channel so we are going to start with EQ. It's important to understand that reverb is never identical to the source sound. Bounce usually absorbs frequencies, so we filter this this out with EQ. In Figure 2 you will see a sample of an EQ curve that I have cut out for this instrument. This is a common curve shape for reverbs such as Halls, Theaters and Longer Airy effects. This specific curve position is for a mid-range instrument and I'm cutting out the "pitchy" frequencies to avoid a poor mix. In this step I'm also getting an idea of how I want the overall shape of the instrument to sound.
I have a good shape here, it complements my overall instrument tone, so I'm going to move on the the next step.
First Some information: Compression gives the illusion of distance, the higher the compression the further the distance. Sound actually compresses as it travels through the air. Compression and the right EQ filter can make your reverb reflection sound extremely far away. Long release on your long reverbs aids the sustain and control of your reverb. You want to have a good general tonal shape of your base mix first, this will give you an idea of where your reverb needs to sit. You will then shape your reverb. When you shape each reverb uniquely you’re going to find you have a lot of room, compression and EQ will give you some room to play with.
Note: you can get the illusion of overall instrument distance by lowering your source and boost channels against your reverb channel. Example: When you clap your hands you hear 2 sounds. The source that comes directly from your hands, mono width, and the reflection from the room, wide width. Remove the reflection for right now: if your source is close to your ears its going to sound quite clear and loud, if you have a friend clap further away the distance is going to quiet the sound. Now Add reverb back: the reverb is always going to sound the same weather the source is far or close.
I'm going to decide where I want my reverb to sit. For an "off in the distance", but present sound, I require a lot of compression. I want to adjust release to control sustain. I will compare my reverbs with other instruments to see what is stepping on what and filter to eliminate undesired frequencies. I will put an MClass in my combinator to develop my shape with the reverb active, then make EQ and Filter adjustments to my boost reverb mix channels. This is how I shape my instrument.
Below in Figure 3, there is an image of my MClass EQ in a Combinator with my bus, source, boost, reverb and widths. As you can see, my source width is narrow, my boost has some width and my reverb is wide. This emulates the expansion of sound and the wide reflection from surrounding environment.
I want my instrument to sound off in the distance so my "source" and "boost" levels are low. I'm going for stadium reverb so there is a lot of compression and the reverb level is high. I have removed a lot of the base from the reverb channel. A long base reverb will turn a mix into mud. For a regular rock mix the mix channel faders are going to be reversed with lower compression. Note the image above was captured on an attack so it doesn't reflect the 0dB peak that my reverb hits.
Last step is to drop Propellerhead's Polar Rack Extension in your FX send and set it for "stereo spread". I usually put it in slot 8. Enable it in the level bus channel, and dial it in for the desired width. This will greatly affect you stereo width.
I suggest you play around with this technique to get a good feel for it before you start mixing. Also don't forget to give your ears a rest every so often.
Part 3 will cover drums and mixing complex busses.
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