STNYC: SOUND ADVICE

by Paola Messina

What a difference a ‘verb makes…

Reverb is as varied as the different shapes/sizes/types of rooms, spaces and environments that you can imagine.

When it comes to using this digital effect in audio and music production, it all depends on your creative vision. Are you trying to emulate an existing, natural space for your sound to live in or establish a noticeable, unnatural effect, such as a dark and metallic feel?

Coming to a decision there is the first step, but having a foundational understanding of the physics of reverberation is also key.

When a sound is created, acoustic reflections occur. These reflections can vary in timing, frequency, and volume, depending on the characteristics of the space. Reverberation can be natural (present in the recording of a sound from a specific space) or artificial (created using digital models and plugins).

(Elements of Reverb / Source: Encyclopedia of Home Recording)

When applying reverb as an effect – whether you are recording a vocal track or mixing your song – being open to adjusting and experimenting with different ‘colorings’ of reverb is essential.

 

If you are using a filter like D-Verb in Pro Tools or another reverb plug-in, some of the characteristics you can adjust are:

  • Reverb/Room Type: The main ones are Room, Hall, Chamber, Convolution, Spring and Plate (these last two are man-made; read more below!). Within each of these are many subcategories.
  • Early reflections level: Increase the level of the first group of reflections occurring within a space to enhance vocals or pads. Lower them to place the listener further back in the room.
  • Pre-delay: This is the amount of time it takes for a sound to leave its source and create an initial reflection. The higher the pre-delay, the bigger the space will feel.
  • Decay: The amount of time it takes for reflections in the room to run out of energy and no longer be heard.
  • Mix (Dry/Wet): Adjust the balance between dry (original sound, not affected by your plugin) and wet signal (sound manipulated by your effect).

For a graphic representation of what some of the above parameters are: 

(Digital Reverb Parameters / Source: splice.com) 

 

On stage, however, reverb is generally kept to a minimum, except to slightly extend the ‘tail’ (decay time) for some vocals/instruments! Using the acoustics of a venue and live performance space is usually preferred.

Listen closely for the ‘verb next time you’re listening to a song or the world around you! And, for more, check out these resources:

8 Songs That Belong in the Reverb Hall of Fame – Landr.com
The Basics of Plate Reverb / The Basics of Spring Reverb – The Pro Audio Files
Reverberation and Delay Explained (Video) - Waves Audio
Tips on Using Reverb - Tutsplus

HAVE A QUESTION OR THEME SUGGESTIONS?

E-MAIL PAOLA.MESSINA@CUNY.EDU!

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