Hello music and mixing junkies! I’m excited to start a new series diving into the wonderful world of reverb. Reverb is a powerful tool in our mixing arsenal that often gets overused and not fully understood. We all think of reverb as a way to add space and dimension to a mix. While this is true, it can also serve many other roles in mixes. Over the course of this series, I’m going to discuss five of those many roles in separate articles:
Let’s start with Blend. “Blend” reverb can really help gel mixes together, and bring the elements into a common space. This helps to establish a cohesive sound. At the same time it helps create front-to-back depth perception. The drier (less reverb) a signal is, the closer it is perceived, and the wetter (more reverb) a signal is, the more distant or farther back it will be perceived. In modern recording many tracks for the same song are recorded in various studio and locations. The instruments are also typically recorded with close miking techniques. This calls for a good “blend” reverb to bring all of the elements into one accord. Without it, nothing will sound as if it’s in one natural environment.
Because the goal is to blend the tracks naturally, the best choices for “blend” reverbs are the ones that sound like natural environments. There are some great convolution reverbs with incredible impulse response libraries available. These have well sampled rooms, halls, and chambers that will really help out. There are also some incredible digital algorithm reverbs out there, though. So with all these choices, how do you pick? I would suggest not worrying so much about the overall frequency balance of this reverb treatment, because you can carve out resonance issues and other issues with an eq placed before the reverb. Instead, think about how the reverb fits in context to the music, and the acoustic space it belongs in. Close your eyes and ask yourself: “What type of space is this? Does it fit with the music?” When you answer yes to the second question you’re probably pretty close. Another thing to think about when choosing “blend” reverbs is the stereo image. The best “blend” verbs have a great stereo image. Some reverbs are designed to decay from one side of the stereo field to the other. These types of reverbs typically aren’t the best choice for blend reverb.
An important element to master with any reverb is pre-delay. But this is especially important with blend reverb. If there isn’t any pre-delay this can leave the mix feeling like it’s pushed as far back as the reverb tail will go (whatever reverb decay time is used). If there is to much pre-delay your reverb can end up sounding more like a delay (or like the room is way larger than you want). Starting with no pre-delay, slowly start to increase it. This will slowly pull the elements closer. Usually only 10-20ms of pre-delay is needed to help add mix clarity when needed, and create a space that sounds more realistic. Refining pre-delay settings when using short times such as 10-20ms is important. Anything under 20ms can induce some elements of comb filtering. This isn’t as much of an issue with pre-delay times higher than 20ms, but can be at the expense of audible flams from the wet delayed signal. Sometimes it’s best to find a point rhythmically where the pre-delay can be set to be in time with the song, which helps mask any issues and also avoids comb filtering. It’s also not uncommon to add a compressor to the reverb signal to catch some transients that can draw unwanted attention to the reverb.
I hope this first segment has shed some light on using reverb for “blend”. Don’t be afraid to get creative and bold with your processing choices to help make your reverb blend naturally. In the end always trust your ears over what you see on the screen. A helpful tip is to close your eyes and play the dry signal for 10 seconds and then add the reverb. Give your ears a few seconds to refresh a bit, then focus on the wet signal. Do this 2 or 3 times to really see if a reverb is helping or hurting the mix.
Got questions or comments? Tell us below! Want some hands on experience with awesome tracks and tutorials covering everything from reverb to mastering? Check out MixCoach Member. There’s a lot of great mixers over there interacting and helping each other out every day. Until next time happy mixing!