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  • Angel Marcloid

Some early reflections on using reverb.


Instead of just slapping reverb on one of your channels, think about the type of reverb that might go best with the audio you're processing, and think about the customizable parameters at your disposal.


I don't believe in end-all be-all rules when it comes to audio engineering (unless they are essential for the format...vinyl can be finicky). However, there are some things to consider that may cater better to the material.


Depending on the plug-in, you might be seeing options to customize decay time, mix amount, EQ (if available...and if not, I will explain what to do shortly), stereo width (and crossover), early reflections (hence the pun in the post title), modulation, pre-delay (a severely underrated feature), and more. Some of these features may need to be accomplished with additional plug-ins, especially stereo width. And almost certainly if you are going to mess with compressing (or side-chain compressing) your reverb signal, you will need a compressor (with a side-chain input). Lastly, there are different types of reverb, such as plate, hall, room, cathedral, etc.


For this post, we will dive into filtering/EQ specifically.

If your reverb doesn't come with any EQ controls, you can put an EQ plug-in after it and dial in whatever you want. You will need to be sending your audio to a reverb aux/bus rather than directly on the channel of course. Otherwise you're going to be EQing not only the reverb signal, but the audio you're feeding into it.


Typically, filtering the bass out of your reverb to some extent is probably a good idea. Otherwise you may make your mix muddy, hindering the impact of the kick or the bass instrument. Bassy reverb can be cool with impact and explosion sounds, but generally in music it should be used with caution. You can also use EQ to filter out treble, so that you don't crowd your top end with a bunch of hiss trails. Of course, this all depends on the type of material you're feeding into it.


If you're just sending your snare into a reverb send, you may not need to EQ any bass out of the reverb, because snares tend to not have a lot of bass in them. Most snares cut off around 100-200Hz (though there may be some low end noise in a snare worth EQing out). Sending a kick into reverb is another story however. You may not notice how important this is in solo mode, but the last thing you want to do (in most cases) is have a kick generating a 70Hz reverb trail trudging below the surface in your mix. If you are sending your hi hats or cymbals into a reverb send, or even your voice, EQing out some treble from the reverb signal is probably advised. Sometimes it's cool to hear a hissy reverberation coming off of your s-sounds, which can give off a shimmery dreamy vibe. Sometimes the swish of the hi hats lingering in the background on an open or minimal mix can have a similar effect. In the end, I suggest you experiment with these things so you can decide what fits the vibe or sounds good. Play your full mix and mess with the filtering to see what is most effective while also allowing your mix to remain clear and not too cloudy.


Again, all of these things are not necessarily rules. In the rock, pop, metal, etc. worlds, these suggestions are usually good to adhere to. But in experimental music, you've got more freedom. I just want to pitch to you general advice.


If your reverb plug-in comes with a low or high pass filter, you can just use these controls for the filtering suggestions above. However, be aware that the slopes for this built-in filtering tend to be really wide. I prefer to use a separate EQ so I can make more aggressive moves when it comes to filtering reverb signals. This will allow you to attenuate mid-range from the reverb, which may be helpful in clearing space for other mid-range instruments that have important sonic activity which needs to cut through the ambience.


A great reverb plug-in to use is the Fabfilter Pro-R because it comes with a full spectrum EQ built in, as well as tons of cool presets and customizable parameters.


There are many other parameters and reverb types we could discuss. Another important one is the length of the reverb trail and how it might relate to the tempo or rhythm of your song. We can save all that for another day.