Last updated on July 16, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

Today you’ll learn 7 reverb mistakes that I’ve made in the past. By sharing my experiences with you, I want to help you avoid these mistakes and stop you from wasting time figuring them out yourself.

Using reverb should be fun and easy so watch now to find out how.

 

Today you’ll learn 7 reverb mistakes that I have made in the past and by sharing my experiences I want to help you avoid these mistakes and stop you from wasting time figuring them out yourself.

Using reverb should be fun and easy, so keep watching to find out how.

But first be sure to grab the free Mixing with Reverb cheat sheet.

There is a link in the bio or on screen now.

Mistake number 1 is not EQing the reverb.

Now, you might already be familiar with this idea of using reverb on a buss and let’s say I want to add a bit reverb to this mix.

I’ve got reverb on the vocals already, but everything else is dry.

So, let’s start by adding some reverb to the guitar.

So, we create a new buss and we’re going to call this Reverb, give it the same color as the others, and by apply reverb to this buss instead of just directly to the channel well first of all we can add an EQ.

Now, I’m going to use ChromaVerb because this new Logic plug-in is great because in the details page we have an EQ already and here we have some interesting EQ we can do as well.

So, I don’t need a separate EQ here, but if you have a reverb that doesn’t have an EQ built-in well you can just add an EQ before or after, and then you can EQ the way that that reverb sounds.

Now, besides that it means I can add some reverb to the guitar, and then also add some from the snare and I don’t have to create a separate plug-in I can just send it to the same buss. But what’s really cool about this is the ability to use EQ to shape the sound of the reverb.

Now, a lot of people will maybe taper off the high-end or get rid of the low-end noise and I tend to remove some muddiness too, but using EQ on reverb can be way more powerful than that.

And here is the thing, by changing the tone of the reverb you can change the tone of everything that that reverb is applied to and in many cases you can actually change the tone of the entire mix.

So, let’s start by getting rid of all these curves, and then I’m just going to tune this reverb in so that I’ve got a nice decay time on the guitar and the snares.

Let’s try adding a tiny bit to the actual drum buss as well and what I am doing here is just listening to the decay time trying to get it to sound natural, because it it’s too short it’ll start to sound unnatural and weird but not too long, and I’m going to come back to this idea later but let’s just finish tuning this in.

Okay, so we’ve got an okay reverb to work with.

So, now let’s play around with this EQ and what I want you to listen to is if I just grab this high shelf as I boost the top-end what you’ll notice is the whole mix pretty much becomes brighter, and in particular the drums and the guitars.

But when I drop this the whole mix becomes darker and this impact an EQ reverb can have on the tone of the sources that you’re applying it to on the mix in general is really powerful and it took me years to figure this out.

Pretty crazy, right?

And now, what happens when I boost with a band like this you’ll hear different frequencies come out.

So, even though I’m only applying EQ to the reverb it has a drastic impact on the tone.

So, let’s give some examples here.

What if the whole mix is sounding a bit dark?

Well, I can just boost the top-end and add a bit more brightness to the whole mix.

And what if we’re having an issue with muddiness where we’re getting a build-up of frequencies in this lower-mid range?

I can get that out to clean up a bit, and then what if you want to add a bit of body to the whole mix?

And then maybe you want to add some more upper-mid aggression as well?

We can really shape the tone of the mix and this is with no EQ.

This is with EQ.

Especially in that high-end that you can really hear it the whole mix just opens up a bit.

So, rather than thinking of EQed reverb as, oh how do I want the reverb to sound?

Do I want the reverb sound bright or dark?

Think about how do I want the mix to sound?

How do I want the source to sound?

Do I want this guitar to sound brighter or darker?

Do I want this vocal to sound warmer or more aggressive?

And use that to dictate the EQ that you use on your reverb.

Okay. I’m moving on now to mistake number 2 is that I used way too long decay times for probably the first 5 or 6 years of mixing.

I tend to use decay times maybe 2, 3, 4 seconds because it sounded quite lush and it sounded nice.

Reverb just sounds cool, but this is a problem because the longer the decay time the more overlap you get between the notes and the messier your mix becomes.

Just listen to what happens when I use a long decay time versus a short decay time.

We just suddenly get all this noise that’s just clogging up the mix and we really don’t need it, and even at shorter decay times of 3, 4 seconds it’s often still too much.

Generally I tend to start below 2 seconds. I rarely go above 2 seconds.

Of course, if you’ve got a slower track then you can go slower. If you got faster track you need to be faster.

But using a shorter decay time is a great way to add more reverb if you want it without adding mess to the mix, and a good way to tune this is just make sure that the reverb tail dies out between the snare hits that’s kind of a bare minimum.

I often go shorter sometimes longer, but as a starting point just solo the snare and let’s just make sure that reverb tail disappears between hits.

So, just really focus on the snare there. There’s quite a lot of bleed, but when I have a long decay time like this.

Even there 3 second that kind of works, what about 6?

You can hear the next snare comes in before that reverb tail has time to fade out.

So, now we kind of know roughly to keep it under about 3 seconds it still was fading out, so anywhere below that is probably going to be okay but we still want an edge on the side of caution keep it shorter.

Now, if you’re using reverb creatively and you just like the way it sounds of a slow decay time, and you’re using it to create an atmospheric effects then by all means do that that’s absolutely fine.

But if you’re using reverb in a subtle way to create depth in the mix then using shorter decay times is a great way to avoid adding messiness with reverb.

Mistake number 3 is using too much reverb in general.

At this point the reverb is really loud, because we’re still playing around with it.

I tend to leave the reverb really high up when I’m doing the EQ and I am tuning the decay time, and then you get to a point where you’re happy with that and now it’s time to set the level of the reverb.

And this is where you want to be careful, because it’s a common sign of an amateur mix when it has way too much reverb and less is been used creatively to create atmosphere.

But if it’s just a general track and the reverb is there just for depth and cohesion but there’s too much of it that’s when it starts to sound amateur.

So, what I recommend you do instead is once you’ve tweaked your reverb bring up the fader until you start to hear the reverb and when you notice it sometimes that’s a good point, just when you very first notice the reverb that’s a good point to have it.

Other times if you want it to be even subtler you can then just back it off a touch and that’ll put it in the sweet spot where it’s like just about noticeable and you feel it more than you hear it and when you mute it, it will sound like the track is empty you’ll lose the cohesion.

But then when you bring it back in there’s not this huge noticeable reverb it’s just a subtle change.

So, let’s try that so I am going to bring this up till we notice the reverb.

So, it’s sounding a bit too dark for my liking, so once you’ve set that level it’s then more apparent what the effects on the mix is going to be.

So, at that point you probably want to tweak it more, so we can mess with this dampening EQ or we could try different space.

But let’s just try muting this back and forth a few times to see what it’s adding to the mix.

So, I’m getting happy with this, so let’s try that again. So, when I bring this in you’re going to hear just more cohesion, more depth and it’s going to change the tone but it’s not going to be massively noticeable.

And that’s kind of where you want it in most situations unless you’re using really obvious effects you just want it to be subtle like that.

So, they were the three key things that I struggled with early on and only really started to get a good grasp on over the last 2 or 3 years.

Now, the next four that I want to share with you are still important, but make sure you get those three down.

Okay, so mistake number 4 is only using one plug-in.

Now, generally I am an advocate of having one go-to workhorse plug-in rather than having 10 different EQs just have a go-to EQ. For me that is FabFilter Pro-Q 2. It sounds great, it’s easy to use.

And the same with compression have a go-to compressor. You can still have several compressors to use every now and then, but you have one that you’re using 80% of the time.

However, when it comes to reverb I think this is somewhat of an exception to the rule, because different reverbs all sounds so different.

And what I often find is I just have to flick through a few different plug-ins in each mix to find one that works with that particular mix.

So, I’ve been using ChromaVerb here, but what I would do normally is get a rough balance going with anything whether that’s ChromaVerb it doesn’t matter.

But then throw a few more and you start comparing them, so we could have Valhalla Room, and I could try and get this to sound somewhat similar.

And then I often find myself using the FabFilter Reverb as well, so we could try that.

And maybe Eventide Stereo Room that one is pretty good. I find myself using that quite a lot too.

And then, we can just start to flick through these in the context of the mix.

I can bring that fader back up again and just listen to how they sound and see which works better.

So, here are my observations the ChromaVerb sounds a little bit messy.

Valhalla sounds a little bit too bright, and also a bit too messy.

The FabFilter is sitting perfectly where I want it. It’s bright enough but it’s not sounding muddy or messy and it’s adding the cohesion and the depth I want, but it’s actually quite subtle. It’s a bit more transparent.

And then Stereo Room is just not really interesting enough, so I think I prefer Pro well.

Now, this is why I recommend you have several different reverbs, and they don’t have to be expensive reverbs but just having a few there to try out is a great option.

And then once you’ve settled on a reverb you can try out some different room shapes as well.

Try out whole trial, try chamber trial, a room to see what works best in that mix.

Now, I’ve included a list of all of my favorite plug-ins in the Mixing with Reverb cheat sheet that you can get and it goes along with this video. It has all of these tips and these mistakes as well as going through my favorite plug-ins.

So, make sure you go download that. Again there’s a link in the description or on the screen now.

Okay, mistake number 5 is no reverb on vocal.

So, for ages I’ve relied heavily on using delay to create a space around my vocals, because I liked how I kept the vocal front and center.

But listening back to my older mixes what I find is that the vocals too dry. Sure it’s really front and center but it also doesn’t sit right in the mix. It doesn’t have this cohesion with the rest of the mix and that’s because I wasn’t using enough reverb.

Now, I still don’t think you should go over the top with reverb on a vocal. I think a good vocal space comes from a mixture of delay and reverb, but you kind of need them both in a lot of situations.

If it’s quite a dry hip-hop or you want a dry sound then just use delay.

If you want a lusher more natural sound then use more reverb, but generally it’s the mixture of the two.

So, on this track I’ve already got a mixture of the two and I’m just going to show you what’ going on here, so I’ve got a vocal and if we get rid of both of these effects for now, this is how the dry vocal sounds.

Now, we’ve got just one delay which is a stereo delay. What I’m doing here is using a different time on the left and right to create a stereo spread.

Now, this will add a space to the vocal without putting it further back in the mix because it doesn’t sound like reverb. It sounds more like an echo. Just have a listen.

And in the context of the mix.

So, it creates a space around the vocal without adding this noticeable reverb tail and without putting the vocal further back which is great.

However, the vocal still stands out of the mix a bit too much. It’s not sitting quite right, so what I tend to do then is blend in a reverb underneath.

Now, as for the reverb again there is no right answer in terms of should it be a room, a play, a hold just try everything.

I quite like using plate reverbs on vocals or just a reverb that’s slightly shorter than the main room reverb, because if it’s a slightly shorter decay time that’ll help the vocal to stick out of the mix a little bit more.

So, here I’m using a plate and I’ve got an EQ loaded up ready to go, but I’m not actually using it.

So, this is how the plate sounds.

And in the mix.

So, listen to how without the reverb the vocal is front and center when I bring that in it pushes the vocal back into the mix.

Now, sometimes that’s desirable sometimes it’s not. In this situation I do want the vocal to be front and center and in most situations that is the case.

So, instead what I’ll do is just blend in the reverb really subtly, blend in the delay until I’ve got both going on and there’s a space around the vocal but it doesn’t go too far back, however it does start to sound like it sits in the mix a little bit more.

So, now let’s do that. I’m going to use the same thing just bring up until you notice it.

So, this is without anything.

This is with.

So, it’s that combination of the two and I find now that I’m using reverb more often on vocals even if very, very subtly it sounds more natural and that vocal sit better in the mix.

Mistake number 6 is complicated reverb set ups.

Now, I can remember a few years ago I read an article about how you should use three different reverbs; one short, one medium, one long and you can create depth by sending the vocal to the short, and then maybe the snare to the medium, and then guitars and keys to the long and you have these three different reverbs and on top of that you probably have a few different delays and I tried that and it was just way too complicated.

And I kept trying it for a while, but my personal approach now is that I keep it simple. I just have one room reverb a lot of the time and that’s where I am sending a lot of my instruments.

So the guitars, the snare, backend vocals that kind of stuff is going to the room reverb and then I’ll have one or two other reverbs for maybe the vocal which is a shorter one.

And then a more specialist reverb if I want to do something that’s maybe a bit more specific like I want to add a really heavy low-end reverb or something for some reason, but that tends to be it and personally I find it works better because it’s easier to do, easier to set up, it’s faster, it’s simpler and I don’t notice a huge difference.

You can even take it one step further and actually switch your single reverb buss to mono.

Now, I am not recommending you do this in all mixes, but sometimes it’s a great way of adding depth to the mix without adding too much messiness to the stereo field.

Listen to how different it sounds in stereo to mono, so this is in stereo.

This is in mono.

So, we still have that depth and that space, but it’s more subtle and it doesn’t take as much space in the mix. It’s not as messy.

So, you can go really simple with this and just use one mono room reverb.

This works for me maybe for you having different room sizes works really well and maybe my mixes are lacking depth I’m not sure, but for me this just works better and fits better with my workflow. So, I recommend you at least give both approaches a try.

And then finally, mistake number 7 which is perhaps the biggest of all is being afraid to experiment.

Now, I get a lot of questions about, oh when should I use different reverb types, how should I use a spring, how should I use a plate, how should I use a hall etc, etc, when should I use each of these?

Honestly there just is no answer and I could probably give you some very vague general guidelines, but I think it’s better that you learn to experiment yourself.

And for a while I was afraid to try these different reverbs because I thought I was doing it wrong. I thought, oh I am not meant to use a chamber here or maybe I am not meant to do this here.

But like I said there are no answers, so please do experiment as much as you can.

So, within a single plug-in, forget about the ChromaVerb here we’ve got so many different spaces and I recommend you experiment with them all.

And despite the guidelines I’ve given you here of using shorter decay times by all means experiment with longer decay times.

I often find myself using really long decay times to add some interesting automation, so maybe I just want to have a single word on the vocal that has this really long decay time.

Experiment, don’t be afraid to experiment. Try out different rooms just cycle through them to see what works in the context of your mix, and honestly that’s the best advice I can give you.

So, there you go 7 reverb mistakes that I have made in the past.

Now, that you are aware of these mistakes you really need a step-by-step process for apply reverb.

I don’t have time to go through that in this video, however I do have a Mixing with Reverb cheat sheet that would give you a step-by-step breakdown of how to apply reverb in your mixes, so you can really use reverb with confidence and make sure you get it right every single time.

It’s also got these mistakes in there as a reminder and a bunch of other tips and tricks.

So, it’s completely free. Go to the link in the description or on screen now, and then grab a free PDF.

And then, I want to hear from you which of these mistakes do you make too. Let me know in the comments below or there are other mistakes that you’ve made in the past that you’ve learned from that you want to share with others so we can all help each other out.

That’s all from me. I’ll see you next week and remember Create Regardless.

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.