Reverb is the key to making your mixes sound deep, wide and three-dimensional.
But using reverb wrong is one of the fastest ways to make your mixes sound muddy, messy and amateur.
In this brand new video, you’ll learn 8 quick tips for mixing with reverb that will make your music sound more professional in seconds.
So, if you’re wondering how to use reverb and reverb plugins to improve your music, watch this video.
Reverb is key to making your mixes sound deep, wide, and three-dimensional, but using reverb wrong is one of the fastest ways to make your mixes sound muddy, messy, and amateur. Rob here from musicianonamission.com and in this video you’re going to learn 8 simple actionable tips for mixing with reverb that you can implement in seconds to make your music sound way more professional. But first if you’re serious about improving your mixes and you want to get better at mixing with reverb make sure you grab the free reverb cheat sheet that I put together for this video and start using reverb like a pro in every single mix.
So, let’s dive in with tip number 1, which is to use short decay times. So often I hear mixes from my students and from others where the decay time that’s been used is way too long, and you can use a lot of reverb in your mixes. This comes down to personal preference, but if you use a lot of reverb and you’re using long decay times it’s going to very quickly make your mixes sound messy.
Now, I’m going to give you a quick example of this. On this mix here I’m going turn up the room reverb, so that you can hear what’s going on and we’re going to start with a reverb time of just 1 second, which is where I like to keep it for a lot of genres. You’re going to time this to the tempo of the track. If it’s a faster track you’re going to need a shorter decay time. If it’s a longer track you can get away with a nice long reverb, but around 1 second I find works best. Let’s have a quick listen to this.
So, way over the top, but hopefully you can hear how much reverb is going on there and what I’m going to do now is just push this up to 3 seconds. So, I haven’t changed anything I have same level of reverb, everything else is the same I’ve just increased the decay time. Now listen.
Let’s listen to a different section.
So, it sounds messy and over the top and it’s starting to really clog up the mix, there’s way too much reverb. But now listen when I just have 1 second. You can actually get away with this high level of reverb if you’re using short decay times.
Let’s go back to the other section.
So, it’s still way too much reverb for my taste, but you can hear that how much of a difference that decay time can make. So, err on the side of caution you shorter the decay times and your aim here is for the reverb tail to drop off before the next hit or before the next crotchet or whole note.
Tip number 2 is to just use one plug-in. Have a reverb plug-in that is your go-to. Learn it and use it all the time. And I advocate this for pretty much any type of plug-in, have one go-to compressor, have one go-to EQ etc, etc, but I think this is even more important with reverb because I find as soon as you start experimenting with different types of reverb, different reverb plug-ins it’s a real rabbit hole you can fall into. Whereas, having your go-to room reverb I like to use Valhalla Room and I use this in pretty much every mix, before I was using Eventide Stereo Room, I decided to move to Valhalla Room just because I was using it more often. It doesn’t matter, whatever plug-in you’re using it doesn’t really matter. The thing that matters is that you stick to the same one, and I have my go-to room reverb and this is what I use to create depth and cohesion, and this is what I use on my reverb buss in my mixes. Now, of course I will use other reverbs if I want to use the plate reverb or even might use something different, but this is great because I can get a really long epic reverb sound for an over-the-top creative effects or I can just a 1 second decay chamber of room preset as my general reverb and that’s it. Have your go-to, learn it, stick to it, and that’s going to help you bypass a ton of frustration and waste of time.
Tip number 3 is to use your room reverb or you main reverb on a buss and I know of you will be doing this already, but I want to make sure you’re doing this because if you’re using a different reverb on every single channel, first of all that’s going to use up your CPU very quickly, if you have reverb here, reverb here, reverb here etc, etc, but also having one reverb buss or at least two or three helps you to create cohesion in your mixes because you’re sending everything to the same space, and then if I just want to add some reverb to the guitars, add some reverb to the back-end vocals all I do is just use a send and you can see this is going to the room and I’ll just increase the level. And now, if I want to make something sound further away like the guitars here I can increase the reverb or if I want things to sound a bit closer I can have a bit less, so you can see back-end vocals here have got a bit less reverb and by sending each channel by a varying amount I can create depth. Now, you can only really do that if you have your reverb on a buss, on an effects buss, on an aux buss whatever you want to call it, whatever is according to your door. So, I highly recommend you do that.
Tip number 4 is to use less reverb than you think necessary. In the example I just gave you I turned up the buss loads. I think reverb should have a more subconscious psycho acoustic effect than an obvious audible effect if we’re talking about creating depth and cohesion. Of course, there’s going to be certain situations where you’re using reverb as a creative effects you want it to be audible, you want to drench the vocals in reverb something like that. But if you’re just using a general room reverb on your mix to add depth then I actually recommend you keep it quite subtle and what I’m going to do here is just change this decay time I’m just going to bring up a tiny, tiny bit and I’m just going to bring this room reverb up until I’m happy with the level in the mix.
So, it’s pretty subtle. This is without.
This sounds a bit dry and you can hear there is a bit of reverb going on, on the guitars but then when I bring in my main room reverb.
It creates depth, it creates cohesion but it’s subtle. It’s not over-the-top. Let’s flip between these.
So, you can hear that’s very subtle, but that’s all you need in a lot of cases.
Tip number 5 is to use delay instead of reverb when appropriate, because you don’t want to just rely on reverb all the time for creating space in your mixes. You need to be using delay too and perfect example of that is on lead vocals. So, here we just add a verse and we’re going to solo the lead vocals, so that you can hear what’s going on with them because it’s mostly delays not reverb.
So, that’s all delays. There’s no reverb on that vocal. All we’ve got is a stereo delay. We have a different time on left and right, so you can see here I’ve got delay time on the left, delay time on the right are different and that creates a stereo imaging, and then I’ve also got a mono delay which is just a time delay to the track down the middle. So, that’s all delay you don’t need to use reverb. You can do a similar thing on guitars, if you just want to put them back a bit in the mix instead of adding reverbs to them just load up a single delay like an echo and we just want one repetition so we can turn the feedback right down, and then we can adjust the dry and wet so that there’s just tiny little slapback. Have a listen to this, so if I turn off the reverb this is without any delay.
And let’s bring that in.
So, it’s subtle but it just gives them a sense of space, and also that’ll put them a bit further back in the mix too. So, don’t always just go to reverb, you need to use delay too in your mixes and you can achieve a lot of the same things with delay.
Then, tip number 6 we get rid of that is to use reverb on your delay sends. So, I’m already kind of doing that built into the plug-in with the Manny Marroquin delay that I’m using from waves. You can just hit this reverb button and bring some reverb in. So, I’m not doing it there, but here you can see I’ve already dialed in some reverb on the mono time delay, so if your delay plug-in has the ability to do that you can do it, if not just go to your delay send – and this is another reason why it’s good to use effects on busses because then I can just add some reverb here, and then I can put in a very small amount of reverb on the delay and you want to make sure you’ve got constant dry and then just bring up the wet until you’re happy, and what that’ll do is just sweeten up your delays a tiny bit, help them to sit a bit further back in the mix and feel a bit more cohesive.
Tip number 7 is to use pre-delay if you’re adding reverb to something that you want to stay upfront in the mix. So, on this lead vocal here I actually have a very tiny bit of reverb on the channel itself using similar settings as the main room reverb, but what I want to do here is use a pre-delay. So, I’ve got a 66 millisecond pre-delay and what that’s going to do is just move the reverb back a bit out of the way of the vocal, so they’re transient to the vocal. The attack of the note doesn’t have any reverb on it. The word starts, and then 67 milliseconds later which is a very small period of time, but it means that the very attack on the onset doesn’t have reverb and that helps it to cut through the mix a bit more. Let’s do a quick comparison here. So, this is without any pre-delay.
I’m going to bring the mix up some more so you can hear this.
Now, let’s bring in a pre-delay.
So, that just moves the reverb back a bit, moves it out of the way of the attack of the notes. And this is great if you do want to put some reverb on your vocal just use a pre-delay 50 milliseconds around there I find tends to work best or more and doing that will just help to move the reverb out of the way a bit and you can do the same with guitars or anything else where you want to add reverb to create a sense of space or to add more cohesion, add more depth but you don’t necessarily want to put that part further back in the mix or make it sound messy and don’t want to the reverb to get in the way of that. Just dial-in a pre-delay.
And then, finally tip number 8 is to make sure you experiment with EQ on your effect sends. Now, this is another huge reason why you want to use your reverb on its own channel like this, because now I can just add an EQ after the reverb and I can cut out all the bottom-end, I can remove some of the mud around the lower-mids, and then I can experiment with boosting or cutting the highs. Have a listen to this.
That is boosting the highs or I can cut them.
And that can have quite a big impact on how the reverb sits in the mix.
So, when I increase the highs it makes the reverb more obvious, but it also adds a sense of air to the mix and when I cut them it makes the mix sound warmer, maybe muddier that’s something you want to be careful of and it also makes the reverb less noticeable. So, you can experiment with that too. A lot of reverb plug-ins now have that built-in. So, on Valhalla Room I can actually adjust how the reverb reacts to the low-end compared to the high-end, and a lot of reverbs will actually have an EQ built-in, so we’ve got high cut here that I can adjust. But sometimes it’s nice to just load up an EQ you can see what’s going on, it’s easier to control the sound of that reverb.
So, that’s it for today. It’s important now that you go and actually practice these tips, because if you just have them rattling around in your head it’s not going to make any difference. So, I made a cheat sheet for you to download, so go through and practice these and that’s also got a ton of valuable information about using reverb and you can reference that when you’re mixing to recap everything here and loads more tips so that you really can use reverb like a pro and make sure when you are mixing with reverb you’re making your mixes sound better, deeper, more polished rather than just making them sound messy and amateur. So, that’s all from me. Make sure you grab that cheat sheet and I’ll see you next week.