What Is Reverb And How To Use It In Today’s Digital World

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What is Reverb

What is Reverb? Well that can get a little tricky to explain if you take into consideration all the types of reverb there are.

Basically, reverb is what they call early reflections of a sound source bouncing off a cerfice, and then back to the listeners ears.

So, that sound we all know is the time in milliseconds it takes to reach our ears, which in turn we perceive as a “space”. Or an acoustic space.

Have you ever walked into a new home that has no furniture and maybe tile all the way through it?

If you would yell “hey!”, your voice would bounce off the walls, the ceilings, and the tiled floors, then back to your ears and you would instinctively know that you were in an empty room or home.

We’ve all heard reverb in action wether we know it or not.

So in the context of mixing and recording music, engineers try to record in good sounding acoustic spaces to capture a certain tone, or feeling, or ambience.

These different spaces evoke a feeling, or an emotional state towards the listener that can be very pleasing to the ear and mind.

The problem these days with the new wave of home and project studios, is we don’t have great sounding acoustic spaces to record in.

Most of us have some sort of converted bedroom, garage, or basement we are working out of.

Not necessarily the best sounding environment for creating great reverb sounds.

So the solution is a digital reverb which we get from a plugin inside our DAWs.

Reverb gives a sense of space and distance. Larger reverbs tend to push the source back or further away in the mix. Shorter reverbs keep the source closer in your face. The correct use of reverb is how engineers make their mixes feel 3D.

What is Reverb

Photo by miniphysics.com

Most Common Types of Reverb

Ansering what is reverb leads me to the 5 most common types we can choose from.

Hall
Chamber
Room
Spring
Plate

Hall, chamber, and room reverbs occur naturally in the world we live in. Spring and plate reverbs are made by mad scientists with white lab coats and weird hair dos.

Not really, but some dudes back in the day invented these two types.

HALL

A hall reverb is what comes to mind when you think of an orchestra or symphony. I remember as a kid, our school would takes on field trips to see the symphony in San Antonio, TX. I just remember this HUGE sound and body of noise surrounding me. These types of halls are designed to enhance and carry the natural sound of the instruments played with long tails and decay times.

These types of spaces are great for opera singers so that their voices carry to every audience member in attendance.

CHAMBER

A chamber reverb is a little smaller than the hall reverb. It is built with highly reflective surfaces like brick, stone, or concrete, which allows for long decay times of the midrange frequencies.

Also, think of a long tall stairwell. These can be used for a similar effect as chambers.

The famous blackbird studios in Nashville supposedly has awesome chambers that they can get “wet” big sounds from. I’ve seen a video of a tall rectangular shaped chamber, where they hung a microphone near the top of the chamber way above a group of singers heads. The singers sang background vocal parts that resulted in this beautiful ambient vocal performance.

You can also use chambers to get big ambient drum sounds to blend into the direct drum signals.

ROOM

Well, this pretty much tells you exactly what it is. Room reverbs are just different kinds of room sounds from small, medium, or large. Depending on the construction material of wood, brick, sheetrock, etc.. etc… will determine the sound of the reverb.

Room reverbs are used to add a cohesive space to recordings. A lot of times we record one instrument at a time in a bedroom with minimal acoustic treatment on the walls. The resulting sound is usually a very dry direct sound. Once you have recorded all your instruments, you can then in the mix, send them to a room reverb and give the effect that the players were all in the same space at the same time when they recorded the song.

Or if you want to make something sound far away or in a completely different space, you can send a source to it’s own reverb and tweak to taste.

PLATE

This is a manmade type of reverb that is triggered when a sound source hits a metal plate, causing it to vibrate and produce a certain reverb sound.
Now since this is man made, the plate generates an almost immediate sound effect with no early reflections because it’s not in a room or space.

Without getting too technical, its a metal plate inside a small box, that vibrates. It produces cool effects and doesn’t have to be used for adding space, but simply as an effect to add cool sounds. If you wanted to add a sense of space, most digital plate reverbs have something called a Pre-delay setting that can be set to a longer time. This gives the effect of early reflections in a room.

Plate reverbs work well on vocals, and can be heard on almost all the classic records during the 1960s and 1970s.

SPRING

A spring reverb is pretty much the same thing as a plate reverb, but uses a spring instead of a plate. Pretty simple huh?

A lot of guitar amplifiers use spring reverbs. They create unique sounds within the body of the reverb, and can have filter changes during the decay. Play around with plates and springs to find a cool effect you would like to add into your mix. Have some fun!

What is reverb? I hope I cleared that question up a little more for you.

Check out the video below where I cover the different types of reverbs and ways to use them in a mix.

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