Welcome to our reverb tutorial! Reverb is one of the most useful and potentially interesting tools in the engineer's toolbox. Perhaps no other effect is so stylistically versatile, and certainly none is as powerful in its ability to make a listener's ears "imagine" a situation visually.
Most contemporary productions employ multiple varieties of carefully-tuned reverb. There are many recording or performance scenarios where the use of reverb has long been the rule rather than the exception. (At the end of our reverb tutorial, we'll get into just a few of these scenarios.)
This reverb tutorial is your first step to getting modern, professional-sounding results in your mixes using the reverb provided in your effects unit or plugin. Your reverb device (s), whether real or virtual, probably has an awful lot in common with most other reverb devices that have come before it. This means that once you've learned one reverb device, you've essentially learned them all.
Our reverb tutorial will cover the generic parameters found in practically all reverb-generating hardware and software today. The presets that came with your effect are not that musically versatile; an engineer needs to understand what the various standard parameters do in order to tweak the reverb by ear for their specific musical application.
Reverb tutorial step 1:
Stuff you'll need To try your results as we go along, you'll need some device capable of producing reverb live on the fly, and the ability to drive some kind of signal through this device (a microphone and your voice, for instance ). Connect your test signal through the input of the reverb, and run the output of the reverb to your headphones or monitoring amplifier. If you do not already have a device or plugin to create your reverb, you can pick up old multi-effects units cheaply from your favorite local classifieds site or online auctions. However, a computer running a reverb plugin through some kind of host software is probably an easier and cheaper choice for most users. Most recording software packages come with at least one reverb plugin which should work fine. (Note: Setting up your effects unit or host software is beyond the scope of this reverb tutorial. See your user's manual.)
Reverb tutorial step 2:
Tweak the wet / dry signal levels Your wet / dry controls adjust the ratio of unaffected input signal ( "dry") to the reverberated signal being generated ( "wet"). Most likely, your reverb device will present these parameters in one of two ways: A) as two separate parameters, with separate adjustments for wet level vs. dry level, or B) as a single knob that moves the signal from more wet to more dry as you turn. Bring up a reverb preset, then try adjusting the dry signal level up and down as you bring in your test signal. Listen to what happens to the output. You will likely find this the best results with your test configuration at about 40-60% wet. Leave this setting in place and go to step 3 of our reverb tutorial. (Note: For some real-world applications, you will want your reverb set to 100% wet; any dry signal coming back from the reverb might conflict with dry signal already present in the mix and result in unpleasant-sounding phase cancellation of the dry . Keep this in mind for future use.)
Reverb tutorial step 3:
Try different reverb algorithms Most reverb devices will let you select between different types of reverb on the fly. You may see words like "hall," "plate," "spring," or "room," and your reverb unit may even have more than one of each type ( "Plate 2," etc.). Each of these types is called a reverb algorithm. Each algorithm is designed to imitate a different type of real-world ambient space or historically-relevant reverb-unit design. With your wet signal turned up to 50-70%, try out several different reverb types, and aurally evaluate the differences between them. You will notice that plates and springs generally tend to be brighter and more artificial-sounding, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Choose one algorithm and move on to the next step.
Reverb tutorial step 4:
Adjust reverb parameters Your reverb algorithm probably has numerous further adjustments, but the most important by far are the adjustments for early reflection level (which may also be labeled "pre-reflection") and decay time. Remember that reverb's main purpose is to simulate a room or other such environment that would alter any sound sources found within such a space. These controls are by far the most important in controlling the dimensions of the "virtual space" and your listener's place within it. In a reverb algorithm, early reflections (when present) imitate the effect of the signal bouncing off the nearest walls to the listener. The decay time controls the reflections from what would be "everywhere else" in a real-world space: the side and back walls of the room. If you want an intimate room sound, you will want a shorter decay time and more prominent early reflections. For the effect of a huge concert hall, the optimal settings are the reverse: longer decay time and quieter early reflections. Play around with these settings as you bring in your test signal. We've reached the end of our reverb tutorial, but while you still have your test setup running, it's a good idea to play with the other available settings, such as frequency damping / filtering, which can also be useful to control the sound of your reverb and to help it blend better in the mix. Here are some incredibly common modern-day uses for reverb that you can set up quickly using just the information from this reverb tutorial: Lead vocals (Hall or plate algorithm, 1-5s decay) Acoustic guitar / acoustic piano (Hall or room algorithm, 0.5-3s decay) Clean electric guitar (Spring algorithm, 0.5-1.5s decay) Snare drum (Hall or room algorithm, 0.5-2s decay) Other cool uses include gated reverbs, reverse reverbs, and a number of nifty effects which unfortunately are outside the scope of our reverb tutorial. Above all, remember that reverb should be used tastefully. It is a common beginner mistake to use far too much reverb. The practiced engineer will use just enough to sweeten the signal, but not so much as to distract from the music.
Hope you enjoyed our reverb tutorial and best of luck in your audio adventures!