All About FX – Reverb Tips & Tricks

Reverb is an effect that replicates and manipulates the acoustic or spacious properties of a sound. Put simply, it’s what gives a sound its space and atmosphere.
But how does one use it to its full extent? Well with the way modern music has been headed, there are few rules to ‘correct’ usage of reverb. In fact, with these digital effects so readily available these days, it’s important to have a few unique effect tricks to help you stand out from the crowd! So here are 3 creative reverb tips you can apply to your productions to give them that sonic interest they need to get noticed.

closeup of amplifier controls with reverb knob highlighted ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Gated Reverb

Many producers (think Phil Collins –‘In the Air Tonight’) insert a noise gate on top of their reverb send to achieve a similar, but more dramatic effect. To achieve this effect, slap on a gate over a 100% wet, long reverb and adjust the attack and release so that it’s almost instantaneous. Starting from the top, pull your threshold down until the desired amount of reverb tail is produced. To finish, adjust the hold time to your liking.

Music production and recording studio: workstation keyboard midi controller and monitors.

Sync your decays!

As with most things musical, reverbs gel and sound smoother when matched to the tempo of the track. Let’s say you’re writing a deep, ambient tune that has accentuated reverb hits on the snare. To get the reverb effect in sync, adjust the decay of the reverb so that it fades out gradually before the next snare hits. Not only will this help solidify the groove, but it will also help clean up your mixdown.

close-up of the reverb settings on a soundboard mixer

Reverse Reverb

Reverse reverbs are commonplace in film scores to achieve interesting warping sounds. Dream flashbacks, timewarp scenes and ghostly sounds (think ‘The Poltergeist’ demon) are good examples of where you’d find this technique being used.
It was all the rage back when tape machines were widely available. Why? Well, it was easy – all you had to do was record to tape, and then flip it over so that it plays backwards. Achieving this technique is just as simple, if not easier in digital (cheaper too).
Try this on a short sentence vocal sample.
Reverse the vocal sample in your DAW.
Next, slap a 100% wet reverb on it with a long decay, not a huge amount of early reflections, and a tiny bit of   pre-delay. Try to keep the low-end tamed, and record the entire length of the reverb decay on to another track (or bounce it down into an audio file).
Now re-re verse the audio file you’ve just bounced out. There you have it – instant spookiness!

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