A collection of some tips & techniques for using reverb.
Ignore the cool pic—this is mainly about what you can do with plugins!
Here are some creative ways to use reverb which are easy to set up. If you are a beginner you may not know some of the terms in here, like “aux” and “early reflections”. That is cool and learning is cool—just go ahead and read through and be motivated to figure things out!
These are all taken from the manual to my UAD Presets set three. Of course I would like for you to take a look at them, but all these techniques can be used with whatever reverb and settings you have. I hope they are helpful!
Want to unclutter your tracks? Record most things in mono! Yes, you may have this lush, vibrating, space-filling synth pad. Try it in mono, along with most everything else. Once you do this, you will have lots of control over your sound stage. Things can actually be panned!
Along with this, a mono reverb can really clean things up. You have an instrument panned right, send the reverb right out there with it. Each sound will maintain its own identity and space this way. Or pan the mono instrument to one side, and the mono reverb to the other. You get a big sound, and still have left a lot of space.
A simple way to do it—set up three auxes. Mono reverb right, mono reverb left, mono reverb center. Use the sends on your tracks to go to the appropriate “location”.
An even simpler way to do it—put the mono version of your plugin as an insert. The reverb will follow where ever you pan your track.
Dual reverb sends
This works especially well with vocals, but try it on anything! Set up a mono aux with a mono reverb. Use a very clean setting (see some of the presets above). Send this right down the center.
Set up another aux with a stereo reverb. Settings with less early reflections work best, and you can try a bit of a longer pre-delay.
You want both of the reverbs to be in the same “space” but with subtle differences. For instance, have mainly early reflections in the mono reverb (down the center) and very quiet ones on the stereo (down the sides). The reverb will bloom out from the center to the sides. There are all kinds of ways to do this, but start out with identical settings in an identical space.
On your track make a separate send for each aux, one for the mono and one for the stereo. Adjust the mono (center), adjust the stereo (sides). You can do so much with this. Let’s say you want a really strong initial reverb, but a quiet tail. Using the example I gave above adjusting early reflections, simply tweak the sends!
Just an fyi—you can’t just feed the mono reverb into the stereo one. The second reverb will be responding to the reflections in the first reverb. (I mean you can do this if you like, and you will get some interesting sounds, but it’s not how the technique works.)
When you setup an aux for reverb, you have any number of inserts you can use to augment the reverb. This is my favorite…
First insert: UAD Pultec HLF-3C. I have a preset which mimics the eq curve used by Abbey Road engineers back in the day before they sent a signal to their chambers. Basically, you cut everything below 600hz and everything above 10kHz . This eliminates both muddiness and harsh brightness. You can adjust these hpf/lpf settings to whatever suits your material. Of course, you can use practically any EQ to do this.
Second insert: A compressor. An LA-2A style is good, because it’s easy to just turn that one knob. Really push it, like 10db or more on loud parts. What you are doing is fooling the reverb to even itself out.
Third insert: The reverb. The only thing to remember is that you have already EQ-ed the audio coming in. Also, the compressor can go after the reverb, but it is a totally different effect. It will make the reverb tails louder, for one thing. But you can try both ways and hear how it sounds.
Fourth insert: Something like the VSM-3 to add some distortion. I have a preset I use with just a touch of character. You can also use the EL Fatso, a tape plugin, or any kind of distortion.
You should get a nice reverb sound that stays out of the way. Keep in mind as you increase the send level you will be driving the compressor harder. It takes a little tweaking. The real fun begins when you send several tracks to this same aux. It will be acting like a bus compressor before it hits the reverb. For instance, if you have sends from a guitar and vocal going to the aux, a loud guitar strum will effect the amount of vocal that gets passed to the reverb. Try it and hear!
One more technique
Putting any kind of movement into your reverb chain can be really interesting. I like to put the Waves Brauer Motion plugin either before or after the reverb. You can get some very nice movement into the reverb send this way. Any kind of “motion-inducing” plugin can do this, but the Waves Brauer is ideal!
You can take a look at the UAD presets for this if you like. But mostly— make some cool music!