Proper use of reverberation gives your music a fuller and richer sound. The first step to achieving this ideal sound is a decent reverb plug in or unit. You need a traditional digital reverb and a convolution reverb. A convolution reverb unit generates reverb tails originating around on impulse responses, which are registrations of reverberations of real-world environments. Steve Hillier has this to say about how he uses reverberation:
“Here’s how I use reverb in my own work. Your mileage may vary but most mix engineers I know use this approach or a variation on it:
- Set up three reverb plugins as send effects on a bus, not as insert effects. The first will be short (less than 0.5 sec) and come from a convolution reverb using a room impulse response. The second will be a traditional digital reverb sound, such as a plate reverb, set to around 1.5 seconds decay. The last will be a ‘third option’, normally reserved for vocals and normally another plate or hall sound.
- I then balance my sounds without reverb. Please note that I only use the bare minimum of compression at this point too!
- When I’m happy with my mix, I then start placing my sounds in an imaginary three dimensional space. The shorter reverb sound places the drums and other high energy or rhythmical sound sources at the front of my stage, the larger reverbs put those sounds slightly further back and into a supporting role. The more reverb, the bigger the sound but also how far away it is.
Thinking of your mix as a three dimensional illusion is crucial for a comfortable and exciting result. Without reverb, your mix will sound like it’s stuck inside the speakers. Reverb brings the sounds alive and gives them the opportunity to leap out of headphones!”
Programmers get this wrong because they attempt to solve their problems with their logical brains instead of the emotional side that is so apt for music making. Start listening to life. The sounds of a dog barking in an alley. The sound of a car spinning tires in a parking lot. The sound of birds through an open window. The sound of water upon a tarp. Then use your ears to make music.