Mixing with reverb 2

Does it need short reverb or long reverb? Should the mix be lush or dry? Then start to ask the more difficult questions – Should be ambience be deep or shallow? Should it be natural or unnatural?

The answers to these questions should be based on the song.

Short / Long: This decision should primarily be based on the pace of the song. Obviously, slow songs will tend to need longer reverb and faster songs will tend to need shorter reverb. Keep in mind that pace is not the same as tempo. A song with a slow pace may still have quick tempo, and a song with a fast pace may have a slow tempo. The pace of a song depends on various factors, such as the density and syncopation of the rhythms (particularly drums and percussion) and the rate of change (both in the harmonic progression and overall structure).

Lush / Dry: This is more of a creative decision. It’s a question of how much you want reverb to be a part of the sonic signature of the mix. A lush mix is usually more dreamy and evocative, whereas a dry mix has more clarity and immediacy.

Deep / Shallow: This is where things start to get difficult. The question of whether your mix should have deep or shallow ambience is a question of depth, and it’s not directly related to the depth of the other mix elements. A mix with a big distance between foreground and background might still be best served with a shallow ambience. Similarly, a mix with a small distance between foreground and background might be best served with deep ambience. Deep ambience enhances the sense of depth and space in the mix, whereas shallow ambience enhances the softness and blurriness of the sounds. Mixes that are dry and shallow will typically have very little reverb at all.

Natural / Unnatural: Natural reverb best compliments acoustic instruments. It doesn’t have to sound exactly like a specific room or acoutic space, but it should sound like an acoustic space that might reasonably exist. A natural reverb would also be appropriate when integrating sounds such as synths and samples into a more traditional instrumentation (such as vocal pop or a band). Unnatural reverb is best suited to mixes where most of the instruments have no acoustic basis (such as drum machines and synths), or where the sound of the mix is far from representing the acoustic sound of the instruments (such as modern pop rock). Unnatural reverb takes a studio production beyond a mere recording of an event to an artform in its own right.


    • Shane
    • August 12th, 2011

    So a fast track would be better served with delay for adding depth, since a short reverb doesn’t send instruments as for back in the mix as a long reverb. And by saying that a slow mix benefits from long reverb you’re saying that a slow mix benefits when instruments are pushed back further in the mix? A long reverb with a high diffusion setting pushes stuff back further than a short reverb with the same diffusion, right?

  1. @Shane
    The length of the reverb is only mildly linked to its depth. It’s possible to have a deep reverb that’s not very long and it’s possible to have a shallow reverb that’s quite long.

    The choice of length is really a matter of pace, not depth.


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