Don't Use the Wrong Reverb: Finding the Best Reverb For Instruments and Vocals

Knowing what NOT to do is as helpful as knowing what to do. Avoiding mistakes can result in a fuller understanding of good practice and techniques, especially when it come to mixing reverb & delay.  

In a live concert or show, all the instruments and voices are subject to the same reverb—whatever the sound of the room is. But in a recording, the same reverb character may not be as suitable on everything—in playback, with the reverb coming at the listener from the same speakers as the dry sounds instead of from all around, it may be a little more difficult to maintain clarity in the mix when reverb is applied. Sometimes utilizing different types of reverb can help.

Watch Joe Albano explore choosing the right reverb for the job in this video from his course, 10 Common Reverb/Delay Mistakes in The Ask.Audio Academy:

There are quite a few different flavors available with today’s reverb processors, ranging from the widely varying sounds of real spaces to simulations of classic mechanical reverb devices. Both algorithmic reverbs, where the reverb effect is digitally generated with multiple digital delays, and convolution reverbs, which sample the response of actual physical spaces or devices (Impulse Responses, or IRs), usually provide a number of different options, some of which will be more suitable for certain instruments or voices than others.

Real spaces range from large, echoey concert halls, to medium-to-small rooms, to tight ambience, which adds a sense of space without a reverberant tail. And the classic mechanical reverb devices are usually represented by plates—those big metal sheets with their tight reverb sound—and springs, every guitarist’s favorite “boingy” reverb effect. Some of these different types of reverb will suit certain tracks and certain instruments better than others—a large echoey space that sounds great on vocals may not work so well for drums, and vice versa—a tight, dense ’verb may not have as much to offer a lead vocal. And sometimes an instrument or a part calls for something a little more “vibey”. The video above, from the 10 Common Reverb/Delay Mistakes course, takes a look at the various different reverb types typically available and their possible uses on various instruments and voices.

If the most suitable reverb types are matched to the most appropriate parts in an arrangement, the different reverbs won’t sound unnatural—they’ll just provide greater clarity and depth to the mix. When it comes to reverb, a bit of variety may be a good thing. 

The rest of the Reverb & Delay course delves into more “Don’ts”—suggestions of things to avoid and alternative approaches—when using Reverb & Delay-based effects. Check it out!

Joe is a musician, engineer, and producer in NYC. Over the years, as a small studio operator and freelance engineer, he's made recordings of all types from music & album production to v/o & post. He's also taught all aspects of recording and music technology at several NY audio schools, and has been writing articles for Recording magaz... Read More


Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!