Audio Engineer Daniel Wyatt Demonstrates Techniques for Mixing with Reverb and Delay

Reverb is often used to create space in a mix. This applies to a wide variety of styles and genres. In this guest post from Daniel Wyatt, he explores ways to apply this technique along with an example Logic X session.

My name is Daniel Wyatt.

I am an audio engineer and educator for 30 years and have taught mixing and mastering at both SAE New York and Dubspot for over ten years.

Splice has really changed the way I work with clients and students alike and I would like to show you how. I created a working mix project to demonstrate a few tips and hopefully clarify a few common questions. While I do tend to use a good amount of third party plug-ins in my work (iZotope, Soundtoys, Universal Audio, Fabfilter, Sonnox, Audioease etc), I thought it would be cool to demonstrate some of these techniques with the indigenous Logic plug-ins — both for compatibility and simplicity.

This month we will look at some advanced reverb tricks that are very simple to set up using a song called “Do it Like That” from producer Cheskob. Cheskob has been working behind the scenes in creating many tracks for well known established celebrities and major labels. “Do It Like That” is one of his first releases this spring as an artist. To follow along, sign up for a free Splice account and download the project below:

1. REVISITING REVERB:

Last month, we looked in to setting up a basic reverb matrix. To summarize our recipe, we should:

  • Add a very small amount of small or medium room reverb on all instruments to add a relatedness in the mix.
  • Create a dedicated snare or clap reverb that flatters the snare, but might sound too low-fi on other elements in the mix.
  • Add plate reverbs for elements that live in the “front” of the mix.
  • Add hall reverbs do add depth for elements that are intended to live in the “back” of the mix.

*NOTE ON WET/DRY SETTING ON SPACE DESIGNER:

Personally I tend to gravitate toward convolution reverbs, as I find they add a bit more realism to the mix. Logic Pro X comes with its own convolution reverb called Space Designer that has a very rich, organic and realistic sound. However, be aware that when putting it on an aux track and flipping through the presets, it defaults and snaps back to various wet/dry mixes that don’t make sense when using the send/return matrix. Therefore, always make sure that you have 100% wet signal, and 0% dry signal when using the reverb.

2. BASS REVERB:

Many audio engineers tend to put reverb on everything else except the kick and bass. Perhaps it is the fear that adding ambience to the low frequency elements with make the mix muddy. This can in fact happen if you don’t know the right tricks. Kicks and basses need to be forward in the mix, but leaving them totally dry can make them feel disconnected or “pasted on” to a mix that has been treated properly with ambience.  What the engineer can do is set up a dedicated low-end reverb and here’s how:

1. Put a medium room or medium hall (depending on the overall ambience of the track) on insert as usual.
2. In the case of the bass reverb, place an EQ of choice (probably clean digital, not vintage) in front of the reverb insert.
3. Now with the kick or bass in solo, send some signal to the bass reverb.
4. Once you have the desired amount of ambience, go to the EQ insert, turn on a high pass filter anywhere between 200 Hz and 500 Hz.  By filtering out the low end before it enters the reverb, the mixer can make sure that no unnecessary low end agitates the reverb and creates mud. It is also common to filter the high end of the reverb, just a touch if necessary, to cut extraneous highs. I find that the send level is right when the effect is very subtle – you should not notice it when it’s there, but miss it when it’s gone (bypassed).

3. CREATIVE USE OF PRE-DELAY:

Another great reverb trick for creating a “big room” sound is manipulating the pre-delay on a reverb.  Pre-delay is  the amount of time it takes for the initial reverb energy to react in the room and bounce back to the listener.  Larger rooms typically have long and distinct pre-delays – like the echo effect when yelling into a cave.  Smaller rooms have almost no pre-delay as the physical space is so small, the sound creates reverb immediately and it is returned right away to the listener.

The traditional way to create a sense of large space in a track is to use a large hall on a selected sound and then to adjust the pre-delay so that it is rhythmically related to the tempo.  Some reverbs can “sync” to the host application’s tempo, while other reverbs need to have the pre-delay times calculated separately. It is an old-school trick to set the overall reverb decay to the duration of the relative quarter note time of the tempo of the song. That being said, one should experiment not only with quarter notes but with eighth notes and dotted sixteenths as long as they work in context. A rhythmically timed pre-delay can create a very cool and unique bounce to the track that can really only be achieved through this technique. Using a variety of pre-delay settings on reverbs in the project also prevents crowding the reverb attacks and helps give different sounds their own unique ambience.

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