This is a guest post by Björgvin Benediktsson of Audio Issues.
Reverb is the #1 way to make your mixes sound amateurish. I’ve done it, you’ve done it. Hell, even those master mixers went through a whole decade doing it.
Although reverb is really useful to create depth and space in a mix, it’s easy to go overboard. So how can you add depth and space to your instruments without piling on the reverb?
1. Use Delay
Look at delays like Reverb Lite. It’s like reverb in the way that it creates a sense of space, but it lacks the reverb trail that often clutters up a mix. You see, 2-second reverbs sound great on vocals, but the decay and tail is so long that it clutters up everything else that’s going on. So next time, use delays to create a sense of depth around your instrument instead of cluttering up your mix with long reverb trails.
Re-amping is a great way of creating depth without adding unnecessary space. Re-amp a guitar part with a different microphone, through a different amp, or from a greater distance away. Miking up a guitar part using distant miking creates a sense of depth without making it sound too “reverb-y.” Use it for other instruments as well, keyboards, bass and synths can all benefit from re-amping.
If you don’t have an amplifier at your disposal, turn off one of your monitors and record the other one. Adding a miked up bass part underneath a DI’d signal will give you a rounder tone. The microphone picks up the movement of the air from your monitor, creating realistic depth without muddying up your signal.
If delay is Reverb Lite, then modulation effects are Reverb Extra Small. Modulation effects such as chorus and flanger are great for creating a little depth without adding any space. Send your instrument to a auxiliary send and insert a chorus effect underneath the untreated signal. Just a tiny bit can give you the depth you need.
4. Create Stereo with EQ
Automatic double tracking is a simple trick to create depth, but you can enhance it with EQ. If you EQ both signal differently, there will an even more apparent stereo effect, more like two different guitar parts are playing rather than the same one being played twice. Try it for doubled acoustic guitar or hard rock riffs. Adding a touch of different EQ boosts and cuts to each signal separates them more than just simply delaying one.
No Need for Reverb
You don’t always have to resort to reverb for depth. Next time you need to separate your instruments and create some depth, try avoiding the reverb altogether. Delays, double tracking and modulation effects can work just as well.
Björgvin Benediktsson is an audio engineer, musician and online entrepreneur from Iceland. He’s been involved in the music and audio industry for almost a decade, playing in bands, working as a sound engineer and recording music.
Awesome ideas, Björgvin! While I don’t think that reverb always muddies up a mix, it’s nice to know that it’s not the ONLY way to achieve depth.
I love the idea of re-amping using a studio monitor. I’d never thought of that, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for the great info!
The rest of you, leave a comment below!!