· By Jan Branicki
What Is a Reverb in Music? Types & Applications
As an emerging artist, it’s important for you to know ‘what is reverb in music.’ Reverb is a critical component of any mix that instills depth and space in it. The music will sound unnatural and flat without a reverb, failing to engage listeners as it should.
Therefore, you must understand the technicalities surrounding this musical effect and learn the right way of its incorporation to connect with your audience. Here’s all you need to know about reverb effect in music productions.
What is Reverb in Music?
Reverb refers to the effect produced when sound waves in space are sent outward in all directions. It reflects off the walls, ceilings, floors, etc., and becomes quieter with every second before finally fading away.
You can take reverb as the sound that reaches your ears just a few milliseconds after the instrument’s original note. Therefore, it can also be regarded as the quick reflection of the actual sound produced by any instrument played in a room, hall, or any other space.
Importance of Reverb in the Music Production Process
Reverberation is vital in music production because it adds depth and cohesiveness to the mix. It can effectively eliminate the music's blandness by tying sounds together, providing it with a touch of realism so more listeners can connect and stay engaged throughout the session.
Moreover, this musical effect is also useful in offering subconscious clues to the audience about the setting where the music was created, along with a sense of distance between the instruments.
Factors Affecting the Sound of Reverb
Reverb is not an isolated effect, but the way how it’s produced depends upon several factors, including:
The length of reverb in music production depends directly on the room’s size. The bigger it is, the longer reverb would be produced and vice versa. It’s because, in a larger space, the sound bounces off multiple surfaces, taking additional time to reach our ears.
The architecture of the space, like the number of walls, ceiling height, and room width, is also responsible for determining the duration and frequency of the reverb. For example, a high ceiling means the sound would take more time to reach your ears once it reflects the surface, producing a longer reverb.
Besides a room’s dimensions, the materials placed in the space, like chairs, pillows, curtains, etc., will also determine the reverb quality. For example, an area with hardwood floors tends to produce a longer reverb than that having carpets. It’s because the latter can absorb more sound, preventing it from reflecting off the surface.
Types of Reverb
The five types of reverb effects in music are as follows:
Plate Reverb: It’s an artificial reverb that utilizes a two-dimensional metal sheet hanging inside a big, enclosed case to produce smooth and dense echoes.
Example: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Spring Reverb: A spring reverb has a setup similar to a plate reverb. But it uses one or more springs, replacing the metal sheet. The sound produced with this reverb is specifically for vintage guitar-based tracks, offering clean and bright outcomes.
Example: Misirlou by Dick Dale
Hall Reverb: It imitates the reverberation produced in a concert hall or chamber, which lasts longer and adds to the thickness due to a larger space.
Example: The Drums ‘Down by the Water’
Chamber Reverb: There’s not much difference between a chamber and a hall reverb, as both offer rich sound reflections. However, with chamber reverbs, you can get better clarity, eliminating the washed-out effect of hall reverbs.
Example: The Harmonicats ‘Peg-O-My-Heart’
Room Reverb: It’s the most basic reverb music effect that sets a natural and lively tone of a sound. In addition, the parallel boundaries of a room add to the imperfections, which is an attractive factor that keeps the audience engaged.
Example: I Hear a New World by Joe Meek
Applications of Reverb in Music Production
Reverbs can be used for the following reasons in music production:
Applying a particular reverb type, you can easily create an impression of where the music was recorded. For example, if you want the listener to feel the sound was produced in a restricted environment, shorter reverb can do an adequate job. Similarly, to stimulate the concert hall-like impression, you must ensure longer reverbs that decay after several seconds.
Blending Elements Together
As a music creator, you’d know how common it’s to record different parts of a track in various places using multiple techniques. In this scenario, the combined results may not appear much coherent if it lacks reverbs. Therefore, this music effect is important in creating uniformity in a mix.
Reverb has a critical role in removing the monotony from a track. It makes the sound deeper by ensuring the produced notes are wetter and not dry. For that, longer reverberations are ideal, which can be achieved by increasing the distance between the listener and the instrument. Similarly, you can decrease the distance to make the track less intense.
If you are playing two instruments that deliver the same sounds, ensuring a distinctive character between them is important. That’s where a reverb comes into the picture.
To understand this, you can take the example of an electric and acoustic guitar. If using both instruments in a similar environment, implementing a spring reverb to electric guitar and a room reverb to acoustic guitar can help add unique qualities to notes produced by each.
Tips to Choose the Right Reverb For your Music Production Needs
Considering the different types of reverbs, it’s important to select the one that best aligns with your budget and needs. Here are some tips that can help:
- Consider the song's tempo; shorter reverb can do a perfect job if it's fast-paced. Meanwhile, it's better to go with a longer reverberation for slower songs.
- You must determine whether the echo that reaches the listener’s ears should be dry or wet. For wetter sounds, it’s important to choose reverbs that appear at a distance from the listener and vice versa.
- Study the reverbs used in songs that fall in a similar genre as your musical production. This way, you’ll get an idea regarding the reverb type and duration, along with how to reverb music for a particular mix.
- Take the different parameters, like duration, pre-delay, tail, diffusion, etc., of each reverb type into consideration to choose the one that fits your needs the best. These sonic qualities, in combination, can play a vital role in shaping your sound.
Some Popular Reverb Plugins
The quality of reverb in music directly relates to how well the plugin performs. Therefore, it’s not something to be compromised at all. With that said, let’s briefly overview 3 top reverb plugins to help you achieve the early reflections just as you want.
1. Liquidsonics and Slate Digital Verbsuite Classics
It’s a plugin for beginners, as there are no complex settings to get started. Along with a simple interface, it even features high-quality presets. Moreover, this plugin's multiple units of classic digital reverb make it highly versatile. You can easily switch between different modes to change the reverb’s tone.
2. Valhalla Room
This plugin offers the best value for your money, offering advanced features at highly affordable rates. You can ideally use it on synths, FX, drums, and more such instruments, for the desired outcosmes. It’s the unnatural yet compelling character of this reverb plugin that sets it apart.
3. Native Instruments Raum
With this algorithmic plugin, you can choose three different reverb modes. It helps create multiple sounds completely distinctive from each other and even dissimilar to the traditional reverbs you typically use. This plugin can be used on synths, electric guitars, and percussions.
Reverbs are musical elements that can transport the listener to a particular space, be it a concert hall, a cathedral, or a small room. It adds soul to the track, enforcing the stimulation that sound was recorded in a real-world acoustic space, not a vacuum.
Despite these benefits, reverbs can sometimes be overdone. Therefore, you must have a solid understanding to ensure using it within the right amount to get the most out of this effect.