Reverb – The One Effect We Can't do Without!
Originally reverb was produced naturally in the recording studio with just an open room, movable baffles and reflective walls. The engineer would experiment with mic placement in these large rooms to get the amount of reverb needed.
This required a very large room and since not every studio had the space and luxury of having one, the Plate reverb technology was born. This is where a large metal plate was hung from the ceiling and made to reverberate thus causing our first manipulated reverb effect. The next reverb technology came from the spring which as you know was quickly adopted by guitar amp builders.
Reverb is arguably the most important effect used on a recording because it can create a sense of space. You know this because when you record a singer they can't stand to have no reverb in their headphones cause it just feels so painfully bare. You put a little bit of reverb in there and their confidence level goes up immediately. Today when we use our reverb plug-ins or dedicated effects processors it's all being reproduced through digital mathematics.
If you're recording at home you may be using a reverb plug-in that came with your recording software program, some of these are quality plug-ins if you have one of the pro programs covered in our Audio Software section.The best alternative is a multiple effects processor or even better one that only has reverb.
Reverb is Fashionable
Amounts and styles of reverb come and go much like fashion. We can all think back to some songs that are drenched in reverb especially from the middle of the last century. Later in the 90's the style was to go almost completely dry, which had things like the vocal really up in your in your face. It's a style and trend and like fashion, can date itself.
Drums & Bass
Too much reverb can easily ruin your recording. The drums don't need very much reverb and the kick even less. Same for the bass guitar. These low end instruments need to project and have a pounding quality and adding too much reverb will steal these quality's away.
Most guitar players will naturally put some reverb through their amp to get the sound where they're comfortable with it so when it's sounding good, great just leave it. If the amp has crappy reverb that's ok, just record without and add some from your effects processor afterwards. Either way, guitars benefit greatly with a nice reverb, same as pianos.
As you experiment with amounts of reverb on your vocals you'll quickly realize it's easy to lose them in the mix by adding too much. Vocals are one thing that benefit more with too little rather than too much. You don't want to actually hear the reverb on them, like you would on a guitar, but just enough that it brings them out in the mix and not obvious that it's there.