Paul Drew is a UK based music producer and mixer and is part of the team at DWB Music.
In his first guest article offering reverb tips and tricks he starts with vocals, where often in modern production you can hear the most varied uses of reverb.
Consider The Era
I tend to change the reverb type depending on the era/ decade of the production genre. If it's a vintage 50's/ 60's sound I'm going for, I will first pull up Chamber and spring reverbs. If it's 70's I'll probably lean towards plates. 80's tracks and I'll probably start at the classic Lexicon hall type of reverb. Anything from the 90s to modern day and anything goes.
What is clear is that for today's producers the use of reverb is varied compared to past decades. This could be due to the fact that everyone has access to better reverbs in plug-in form at a fraction of the cost: compare the sound and the cost of Exponential reverb plug-in to Lexicon hardware.
The Lines Are Getting Blurred
Access to music has given many a more eclectic music exposure. When I was a school kid I remember people were passionate about a certain type of music. Now it seems people just love music in all its genres. We can listen to Radio One In the UK and a metal track will be followed by Adele. Each type of music has different production styles and you hear many uses of different types of reverb.
Less Is More
We've also been through a period more recently where a less-is-more approach has been adopted with reverb. The vocals are dry and in your face. This is a fantastic way of evoking a sense in the listener that the artist is standing right In front of them.
Now, when we use this technique it can make the vocalist sound disconnected to the rest of the band/production. This is when I would tend to use one of my favourite techniques of sync-to-tempo pre delays. With this technique you will be able to still have an upfront vocal but also blend in with the production.
Basically a pre delay is the amount of time before the reverb kicks in.
There are plenty of tempo calculators on the internet to help you find the correct amount of pre delay to use? I've listed two sites below.
Setting Up Sync Based Pre-Delay
For this technique I like a delay of between around 80 milliseconds and up to around 120 milliseconds.
So if your song is say 130bpm a sixteenth of this tempo is 115 ms.
You haven't got to use 16ths, any division can work. It could be that your tempo is 80 bpm therefore a 32nd note would be 93.75 ms.
Break The Rules And Get Unexpected Results
Also don't be scared to use more than one type of reverb on a vocal. I'll often use a room reverb and say a hall reverb on different sends to get the effect I desire.
Try setting up a delay and then sending a bit of that to a reverb.
Use your ears and remember that anything goes in today's music production.