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Your Use of Reverb

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| broken harbour |:
Here's a question for you knowlegable types...

I'm currently working on a track for a compilation, I have the basic elements completed, synth patches mostly, no percussion elements.  When played back dry (no effects) it is missing something, a little flat, reverb gives it a nice, expansive sound, but it introduces a considerable amount of mud.  It almost sounds like 'First Light' from Immersion 3 by Steve Roach, while I like that album, it wasn't the sound I was going for.

I've tried eq'ing the source sounds, eq'ing the reverb, and I've run each sound source through multiple layers of small reverb, and also put one big reverb on a bus and run all tracks into it just to see what it sounds like. It still sounds a tad too muddy.

So my question is... how do you use reverb on your ambient-ish tunes? 

It sounds like you have the right idea, with EQing the tracks so they're more distinct from each other. Try putting reverb on individual tracks, but not all of them, rather than on the entire mix.

If its not muddy and is overall well-balanced to begin with, then look for the track (or a couple) that reverb would best suit and try different amounts on that track alone. Of course, there is no one method, and reverb varies considerably depending on how large a space is emulated, how long the tail, and how wet it is. Adding too much is easy. Muddy is bad.

Reverb spreads/widens things, and tends to put them farther back in a mix. When you only put the reverb on one track/sound, it leaves the other tracks clean and available for panning.

I will sometimes use reverb in conjunction with a stereo widener. Often it is the widening that will make a piece sound fuller.

I will often duplicate a track and add a little reverb + widening to that, then bring in some of it to the final mix. This leaves all the original tracks clean.

Just some ideas. I've found there is no one way in these matters. It is all song dependent.


You might try bouncing the mix or some of the mix onto a stereo pair with completely wet reverb (ie no original dry sound) - you can then mix that back into the whole mix - either at a steady level you are happy with or adjusting the level throughout the track for variety.

you can try different reverbs like this until you find one you like - or even a couple of different reverbs and then mix them in and out of each other for another style of variety.

this way you keep the original dry sound and can mix the reverb sounds to avoid the muddiness - a subtle hint of sound that shifts and moves almost subliminally rather than in your face REVERB

Julio Di Benedetto:
Using reverb for me is firstly a visual experience......I imagine a sound stage, perhaps a favorite concert venue, some physical building or something more abstract   Once I have this in mind I start to place tracks in certain areas of this stage using reverb and panning as well as fx to create motion.  This method so to speak works best when the music is complete and is in the mixing stage. 

During actual recording I will always audition synth patches with hardware fx & reverb in bypass and engaged and toggle between the two to sense how the particular patch feels as the music develops.  Adding dry tracks along side tracks with heavy reverb creates space and can also help cut through that ambient mud I love to roll around in.


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