Creative Uses of Common Effects: Reverb

From its subtle small-room reflections to its cavernous elongation of sounds, reverb is an essential tool in music. Whether it's applied naturally by the room, or added by the mixing engineer, it has a massive influence of the final sound. So much so that recording studios go to the massive expense to try and control it.


The simplest use of reverb is to move elements forward or backwards in the mix. Generally speaking, the more reverb applied, the further away the sound is perceived by the listener. This is useful for pushing instruments back in the mix so the lead instrument is more apparent.

One may decide that the backing vocals should be further back than the lead singer and apply a greater amount of reverb to them so the sound of their room reflections is higher in proportion than the sound coming from their mouths.

This mimics a common microphone positioning technique. When the microphone is closer to the sound source, it picks up mostly the original sound. Bring the microphone to the other side of the room, and you will hear a lot more of the "room" noise too. 

Many DAWs allow you to add reverbs to the track that the recording is on in addition to having send bus tracks, these can both be used very effectively for many different purposes.

The Reverse Reverb Tail

This is a trick used for dramatic sounding effect. It is achieved by reversing a sound, such as a snare and recording the reverb coming from it. As you know reverb gets quieter over time and so by then reversing the resulting recording, you have the reverb building to a snare hit.

It is a very conspicuous effect and would not occur naturally so be careful when you use it.

Sidechaining Reverb

This is an awesome trick that creates a similar effect to the pre-delay setting on reverb. By adding a compressor track onto the reverb send and using the dry signal as the trigger input, you can control the volume of the reverb.

This means the reverb "bounces" up when the volume of the dry signal is low. It is a good alternative to directly side-chaining synths to the kick as well, where the kick controls the side-chain of the other instrument's reverbs, again causing a bouncing effect.

Building Up Element Intensity

As previously discussed on this website, reverb can be used to build the energy of a track by increasing the density of the sound.

By using automation for increasing thickness, you will make a build up to a drop or chorus more intense. Combine this with a side-chain compressor controlled by a silent kick track to introduce the bounce of a chorus before the kick is even prominent.

You could further combine this effect with delays and upwards formant shifts for the most jaw-clenching-build up for a drop.

Many artists use white noise as a riser, but by using reverbs, you have a similar blend of frequencies across the spectrum, but they will be much more harmonically linked to the song (since they are made out of the sounds of the song).

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