5 Creative Reverb Techniques

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Reverb is a fundamental part of every mix, and one of the most widely used audio effects. Treating your music with reverb is necessary to create the impression of distance and separation between parts of a song. Reverb also provides the sense of a natural space that glues a mix together and provides an essential ingredient that immerses listeners.

Moreover, reverb effects have many uses ranging from practical mixing practices to creative sound design. This guide looks at five creative ways to use reverb in Ableton Live.

 

1. Reverse Reverb

Recording a reverb tail and then reversing it is an effective technique that works great for signaling a transition in the song. Reverse reverb also works excellent for introducing vocals, instrumentation or even parts of a song. 

Creating reverse reverb in Ableton Live involves a multi-step process. Let's look at how to create a reverse reverb transition effect for vocals. These steps will also work for any other type of sound.

  • Duplicate the vocal or instrument track your working with using the shortcut command CMD+D [Mac] or CTRL+D [PC].
  • For best results, delete everything except the first word or syllable of the first word at the part where the reverse reverb will play. Similarly, if you're creating reverse reverb to introduce an instrument, then you would use the first note or phrase.
  • Reverse the vocal snippet by selecting 'Rev.' from the Sample Box in Clip View. Alternatively, click 'R' in Ableton Live 10.

  • Drop in your favorite reverb effect and ensure the Dry/Wet control is 100% wet. Dial in the reverb sound to taste and be sure to set a longer decay time to give yourself enough reverb tail to work with.
  • Freeze the vocal snippet track by right-clicking the track name and selecting Freeze Track from the Edit menu. This function temporary renders the audio.

  • Fully commit to the rendered audio and print a recording of the reverb tail by right-clicking the track name again and selecting Flatten from the Edit menu. Alternatively, you can create a new audio track and drag the frozen audio to that track.
  • Select the new reverb sample and reverse it by selecting 'Rev.' from the Sample Box in Clip View or clicking 'R' in Live 10.
  • Drag the reversed reverb so that the end of the sample lines up to the start of your vocal.

Optional: Process the reverse reverb with additional effects to give the sound more character.

2. Sidechain Reverb Swells

Sidechaining reverb is a technique that gives elements a big reverb sound without washing away the punch, clarity, and detail of the original sound source. For example, this technique is often applied to drums, vocals, and chords to create reverb swells between hits or phrases. The effect also adds excitement, character, and more complexity to sounds.

There are various ways to set up this effect in Ableton Live. For this example, we'll apply sidechain reverb swells to chord stabs with parallel processing using an Audio Effect Rack.

  • Drop in your favorite reverb effect to the track your processing.
  • Create an Audio Effect Rack by the selecting the reverb effect and clicking CMD+G ]Mac] or CTRL+G [PC].
  • Drop in Live's Compressor after the reverb effect.
  • Enable Compressor's Sidechain button and choose the same track your working in from the Audio From chooser menu. This setup makes the reverb duck out of the way every time the source material plays. Automatically cutting the reverb signal this way prevents the reverb tail from masking the original sound and causing other issues.
  • Dial in Compressor's Attack, Release, Threshold, and any other controls to taste.
  • Create a second device chain by right-clicking in the Chain List and selecting Create Chain from the menu. This chain will allow the original signal to play unaffected.
  • Adjust the reverb chain's volume slider to mix the processed reverb signal with the dry, unprocessed signal.

3. Resampling Frozen Reverb

Live's Reverb has a Freeze button that freezes the reverb tail of the input signal. When activated, the reverberation will sustain almost indefinitely until the button is deactivated. This function is designed to test Reverb's sound when making adjustments. However, it can also be used for sound design.

There are many creative ways to use resampled reverb. For example, you can use the audio to create melodies, pads, transition effects, percussion sounds, ambient layers, and more. You could also use parts of the sampled reverberation to layer under different drum or synth sounds.

For this example, I resampled frozen reverberation to create a chord stab lead with a house vibe. To create frozen reverb in Live:

  • Drop Live's Reverb to the track with the material you are resampling. For this example, I used the chord stabs sample from the sidechain reverb technique.
  • Apply additional effects to process the sound further if you like. For this example, I added Live's Resonator effect to change the timbre and Saturator to thicken up the sound.
  • Enable Reverb's Freeze button with automation just after the initial hit of the sound. Also, automate or manually disable the Freeze button to stop playback of the frozen reverb.
  • Freeze and flatten the reverb track by right-clicking the track name and selecting Freeze Track from the Edit menu. Then repeat the step to flatten the track. Alternatively, you can drag the frozen audio to a new audio track.

Once you have a printed copy of the frozen reverb, edit and process it in any way. The creative possibilities are in your hands!

4. Panning Mono Reverbs

Applying reverb to sounds adds depth and width to a mix. Moreover, typical reverb effect setups are often stereo. However, we can use mono reverb signals to add stereo width as well.

Panning mono reverb is a technique that adds stereo width to sounds. The setup involves panning a sound source one way and a duplicate track running through reverb that is in mono the opposite way. This method is often used to add stereo width to mono recordings such as guitars and vocals. However, it can be applied to any sound.

For this example, I'm adding stereo width to a synth lead. To create the two signals, I used an Audio Effect Rack with two chains. One chain has a mono reverb panned right, and the other chain is the original sound source panned left. Alternately, you can use a return track for the reverb.

Furthermore, I processed the reverb signal with Live's Saturator to thicken the sound and Utility to place the signal in mono. Also, having two different sounding signals panned in opposite positions gives the sound a different character in addition to stereo width.

5. Gated Reverb

Gated reverb is a technique often applied to drums to make them sound powerful and punchy while keeping the overall mix more clean sounding. Moreover, the gated reverb effect was popularized in the 1980s by using a combination of reverb and a noise gate.

Gated reverb works similarly to the sidechain reverb concept. You can give sounds a big reverb sound without washing away the clarity and punch of the sound source. This technique also works particularly well on drums. For example, gating the reverb on a particular sound will silence the reverb everytime that sound plays. This approach enables you to give drum sounds such as claps and snares a lot of reverb without causing frequency masking and other mix issues.

For this example, I set up and Audio Effect Rack to gate the reverb applied to a clap. Again, you can achieve the same results using a return track. Let's look at how to set this rack up:

  • Drop in your favorite reverb effect to the track your processing.
  • Create an Audio Effect Rack by the selecting the reverb effect and clicking CMD+G ]Mac] or CTRL+G [PC].
  • Drop in Live's Gate after the reverb effect.
  • Enable Gate's Sidechain button and choose the same track your working in from the Audio From chooser menu.
  • Adjust the Threshold so that the reverb silences once it drops to a certain level.
  • Adjust the Attack, Release, and Floor to control the amount and duration of reverb that plays between hits.
  • Create a second device chain by right-clicking in the Chain List and selecting Create Chain from the menu. This chain will allow the original signal to play unaffected.
  • Adjust the reverb chain's volume slider to mix the processed reverb signal with the dry, unprocessed signal.

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2 Comments

  • Cool!

    Perhaps you could give those hints thinking of Reason’s users…

    Antonio Burgos on
  • Interesting. I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to apply to Mixcraft.

    Your, you’re: learn the difference.

    Titmouse on

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