How to Use Multiple Reverb Buses to Create Multi-Dimensional Recordings
Hello everyone and welcome to another Dojo. This time I want to focus on the creative possibilities of using multiple reverb buses to spice up your tracks and mixes.
I first heard of this concept (many years ago) was through legendary engineer Al Schmitt, who recorded Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Jefferson Airplane, George Benson, Toto , Steely Dan, Vince Gill and Michael Jackson, to name but a few. little. He has also mixed more than 150 gold and platinum records. When he spoke, people listened. Specially me. A few years ago, I had the good fortune to spend four days filming him as he engineered and mixed an album from start to finish at Blackbird. Whenever he was waiting for material to be installed or for the band to arrive, I would express my deep appreciation for the records he had designed/produced and would ask him questions. This article is based on part of one of those conversations. So, tighten your seat belts. The Dojo is now open.
You might be wondering what benefits using multiple reverbs can bring, and wouldn’t it all just wipe out? Let me first describe how to set up multiple verbs in your DAW, then we’ll see how to use them. Let’s start with my emulation of how Al would have used the five reverb chambers at RCA Hollywood Studios when he was recording.
“I like to do this with instruments that can have a fair amount of delay on them, but still need to feel like they’re affecting the reverb space in the mix.”
In your DAW, create five different aux buses. You can make these busses mono or stereo, depending on the processing power of your computer. Instantiate a reverb on each bus. I recommend UAD’s Capitol Chambers, Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates, FabFilter’s Pro-R, Valhalla DSP Plate, or similar choices. There are many great quality reverbs out there. Regardless of what you have, I encourage you to experiment with different types of reverbs and settings. This can give each bus a different character and lead to creative mixing decisions. Take a look at Fig. 1.
Then move them as follows: ‘verb 1–far left, ‘verb 2–half left, ‘verb 3–center, ‘verb 4–half right, and ‘verb 5–far right [Fig.2]. You can also vary the reverb time if you wish, but I suggest that if it’s based on a real space (like Abbey Road or Capitol rooms) leave the reverb time alone to maximize the sonic footprint of each of these spaces. Also, keep the dimension (the shape of the room) the same. If it’s a purely digital verb, I’ll adjust to taste depending on what I want the role of the reverb to be in the mix. Usually this is the central verb for me.
Now listen to your mix and locate where your instruments/vocals are panning in the stereo field. For instruments and tracks on the left side, route a send to reverbs 1 and/or 2. For those on the right, send them to reverbs 4 and 5, and route and assign whatever you want to reverb to reverb 3.
Adjust your send levels for each track and hear how transparent the reverb starts to become. What I find is that the placement of tracks across the stereo field stays cohesive and focused instead of being smeared across both channels with the brute force of the same reverb.
If you want an A/B comparison, set up another auxiliary reverb bus (reverb 6) and change all outputs of your reverb-assigned tracks to this new reverb and hear the difference. What do you notice ?
Finally, by having different reverbs pan across the stereo field, you can easily do things like make an instrument’s reverb return left to right by assigning it to ‘verb 5. I like to do this with instruments that can have a good amount of delay on them, but you should still feel like they are affecting the reverb space in the mix. I hope this will inspire you and deepen your understanding of reverb.
Until next month, keep experimenting! Namaste.
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