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Do you use reverb to cover your mistakes?

A post by David Mellor
Monday December 26, 2005
Once upon a time in recording history, artificial reverb was difficult and expensive to achieve. Now with modern processors and plug-ins, high quality reverb is available to everyone. But does this necessarily make your recordings better...
Do you use reverb to cover your mistakes?

Once upon a time in recording history, artificial reverb was difficult and expensive to achieve. Now with modern processors and plug-ins, high quality reverb is available to everyone. But does this necessarily make your recordings better?

Question number 1 is why use reverb at all?

The reason reverb is virtually a necessity is because of the current practice of close miking. Oddly enough, close miking has not always been the norm. It took innovative producer Joe Meek to discover that putting the microphones much closer than the then accepted distance gave a much more exciting sound. But close miking deprives the sound of its natural reverberation, so the artificial variety is used to compensate.

At this point it is easy to see why we use reverb. But there is more to it than that - reverb just sounds nice. There is some instinct inside us to prefer a luxuriant aural environment, just as we prefer a luxuriantly soft sofa to a hard bench.

But reverb can have the characteristics of a drug in this respect. Try it, like it, use it... want more.

Of course there is no harm done. If you like the sound you are getting, then use as much reverb as you feel that you need. But there is another risk... it is very easy to use reverb to conceal mistakes, or to try and turn a basically bad recording into something superficially acceptable.

Just ask yourself the question - when was the last time I added reverb because the sound just didn't seem good enough? The answer for many people could be, "All the time". And this is not the route to a good recording. If you find yourself using reverb to cover up faults or improve a basically bad sound, it is a sign that your recording skills are not yet up to scratch.

What I recommend is a period of ‘cold turkey’. Switch off your reverb processor or de-install your reverb plug-in for a month. Yes four solid weeks of recording and mixing without reverb.

I guarantee that this will sharpen up your recording and mixing skills because you will be forced to make sure that each sound is optimized and as good intrinsically as it possibly can be. And when you are mixing, you won’t have reverb to ‘smooth things over’ – you’ll have to blend the sounds carefully yourself.

Then when you return to using your reverb after this period, you will be amazed at how much less you need to use it – you’ll just use it when you want to, and your recordings will be so much better.

A post by David Mellor
Monday December 26, 2005 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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