Adventures In Audio

Digital reverb for acoustic music should be believable, appropriate, and integrated with the direct sound from the mics

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There's a temptation with reverb to try and turn a small recording space into a huge concert hall or auditorium. But it doesn't always work out well. This example is of a small choir, in a small studio, with a HUGE reverb.

Note: You can also add reverb using the natural echo chamber technique...

Automated transcript

Why digital reverb for acoustic music should be believable appropriate and seamlessly integrated with the direct sound from the mics learn audio online with audio masterclass audiomasterclass.com there's a temptation with reverb to try and turn a small recording space into a huge concert hall or auditorium but it doesn't always work out well sometimes audio is incontrovertibly good sometimes it's incontrovertibly bad sometimes whether a piece of music is good or bad it's a matter of opinion here's a tv studio performance of handel's hallelujah chorus by the bark choir normally there are 250 of them but here there's a select group of 18. it's from the bbc's the andrew marshall

i'll put a link to the complete performance in the description the music is great the singing is very much to my liking not too fussy and full of energy the microphone setup is good too considering that the studio is small and the engineers are probably all rounders rather than specialists in classical music but the reverb oh the reverb this is just my opinion and i fully accept that other people's opinions may differ but i think that the reverb here is totally unsuitable for a number of reasons let's have a quick listen again

so what's wrong i can see the point of the long reverb time and the high level of the reverb it simulates the cathedral or large church or concert hall where the choir would normally perform but it's the wrong way to go clearly some digital reverb will be useful in a small probably quite dry tv studio but it needs to do three things create a believable acoustic space create an appropriate acoustic space integrate seamlessly with the direct sound coming from the mics by believable i mean that the reverb should sound real not artificial this shouldn't be too difficult with modern convolution reverbs and it isn't impossible with a careful selection of program and delicate tweaking in an algorithmic reverb unit or software here the reverb is kind of believable it makes me think of a large space like saint paul's cathedral in london where i have recorded large spaces with stone surfaces create natural reverb that's high in level and long in duration some of the resonance is in this clip however particularly in the low notes of the organ

seem very much larger than real life believable though the acoustic space may be to an extent it's far from appropriate this is tv and we can see the small number of singers and the small space of the studio what we hear conflicts massively with what we see this is a long way from being appropriate making the reverb appropriate means taking into account the ensemble the nature of the space in which the recording is made the music and if it's on tv then what the viewers can see the reverb should enhance the existing acoustic space not obliterated finally in this recording there's a huge disconnect between the direct sound from the mics and the reverb admittedly this is difficult with close mics when you're recording in a pleasant sounding acoustic space that isn't too small then balancing the close mics and ambience mics is one of the engineers arts and crafts a skilled engineer who specializes in classical music will do this well and almost instinctively but working in a small room does make things more difficult working with an inappropriate reverb makes things worse so i'll say again that this is my opinion and i don't want to disrespect anyone involved in this production or anyone who likes the reverb the way it is but believability appropriateness and integration are always important considerations when adding reverb to an acoustic performance one more thing the organ it's so lovely to hear a real organ even if it's just a small one it is common to replace awkward or unusual instruments with a digital keyboard but for me there's nothing quite like the real thing i'm david meller course director of audio masterclass thank you for listening.

Sunday August 9, 2020

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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