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Drum reverbs - should they linger longer?

If your drum reverbs are hanging around too long, they could be confusing your sound. How long should a drum reverb last?


If you find yourself using reverb on drums, perhaps you should consider recording them the way you want to hear them, rather than fixing them up later.

But perhaps you are using drum samples, or you are working with an over-dry recording made by someone else.

We'll take it as given that there are no rules and you can do as you please. However there are points worth considering.

The point we will look at here is the duration of the reverb, or the reverberation time as it is often called.

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In acoustics, we consider reverberation time to be the time it takes for the reverb to drop in level by 60 decibels.

In practical recording however, the reverb usually seems to have disappeared some time before the minus 60 point is reached.

It would have been nice to be able to consider the duration of the reverb in conjunction with the tempo of the song, but you can't really do this in mathematical terms that also make sense subjectively.

So you have to set the reverb time by feel rather than calculation.

There is a critical point however that is well worth listening for...

Listen to the snare drum, with reverb. Does the reverb always seem to finish before the next snare drum hit, or does it seem to overlap with the next hit?

If you want a clean drum sound, then you will want the reverb to be over and done with by the next hit.

If you want a more 'roomy' sound, then you can consider letting it overlap.

That's fine, but what if you want it clean and roomy at the same time?

Well you can use a gated reverb program.

With gated reverb, which is particularly suited to drums, you can set what would have been a long reverb time, but then the gate cuts off the reverb before the next drum hit comes along.

Reverb normally dies away in a 'straight line' manner. It decays by the same number of decibels in equal intervals of time.

But with gated reverb, you can get the first part of the reverb to decay slowly, then just before the next drum hit it can die away quickly.

That way you get a lot of reverb just after each hit, but it goes away before the next.

It's worth spending some effort on the timing of drum reverb. The results in terms of the balance of clarity and fullness in the mix can be very rewarding.

By David Mellor Tuesday October 1, 2019