Reverb is short for reverberation. This is a natural acoustic phenomenon where sound bounces off surfaces in a space and tells our brain lots of details about where we are. Throughout the history of music recording and production, it has been crucial for us to gain control over this and ensure that we can add or remove ambience to recordings where the space doesn’t necessarily sound how we want it to.
- Originally, reverb was created through a variety of ‘live rooms’ that had very different sounding reverb characteristics.
- This was expensive, and engineers soon found ways of recreating these reverbs in other forms in smaller rooms.
- One way was to find a very reverberant room and replay your mix on speakers in that room, using a pair of omnidirectional microphones to record the resulting echoes.
- Some studios used reverberant spaces they already had – for example the office toilet!
The Crystals – Da Doo Ron Ron
Tina Turner – River Deep Mountain High
Plate Reverb and Spring Reverb
- Plate and spring reverb are both methods of artificial reverb production devised in the 1950s.
- Both used the vibration of metal objects to create the sound of reverb
- Plate reverb was often used in studios and avoided the need for an echo chamber.
- Spring reverb was often used in amplifiers; Fender was one of the first manufacturers to build spring reverb into their amps.
Beach Boys – God Only Knows
A Simple Plate Reverb
A Simple Spring Reverb
- Digital reverb was first seen in effect units made by Yamaha and Lexicon in the 1980s
- It models a reverb by using lots of delays, which are mathematically calculated
- Digital reverbs enabled users and manufacturers to store lots of presets
- As computer processors got faster in the 1990s, digital reverb was incorporated as a software plugin
En Vogue – Hold On
- Convolution reverb reproduces a real reverb from a real space, and was pioneered by Sony in 1996
- An impulse reflex is generated in a space, and the response is recorded
- Mathematical algorithms subtract the impulse reflex from the reverb and this can then be applied to other sounds
- Convolution reverb is very heavy on processor usage
Other Types of Reverb
- Reverse reverb is created using a wet reverb signal played backwards. The original recording is then played forwards with the reverb which is first.
Beach Boys – Feel Flows
The Only Ones – Miles From Nowhere
- In many styles of music, but particularly the 1980s, the reverb decay was gated, which meant that a very dense reverb could be used without causing ‘muddiness’ in the mix. Gated reverb is often used on snare drums and sometimes vocals.
Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight