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Toddskins

Mixing 101 - very basic questions

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Just because I can compose on piano and synths, doesn't mean I know a darn thing about professional mixing.  And so I have 2 or 3 nube questions I hope the pros will answer:

1a) Is reverb (or delay) supposed to be used at the end of the chain, i.e. Master Buss, so as to create a single atmosphere for everything, or can you use different reverbs with different amounts on various tracks? 

1b) If different reverbs and amounts are used, does that cause the end result "atmosphere" to be kinda improper, like competing room atmospheres???

1c) What if each individual instrument track "needs" it's own program reverb to get the sound you like when using it solo -- can you use the instrument the way you like it best (i.e. with added reverb), or should you turn off the reverb of all the instruments, so that you can then add it in at the end of the chain once and have everything sound like it was recorded in one room all at the same time?

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2a) Let's say I have 3 vocal background singers (or one person recorded 3x) and I wish to add reverb.  Should those 3 vocals be routed to a submix, and then apply a single reverb plugin to that submix, or use the reverb plugin on each of those 3 tracks (via the Fx Bin)?  Is one or the other advised for some reason?

2b) Does using the Reverb plugin 3 times for 3 tracks use up more CPU than using it one time on the submix of the 3 vocals?


Thanks

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Posted (edited)

Not an expert.  But here's what I do know:

1.   Most amateurs (including you and me) over use reverb.  Don't over think the reverb, just don't over do it.  Per track reverb is how I do reverb, I would never ever add a reverb on master bus.   If your pc can't handle five reverb instances or ten, you need a better pc.

2.  Most amateurs including you and me probably are going to do a bad job on EQ.

3. You also didn't mention compression, so I'm guessing you probably need to get familar with compression.

My first few mixes my focus was:

i.  Only add a little reverb, and make sure that the dry/wet is never set too far into wet.

ii.  Begin some EQ work.

iii. Figure out where to add bus and mastering compression, and if limiters were needed anywhere.

The other thing us amateurs usually don't do well is set your space up for critical listening.  Do you have reference quality open back headphones, or studio monitors?

 

 

Edited by Warren Postma

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Toddskins said:

1a) Is reverb (or delay) supposed to be used at the end of the chain, i.e. Master Buss, so as to create a single atmosphere for everything, or can you use different reverbs with different amounts on various tracks? 

1b) If different reverbs and amounts are used, does that cause the end result "atmosphere" to be kinda improper, like competing room atmospheres???

1c) What if each individual instrument track "needs" it's own program reverb to get the sound you like when using it solo -- can you use the instrument the way you like it best (i.e. with added reverb), or should you turn off the reverb of all the instruments, so that you can then add it in at the end of the chain once and have everything sound like it was recorded in one room all at the same time?

----

2a) Let's say I have 3 vocal background singers (or one person recorded 3x) and I wish to add reverb.  Should those 3 vocals be routed to a submix, and then apply a single reverb plugin to that submix, or use the reverb plugin on each of those 3 tracks (via the Fx Bin)?  Is one or the other advised for some reason?

2b) Does using the Reverb plugin 3 times for 3 tracks use up more CPU than using it one time on the submix of the 3 vocals?

Not a pro, but I'll give it a shot.

1a) "Supposed" and "creativity" are probably mutually exclusive. You could make interesting music either way! Experiment!
1a) That said, the real answer is, "it depends". Reverb can be an FX to colour a specific instrument track; or it could be used to place the final mix in a 3D space.
1a) That said, Warren speaks the truth when he says we over-use Reverb. A good experiment is to take a "final" mix and click on the "disable FX" button and gasp at how much better the project sounds.

1b) Not always but often, yes. Most likely the project sounds "muddy" and you don't know why because everything sounds good when you solo it.
1b) That said, I have often used individual track reverb instances with tailored settings... but see (1a) above.

1c) Invalid. You're asking about creating a mix ,  not listening to solo tracks.  If you concentrate on "getting the sound you like" on solo'd tracks, by definition you're not creating a mix. But see (1b) above.

2a) Route the tracks to a submix and apply a single Reverb FX instance to that.

2b) Yes.

 

Edited by Colin Nicholls

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Normally one would set up a reverb bus, with the desired reverb set to all wet.  Then use sends from the tracks you want to add reverb to.  You can then adjust how much reverb added to each track by adjusting the send levels.  For example, I don't tend to add much, if any, reverb to bass tracks.

You can then adjust the overall level of reverb using the buss.

HTH

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Toddskins said:

1a) Is reverb (or delay) supposed to be used at the end of the chain, i.e. Master Buss, so as to create a single atmosphere for everything, or can you use different reverbs with different amounts on various tracks? 

I never ever put a reverb on the Master Bus. I usually have about 2 to 6 different reverbs on bus's and i use them in conjunction with mid and side edits to create a 3D stereo field so each instrument is in its own space.

Reverb can be used any way you want it, as long as it gets you the sound you want. so use it where ever you want

 

14 hours ago, Toddskins said:

1b) If different reverbs and amounts are used, does that cause the end result "atmosphere" to be kinda improper, like competing room atmospheres???

If it sounds improper, then its improper.  Each reverb can be set a billion different ways, you just need to use your ears to set it so it sound s the way you want it to.

 

14 hours ago, Toddskins said:

1c) What if each individual instrument track "needs" it's own program reverb to get the sound you like when using it solo -- can you use the instrument the way you like it best

First of all, you never SOLO an instrument when you are mixing it in a mix, as all the other instruments effect the sound of every other instrument in the mix. You just do what ever sounds best for that mix

 

14 hours ago, Toddskins said:

2a) Let's say I have 3 vocal background singers (or one person recorded 3x) and I wish to add reverb.  Should those 3 vocals be routed to a submix, and then apply a single reverb plugin to that submix, or use the reverb plugin on each of those 3 tracks (via the Fx Bin)?  Is one or the other advised for some reason?

2b) Does using the Reverb plugin 3 times for 3 tracks use up more CPU than using it one time on the submix of the 3 vocals?

Try what ever way you can think of and do what sound best for that mix.

If CPU is a problem, raise your buffers. Todays PC's can handle hundreds of plugin effects. No need to worry about CPU

Edited by CJ Jacobson

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, jb101 said:

Normally one would set up a reverb bus, with the desired reverb set to all wet.  Then use sends from the tracks you want to add reverb to.  You can then adjust how much reverb added to each track by adjusting the send levels.  For example, I don't tend to add much, if any, reverb to bass tracks.

You can then adjust the overall level of reverb using the buss.

HTH

That makes sense! You would be creating a single "room" that way.

And explains why my synth tracks always sound cleaner if I kill any internal reverb in the instrument presets, and send them to a bus dedicated to a single reverb.

 

Edited by abacab

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Posted (edited)

In general, new users under-explore their reverb options.

The first thing they do is put a reverb on the master bus and dial to taste.

Then they discover that some instruments have too little while others are just right. So, to adapt they send all the instruments to a bus and put a verb at 100% mix on the bus then dial to taste. This gives them control over how much reverb goes on each instrument.

Next, people realize that it doesn't really sound like a real room. So folks start trying to record room mics and mix that in with the close-mic and use a lot less digital reverb.

Often, playing with reverb awakens a need for de-essing, and the user applies it directly to vocals.

Maybe later tries applying the de-essing more heavily on the verb bus before the verb and staying light on the actual vocals.

After a time, the user may decide to get playful and pull a digital verb onto every track and dial a different verb on every track.

You can get really creative sounds from convolution verbs by adding your own impulses. The impulses can be manually created (like a synth sound for the impulse). This can be fun for generating long heavy verbs with odd development.

It is common to add a delay after the verb as well, especially on vocals.

Another trick is to play with side-chain compression on your reverb bus. This enables you to have a heavier verb that doesn't compete with the vocal. Whenever there is singing, the compressor substantially reduces the amount of reverb volume. When the singer stops, the reverb swells, developed from the full vocal, it grows into the audible range.

For ambient coolness, you can mix 100% verb and 0% original for a pad-sound. When you record a bunch of takes on the same track, it can be fun to mix a reverb from one take with the track from another, especially when the takes are improvised and not identical.

To be weird, you split the reverb left and right and apply complementary eq on the two sides, so you get more of some freqs on one side and the compliment on the other side. You can use this to balance frequency load on the different stereo channels. Keep in mind you can also flip the verb channels, left to right and right to left. This can be cooler than flipping the polarity of a copy of the main output and pushing it up a smidge because that impacts center channel and pulls down phase correlation on the pair.

Hope this helps.

Edited by Gswitz
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A few good questions here!

Like others have said, there's really no "proper" way to use reverb or any other effect, really. The end justifies the means. Does it sound how you want it to sound? Great - mission accomplished, end of story! :)

But as for "best" ways to approach things, to make it more streamlined and save CPU, there's a few best practices that you can use.

My advice is to set up a good general purpose reverb on an effects buss and set the mix on it to 100% wet. Then, for any track that you want to add reverb to, make a send to that buss and adjust to taste. Be prepared to use far less than you expect, especially on vocals.

I usually have backing vocals summed together in some kind of buss or aux track (so set the output of all of those tracks to go to a single point) and add my reverb send on that, rather than doing it to each track individually. Ultimately it sounds more or less the same if you do it this way or on individual tracks, but when it comes time to mix and you go "you know, the Bvox are a bit wet" you don't have to turn down 12 separate effects sends, you just have the one summed track.

Multiple reverbs are a can of worms. A lot of seasoned mixers use several different reverb types / lengths to get the sound they want. Sometimes you want that initial slap of a small room, sometimes you want a big washy plate. It's hard to give any advice in general for what to use. I'd suggest that for things in general, keep it simple - if you have a great sounding room reverb, say 1.5 / 2.0 seconds or something, use that us your default reverb send, to get it all in the same space (obviously adjusting send levels for each track going to that reverb, so it's not just everything getting a big wash). The more reverb, the more things are pushed back, so think 3 dimensionally - the things you want up front should have less send to the reverb buss, the things you want pushed back, have them a little more wet.

I typically use a different reverb for drums because what sounds good on vocals can tend to sound a little thin if you want to add a good room crack to a snare, for example.  Some synths can benefit from either leaving their built-in reverb on there because it's part of the sound, or disabling it and using your global reverb to help it fit into a space, or making an extra "special effects" reverb which may be good for super long tails, that sounds good on strings and pads, or accents on certain words or drum hits. There's really no rules other than understanding *why* you're sending to the reverb. Don't just put reverb on everything just because; ask why you want it on there. Does it need it? How much? What are you going for with this?

I tend to use delay on its own buss (100% wet too) rather than combining it with the reverb directly. That way I can control how much or how little I send to it, and do fun tricks like automating its send to go off on single words or hits. A cool trick is to set up a send on the delay buss to go to the reverb buss, so each delay sounds like it's in the space too, rather than it sounding super dry compared to everything else.

About the only other tip I can give, besides just being a little careful how much you use overall, is that aside from reverb feeling like it builds up a bit if you have too much everywhere is, it can make the mix sound a little muddy or foggy, especially if you're sending a lot of low frequency stuff or sibilant stuff through it. I'd suggest strapping an EQ over your reverb buss, but BEFORE the reverb plugin, and rolling off both the lows and highs to taste. You'd be surprised at how much you can remove in the low end before it's noticeable in the mix, but it seriously makes a big difference to your mix clarity at the end.

Ultimately though, everyone has their own way of working and there's no right or wrong way to do this. Some really great advice posted above too - it should get you on the right track. :) 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, jb101 said:

Normally one would set up a reverb bus, with the desired reverb set to all wet.  Then use sends from the tracks you want to add reverb to.  You can then adjust how much reverb added to each track by adjusting the send levels.  For example, I don't tend to add much, if any, reverb to bass tracks.

You can then adjust the overall level of reverb using the buss.

HTH

I must say that this made sense and I was quite taken with your post.  To further understand how to utilize your advice I searched and found a video addressing this very thing for Cakewalk, along with a bit of what Lord Tim wrote about using a Delay, too, but this does not cover sidechaining of that. 

If perchance there are others who want to learn as I just did: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPZl39yIcjM

Edited by Toddskins

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I like to get everything running dry first and then put a reverb on a bus and send tracks to it. Some reverbs that are part of the synths, sampled instruments or guitar amp sims to tailor the sound can sound awful to mediocre but sometimes they are good so might leave that on. Vocals benefit from delay rather than reverb, reverb pushes them back into the mix so only a little is needed.

 

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Don't be scared to run multiple reverbs on things too. Like, for example, having your general 2 second decay reverb on a vocal, but then also running a really thick 200ms one as well, but much quieter. You won't really hear the short one but it'll add body and a bit of "it's in the room" kind of vibe to the vocal.

Typically I'll run just the one reverb, a tempo timed delay and also a stereo slapback delay of less than 100ms quietly under the vocal to thicken it up and add subtle width. Works great on all kinds of lead instruments or voices and doesn't get washy like a reverb would do.

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I have never used reverb, except that which was already on an amp sim preset, a vsti preset, or the ambiance from the room in which I  mic'ed my instruments or voice.

So I have nothing to add, except to agree, that you should experiment. 

Lawdy, lawdy, what a conundrum I find myself in.

 

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Synths usually have built in effects.  Acoustic recordings have room tone built in, which usually includes short reverb ( unless you are queen and live in a big ole castle).  So I usually just add a reverb buss like above for vox and lead stuff.  And use a nice convolution reverb. Use the best you have, it does make a difference.  Kinda like using a condenser rather than dynamic mike for better detail and discrimination.

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Posted (edited)

I like to set up buses. With the reverb/delay 100% wet. And then I send the amount I like from the different tracks. 

My Mixpreset has always my favourite room, plate and a hall, a digital and a tape delay ready on 5 different busses. 

Only my lead vocals (always) and a lead instrument/vocals if necessary get a separate reverb/delay directly on the track. 

 

I do this to save Cpu power. Every instance of a (native) plugin takes some of your CPU power.  

Edit: of course my snare always gets like the lead vocals a separate reverb. 

Edited by Towi

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So is reverb an effect to ornament/mangle sound creatively, or is it a method of creating the illusion of space/localization in the mix? If the former, then there is no need to worry about the spatial confusion that you may create by using different reverb settings on different tracks, although you still may end up getting some unwanted interactions from a gaggle of mismatched warbles stepping on each other. If you are using reverb to simulate a live performance in a defined space, then very definitely you can mess up that spatial definition by mixing different reverbs on different tracks. No one's nervous system was evolved to interpret the location of a horn playing in a cathedral standing next to a guitarist playing in a trash dumpster. In current practice, it sounds like much of the work being done with reverb is in the ornamentation camp, which would explain why almost every synth on the market has the ability to add its own, and often to add a different reverb setting to each of several voices simultaneously.  We appear to have moved well beyond the point where the goal of a recording is to be realistic, or even high fidelity, except in the classical genre, and even there things are getting pretty "creative" at times.

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Posted (edited)

Which is pretty much why the first thing I do when auditioning a synth preset that I like, is to switch off any internal reverb or other time based effect, and listen to it again. Many times the sound quality is improved, and a synth or a preset that I may have overlooked suddenly has more punch and higher definition!

I like to layer synths, but that mud quickly builds when each one has its own reverb going.

If you have some quality 3rd party reverb plugins to work with, you can easily do a much better job than the internal synth FX by sending them to a reverb bus.

 

Edited by abacab

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Posted (edited)

Set up a buss with different reverbs - one for snare, etc, another for vocals or overall. Name the 1st bus verb whatever and 2nd bus verb longer whatever. One a little lusher than the other. 

On the reverb itself set your mix level to 100%. 

On each of your tracks if you right-click there is a "send" option. Add that to your track (not the buss) and route it to your bus.

Add the amount that you deem necessary.

Put a hi pass filter on the reverb or an eq. to cut the lows so that the song doesn't start swimming in low-frequency mush.

 

Edited by Michael Fogarty

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This thread is smothered in old pros giving awesome advise (even giving away their secretsxD).

We each have our own way of doing things so this can a subjective topic, but there are basic principles to follow.

1- I personally wouldn't use reverb or delay on my master bus. I typically use a Bus and throw a Send from the track to the bus.

However, I know a lot of people choose to juice 100% mix on the bus and use send level to add the effect but I tend to back off from 100% because it can be too much. that's not saying others might be wrong or right for doing it that way, its just simply the way I get more control and less drowning Reverbs/Delays.

 

As far as sub mixing your BU VOX, yes I would send all BU tracks to a bus called BU VOX. Then individually create sends for each track. Sometimes one harmony might be over powering the others and become too focused in the mix if you send all BU VOX to the same reverb at the same time That harmony is going to catch the repeats too hard (no matter how much you back off the fader/tweak EQ.

Another important thing to look at is try using a Some Delay for LEAD VOX(go easy on Reverb). This changes the sound up and can work to your advantage by making it stand out more than the BU VOX.

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On 7/8/2019 at 9:08 AM, Alan Tubbs said:

Synths usually have built in effects.

As the OP uses synths in composition, this is something to be very aware of. In general, reverb benefits most to add "room space" to something close-mic'd and dry. Ironically, recording practice has become "strip all environmental effects, then add them back during mixing." Most synth presets are loud, wide, and dripping with reverb (to make them sound great solo), so those are things to address early on in your mixing chain. It is easy to over do FX on synths specifically because of this.

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I think it's becoming clear from the responses in this thread that reverb, depending on how it's applied can be both a special effect and a means of creating a virtual space, even in the same mix.

I tend toward creating the virtual space, because I like to end up with mixes where I can close my eyes and picture just such a virtual space with everything placed in it.

Having said that, I loved Robin Guthrie's production with Cocteau Twins where everything was just doused in reverb.

I turn off synths' internal reverbs because I find they muddy things up, especially VSTi's that are based on sampled instruments.

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