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Multiple reverb structures/rooms within a song
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MattMoorman
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5th July 2010
Old 5th July 2010
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Multiple reverb structures/rooms within a song

Lately I've been noticing and enjoying songs whose elements are coexisting in different spaces...instruments and vocals with different reverbs. Most common seems to be three or four separate spaces, for three or four different voices or instruments. And it seems to work best with a noticeably spread stereo mix. I've attached a track (a Bill Fay tune) to try to illustrate this. Piano (left), vox (center), drums (right of center, sometimes pan automated), electric (right). The bass and the organ and the other textures and exist in or between one of these rooms (not a distinguishable space of their own, in the mix)

Prior to this interest, I've attempted to create a single space that the song exists within, but I'm really liking this multiple room sound.

Any thoughts, opinions, techniques? Complimentary reverbs? Anybody deliberately vary between spring, plate, and room?
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File Type: mp3 01 Omega Day.mp3 (4.46 MB, 1857 views)

Last edited by MattMoorman; 6th July 2010 at 08:16 AM.. Reason: trying to articulate the idea better. haven't quite gotten there : )
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6th July 2010
Old 6th July 2010
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Thinking more about this, I'm realizing that it's a pretty general/broad idea. Any distinguishable track is going to have it's own particular space/reverb. And there are a lot of variables. Volume will influence the perception. Lessening volume can increase the size of the room on that track, until it's volume decreases to the point where it becomes texture, thus not having a distinguishable ambience/space (around it's sound).

So, I'm talking about highly distinguishable, very different reverbs within the same song (most lead electric guitar). I realize that someone may very well post, "Dude, you're talking about every song." So, I'll to articulate this once more:

Lately I've been paying a lot of attention and really diggin' songs whose tracks have noticeably different reverbs. I'm not sure if it's simply the depth that I'm attracted to (staggered and spread), or what? Either way, I will be exploring this with my own songs.

Last edited by MattMoorman; 6th July 2010 at 04:48 PM.. Reason: afterthought
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6th July 2010
Old 6th July 2010
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When I first heard Al Green's recordings -- a decade before I'd ever lay hands on a board in a commercial studio -- what I called the "surrealistic" psycho-acoustics of those mixes used to wack me out.

I'd sit there in the car and listen to a kick drum that sounded like it was about 3 feet in front of me and a snare that sounded like it was coming through the door in the back wall from a distant studio. And then other elements would have their own pyschoacoustic spaces, as well. I first assumed it was just slapdash engineering but after a while I figured that it was more than that, that it really was 'surrealistic' -- or at least impressionistic -- in that producer Willie Mitchell was presumably going for a feel, not the recreation of an actual experience.

It took me a long time to get comfortable with the notion, though. And, to this day, in a 'naturalistic' mix (ie, it more or less seems intended to sound like a real band playing together in something vaguely like a real space), it bugs me to hear things that 'don't make sense' within that (perahps narrow) framework: too-wide drum spreads, a mix of ambient treatments on different drums, vocalists who sound like their in entirely different rooms, etc.
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6th July 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
When I first heard Al Green's recordings -- a decade before I'd ever lay hands on a board in a commercial studio -- what I called the "surrealistic" psycho-acoustics of those mixes used to wack me out.

I'd sit there in the car and listen to a kick drum that sounded like it was about 3 feet in front of me and a snare that sounded like it was coming through the door in the back wall from a distant studio. And then other elements would have their own pyschoacoustic spaces, as well. I first assumed it was just slapdash engineering but after a while I figured that it was more than that, that it really was 'surrealistic' -- or at least impressionistic -- in that producer Willie Mitchell was presumably going for a feel, not the recreation of an actual experience.

It took me a long time to get comfortable with the notion, though. And, to this day, in a 'naturalistic' mix (ie, it more or less seems intended to sound like a real band playing together in something vaguely like a real space), it bugs me to hear things that 'don't make sense' within that (perahps narrow) framework: too-wide drum spreads, a mix of ambient treatments on different drums, vocalists who sound like their in entirely different rooms, etc.
So, in a 'naturalistic' mix the variations would simply determine background foreground placement? I hear that quite a bit. But guitars often have a different quality reverb to the space of the song. I agree with the drum spread, and vocals in different rooms not making sense and sounding weird.
Presently, I'm not concerned with making recordings that sound like a band in a room or single space. Once you take one step away from acoustic purity, the sky (including space) is the limit.
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6th July 2010
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Completely agreed. A naturalistic approach is simply one approach.

To my way of thinking, in a naturalistic approach, the guitars might have a different sense of ambience in large part because of the guitarist's use of reverb and/or echo effects. [That's not to say that I'm beyond various re-amping strategies or the application of such effects after tracking. But I'll try to make it sound like the 'real' thing in such an application.] In those mixes, I always think of the amp as an extension of the guitar. Same with keyboards... even though you can usually get a much cleaner, drier basic captures by going direct, if I'm recording a rock band (been a while but my memory's long) with such an approach, I'll almost certainly want to mic the amp of any Rhodes, clav, B3, or other organ/keyboard instruments. (I may also take a signal via direct box or direct out and use varying amounts of either depending on taste/application.)

But, yeah, once you decide that your goal is not recreating the experience of the real band, then, indeed, the sky is definitely the limit, at least within the comfort zone of the genre you're working in. (And I'm all for pushing the limits of comfort zones.)
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6th July 2010
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From time to time I've had a lot of fun playing with the technique you're describing and some of my friends have really liked the effect...not really knowing how to put their finger on what it was about the production that was so "cool" to them.

I use a sort of "multing" technique in software aux busses where I setup 3 aux busses to focus on 3 different freq ranges (lows, mids, high's). I setup Aux 1 to shelf everything above like 350Hz, Aux 2 cuts everything below like 800Hz and above around 5kHz. Then Aux 3 shelves everything below 7kHz. You determine which ranges you want to treat.

After setting up the freq ranges you want to effect then gently compress if you want to control dynamics, add reverb after that, then compress again to control the dynamics of the reverb itself. Feel free of course to eliminate either stage of compression.

Then activate the Send feature in your software (pre-fade) to all 3 aux busses and adjust the Send gain for each track to each buss until you're happy with it.

The overall effect allows you to sort of place each instrument in it's very own space sonically within the soundstage itself. This may not make any sense until you actually set it up and begin to play with it. Trust me, it's a little time consuming but will sound like nothing else you've tried yet.

Again, some people approve of this kind of treatment and some will say you're whacko. Who cares really. I've had friends who called me whacko for many "reasons" actually love the mix and then when I reveal the use of this treatment they're surprised they actually like the way it sounds, know what I mean?

P.S. It's a technique I read about in an interview with a guy that used to make records in the Motown days. He described the technique as they accomplished it in hardware; all I did was adapt his idea for use in software.
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8th July 2010
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[QUOTE=theblue1;5563581]Completely agreed. A naturalistic approach is simply one approach.

To my way of thinking, in a naturalistic approach, the guitars might have a different sense of ambience in large part because of the guitarist's use of reverb and/or echo effects. [That's not to say that I'm beyond various re-amping strategies or the application of such effects after tracking. But I'll try to make it sound like the 'real' thing in such an application.] In those mixes, I always think of the amp as an extension of the guitar. Same with keyboards... even though you can usually get a much cleaner, drier basic captures by going direct, if I'm recording a rock band (been a while but my memory's long) with such an approach, I'll almost certainly want to mic the amp of any Rhodes, clav, B3, or other organ/keyboard instruments. (I may also take a signal via direct box or direct out and use varying amounts of either depending on taste/application.)

I haven't yet experimented with re-amping. Will be soon. What are a few of your strategies?
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8th July 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
From time to time I've had a lot of fun playing with the technique you're describing and some of my friends have really liked the effect...not really knowing how to put their finger on what it was about the production that was so "cool" to them.

I use a sort of "multing" technique in software aux busses where I setup 3 aux busses to focus on 3 different freq ranges (lows, mids, high's). I setup Aux 1 to shelf everything above like 350Hz, Aux 2 cuts everything below like 800Hz and above around 5kHz. Then Aux 3 shelves everything below 7kHz. You determine which ranges you want to treat.

After setting up the freq ranges you want to effect then gently compress if you want to control dynamics, add reverb after that, then compress again to control the dynamics of the reverb itself. Feel free of course to eliminate either stage of compression.

Then activate the Send feature in your software (pre-fade) to all 3 aux busses and adjust the Send gain for each track to each buss until you're happy with it.

The overall effect allows you to sort of place each instrument in it's very own space sonically within the soundstage itself. This may not make any sense until you actually set it up and begin to play with it. Trust me, it's a little time consuming but will sound like nothing else you've tried yet.

Again, some people approve of this kind of treatment and some will say you're whacko. Who cares really. I've had friends who called me whacko for many "reasons" actually love the mix and then when I reveal the use of this treatment they're surprised they actually like the way it sounds, know what I mean?

P.S. It's a technique I read about in an interview with a guy that used to make records in the Motown days. He described the technique as they accomplished it in hardware; all I did was adapt his idea for use in software.
Turbo, this sounds crazy and cool and I've gotta try it. Don't know the word "multing"? When you send all three, what are you sending them too, just a gain control? Thanks!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMoorman View Post
Turbo, this sounds crazy and cool and I've gotta try it. Don't know the word "multing"? When you send all three, what are you sending them too, just a gain control? Thanks!
well, each track you send to the different aux busses should have an individual gain control for how much of the original signal you're sending to that aux buss, so that's your control over how much effect you want for each freq range. You also have control of course over whether or not you send an instrument or track to all 3 busses or just 1 or 2. The control possibilities are really wild.

You can do it just for the drums, or drums and acoustic guitars or just vocals, the sky's the limit. And then, say you decide you only want reverb on the upper freq range of the vox, just active the send feature on the vocal track to the aux buss you've setup for high's. It's one of those things you just have to setup and start playing with to get a grip on what's happening.
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9th July 2010
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Turbo's technique sounds interesting -- looking forward to trying it out. Though it sounds like this technique still uses just one reverb or the single "soundstage" approach (but I suppose it doesn't have to ). Looking forward to more posts on the question asked by the OP. What are some ways of approaching/conceptualizing a mix when the instruments are set inside different ambiences?
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9th July 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
well, each track you send to the different aux busses should have an individual gain control for how much of the original signal you're sending to that aux buss, so that's your control over how much effect you want for each freq range. You also have control of course over whether or not you send an instrument or track to all 3 busses or just 1 or 2. The control possibilities are really wild.

You can do it just for the drums, or drums and acoustic guitars or just vocals, the sky's the limit. And then, say you decide you only want reverb on the upper freq range of the vox, just active the send feature on the vocal track to the aux buss you've setup for high's. It's one of those things you just have to setup and start playing with to get a grip on what's happening.
I'm really liking the idea of this - definitely sounds worthy of trying out!
Do you usually use the same kind of reverb on each freq range? Or a hall on one, plate on other, room on another or something like that?
Similarly, do you weak the reverbs differently? (Other than the eq/filtering of course, I mean room size, pre-delay etc?) Of course, obviously it's open slather to experiment and try a bunch of different options, just curious as to what you when you do it.
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9th July 2010
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Originally Posted by lobsty View Post
I'm really liking the idea of this - definitely sounds worthy of trying out!
Do you usually use the same kind of reverb on each freq range? Or a hall on one, plate on other, room on another or something like that?
Similarly, do you weak the reverbs differently? (Other than the eq/filtering of course, I mean room size, pre-delay etc?) Of course, obviously it's open slather to experiment and try a bunch of different options, just curious as to what you when you do it.
I do usually make different settings for the reverbs with regard to density, room size, early reflections, hi freq roll-off, hi freq tail fade, modulation settings, etc.. And yes, I do experiement with different plugs in each buss.

Also, what I've done in the past is set this up just for drums, get the drums exactly how I like them and then bounce those tracks down to a single stereo track applying the effects in the process. Then just mute the original drum tracks. That way the original tracks are preserved and I can then go on to change the eq, compression and reverb settings in the aux busses to suit the acoustic guitars, vocals, backup vocals, etc.

The guy I got the idea from called the technique "the exciting compressor" I think. Of course they did all this in hardware and it was just as complicated to setup because back then they didn't have the Aphex Aural Exciter and some people don't really dig what the Aphex unit does to the signal. So I just simulated the whole process in software using the aux busses and the coolest part was being able to bounce the effected tracks to avoid permanent destruction.

You can find articles about the original hardware technique by googling for them but here's a really interesting one. The guy who kinda made it famous was Robert Dennis.

Excite your tracks the Motown way with the "Exciting Compressor" | The Be A Better Producer Blog
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9th July 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
I do usually make different settings for the reverbs with regard to density, room size, early reflections, hi freq roll-off, hi freq tail fade, modulation settings, etc.. And yes, I do experiement with different plugs in each buss.

Also, what I've done in the past is set this up just for drums, get the drums exactly how I like them and then bounce those tracks down to a single stereo track applying the effects in the process. Then just mute the original drum tracks. That way the original tracks are preserved and I can then go on to change the eq, compression and reverb settings in the aux busses to suit the acoustic guitars, vocals, backup vocals, etc.

The guy I got the idea from called the technique "the exciting compressor" I think. Of course they did all this in hardware and it was just as complicated to setup because back then they didn't have the Aphex Aural Exciter and some people don't really dig what the Aphex unit does to the signal. So I just simulated the whole process in software using the aux busses and the coolest part was being able to bounce the effected tracks to avoid permanent destruction.

You can find articles about the original hardware technique by googling for them but here's a really interesting one. The guy who kinda made it famous was Robert Dennis.

Excite your tracks the Motown way with the "Exciting Compressor" | The Be A Better Producer Blog
I started playing with this. It's an inspiring idea. It's almost too unlimiting! I would have to manage myself, could see spending night after night experimenting, trying out different configurations.
I'm using Cubase (and fairly new to the program). Instead of "Aux's" it has "Group Channels" and "FX Channels". Other than the "FX Channel" having no sending capability, I don't know what the difference between the two is?
So, the only way to mute the source track is to assign it no output bus. This is not ideal because I would like to blend the dry with the wet.
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9th July 2010
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So, the only way to mute the source track is to assign it no output bus. This is not ideal because I would like to blend the dry with the wet.
You can't just attenuate the volume on the dry track? Since the Sends to the aux channel (fx/group channel) is hopefully pre-fade, lowering the volume on the dry track should be an option. But I use Sonar and have never used Cubase so you're the expert there. Glad you're enjoying it BTW.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMoorman View Post
I started playing with this. It's an inspiring idea. It's almost too unlimiting! I would have to manage myself, could see spending night after night experimenting, trying out different configurations.
I'm using Cubase (and fairly new to the program). Instead of "Aux's" it has "Group Channels" and "FX Channels". Other than the "FX Channel" having no sending capability, I don't know what the difference between the two is?
So, the only way to mute the source track is to assign it no output bus. This is not ideal because I would like to blend the dry with the wet.
I never use the FX Tracks in Cubase. Group Tracks are easier to use and more flexible. Once created, a group track shows up as a destination in the send drop down menu of all your audio tracks (just like an FX track does). Just insert any desired FX into the group track and you're good to go. Best part is that Group Tracks can be routed anywhere you like, as a buss or via individual sends. Possibilities are endless...

...here's one way to create a dry and wet version of an audio track:

1. Create two group tracks and send the audio track to both of them.
2. Set up the sends so they are prefader (activate the little orange square next to the send fader) and set both of the send levels to 0dB.
3. Now turn the the audio track all the way off (or route it to "no buss").

You should now have two identical "copies" of the audio track coming through the two group tracks. Insert desired FX on one group track, leave the other dry. Tweak the faders of the two group tracks as desired.
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10th July 2010
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What's the difference between what we're talking about and making three duplicate tracks, treating them, and then grouping them into a stereo or mono track? Btw, we haven't mentioned panning the bands. Panning and soloing is a good way to grasp/hear it.
I really should have a more solid understanding about routing and signal chains before thinking in this realm (didnt even know about the prefader option!). Sorry, can't help it. Concepts exceeding capability. Thanks.
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15th August 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMoorman View Post
What's the difference between what we're talking about and making three duplicate tracks, treating them, and then grouping them into a stereo or mono track? Btw, we haven't mentioned panning the bands. Panning and soloing is a good way to grasp/hear it.
I really should have a more solid understanding about routing and signal chains before thinking in this realm (didnt even know about the prefader option!). Sorry, can't help it. Concepts exceeding capability. Thanks.
No difference at all.
The advantage of using 3 aux sends, however, is that you probably wouldn't want to duplicate ALL your tracks by 4.

Concerning your OP, I don't think you'll get much front to back definition using this technique. It was originally used by the Motown folk for tonal character rather than front to back. They used a combination of chambers/plates/re-amping and excellent mic technique for that.

The best front to back definition you could ever get is with proper mic techniques in an interesting sounding room [with front to back definition achieved by judicious placement of ambient mic or mics.....or another variation on this is to delay the ambient mics to give the impression that you are further away from the sound source......failing that re-amping with good mic techniques in different sonic spaces makes for never a dull moment. ie a stairwell, your kitchen, your bathroom etc. By 'good mic techniques' you will learn this by setting up a source mic and 1 or 2 ambient mics. Mess about recording a vocal or whatever, then record yourself hitting some pots and pans...now delay the ambient mics [by as little as 10 or 20 ms & no feedback] on the pots and pans and you will notice instant back to front. This is probably one of the funnest and inspiring things you can do to understand the many subtleties of front to back in your recordings.

This can be replicated with reverbs once you understand the basic principles [but will in general never be as natural (or interesting!) as the real thing] In general, as a source moves away from you, the tone will get darker, also there will be less direct sound with both the reverb tail & early reflections becoming more prominent. Do it in 'real life' first before you start using reverbs- it's way more intuitive and way more fun!

edit...oh yeah after you've had fun moving your mics around and recording them, try re-amping them through a stereo or guitar amp or whatever's to hand.
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23rd January 2012
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just wanted to stick this back out and see if any new info drops in
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