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Archive for March, 2009

Top 10 Reverb Tips and Tricks

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

With reverb, you can make or break a space

Imagine listening to a recording and half a minute into a song you notice something wrong. You can’t quite put your finger on it; you just can’t feel the instruments, you feel attacked by the singer’s in-your-face voice and everything is just too…..dry. It’s like listening to music in a vacuum. There’s no space.

Although listening to a reverb-free record is nearly impossible, (unless it was recorded entirely in an anechoic chamber), you can still have a really dry record if you don’t put any reverb on anything.

Reverb can be perceived as a glue that holds everything together, yet retains enough space to maintain a perceived distance between each element. It makes a three dimensional picture of the soundscape you just recorded, causing you to feel that you can hear the room accompanied by the instrument.

Different modes of reverb

There are quite a few different types of reverb. You can call them reverb modes, or room types. Some of the more common types include; Room, Hall, Chamber, Spring, Plate, and Convolution. In our age, we have access to digital reverb simulators which can simulate, quite realistically, all of these programmed room or reverb modes. Let’s take a look.

  • Room reverb – These types simulate the sound of having recorded something in a room. Whether the parameters are for a big room or a drum room, they usually simulate smaller spaces than their Hall/Chamber counterparts.
  • Hall reverb – Rich, warm and big are the first adjectives that come to mind when thinking about Hall reverb. These types simulate halls, whether they be medium halls, concert halls, or whatever lush parameter name the hall has.
  • Plate reverb – Plate reverb is a personal favorite of mine for vocals. Live, I propably use it too much, but I just think it does wonder to the vocals, without taking it too far or drowning it in reverb. Plate reverb is basically sound being sent to a metal plate which vibrates back and forth. These vibrations are picked up and transformed into an audio signal. Plate reverbs are very bright but clean, so they suit vocals especially.
  • Spring reverb – I was once asked what reverb was when I was fooling around with my guitar. I cranked up the reverb on my small practice amp and then kicked it. “That boing you heard?” “Yeah?” “That’s reverb”. Although true is some form, that boing wasn’t all reverb, it was spring reverb. The reverb found on guitar amps so most usually used for guitar.
  • Chamber reverb – In the old days, studios had so called echo chambers. In these chambers they had speakers that they routed the audio signal that they wanted to put reverb on. The signal, be it guitar, voice or whatever was produced through the speakers into the chamber and picked up by a microphone that was positioned to capture the reverb in said chambers.
  • Convolution reverb – This is the type of reverb that allows digital emulation of real three-dimensional spaces. If you’re familiar with the famous reverb plugin Altiverb, then you have heard convolution reverb. In order to capture a room’s reverb characteristics, an “impulse” sound is played in a real space, such as an opera house or a cathedral, then recorded into a computer. The impulse sound allows the computer to simulate that space just from the impulse sound. This is possibly the best kind of digital reverb around

So now you know a little bit about the reverb modes you most commonly work with. Below I have brainstormed a few fun tips you can use whenever you like to spice things up.


Creativity in the Control Room

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

by Björgvin Benediktsson

Where the magic happens

From an idea to the finished product, a song or an album goes through many stages. A little ditty in the songwriters head, a rocking riff on the Les Paul or a quiet chord progression on the piano transforms exponentially as more thought and work is put into it.

All of this isn’t done by only the songwriter. There are a lot of people behind the scenes, helping with the process, from A&R scouts to mixers, to engineers, to producers. But how much of the band is left on that CD after it’s been filtered through all those people? How much does a producer change the creative vision the band had?

Do the engineers and producers help or hinder creativity?

There are three primary roles in the recording studio. The artist, the producer and the engineer. All of them play a pivotal role in the production of an album. Sometimes these roles mix together and sometimes they clash. Other times one person performs the role of all three. Let’s take a look at what goes on in each of these roles:


What does pro audio have to do with chess?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Pro audio is like a game of chess; the best player always plans ahead

“Planning ahead pushes you toward victory” – Sun Tzu

In the life of a sound-tech, you’ve got your mixers, your cables and your mics. You’ve got your patching, plugging and playing to do and if I told you it’s a lot like chess you’d probably just point a microphone in my face and say “Does this look like a Rook to you?”.

In chess you have to be able to think more than one move at a time. It’s a game of cunning strategy and if you don’t think one step ahead of your opponent he will Sun Tzu you and you will lose the game. Working with audio is similar. You have to think ahead and keep everything in mind. Signal flow doesn’t start and end with you plugging in a cable, or adjusting the gain levels.

You have to think things through right to the end or feedback will win the game and taint your reputation. As Sun Tzu said: “Estimating completely creates victory”.

Thinking ahead and keeping all the factors in mind greatly reduces the “troubleshooting brainstorm” that goes on when something doesn’t work.

It also enhances you ability to think quickly on your feet, getting the show or the recording back on track in no time.


Acoustics Part I: an Introduction to Resonance

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Galileo GalileiGalileo discovered the principles of resonance when experimenting with pendulums

Way back in the old days of the 17th century, a man named Galileo Galilei was fiddling around with a pendulum and discovered that if he gave the weight at the end of the string a tiny push at the right time, it would keep swaying back and forth with minimal energy exertion. He discovered that potential and kinetic energy can be set into motion with just a tiny bit of effort. This phenomenon is what became known as resonance. As it turns out, it’s not just pendulums that resonance is affecting. It’s everything. You could say that everything resonates. This affects us musicians and producers in many ways. For example, your room may have too many resonances in the wrong places, which will mess up audio recordings unless you dampen the sound vibrations with sound paneling or bass traps. But since this an intro, I’m sort of getting ahead of myself, and I will cover the practical side of resonance in Part 2.

Nikola Tesla was the archetype of a mad scientist. He invented alternating current, radio broadcasting, and of course, the tesla coil. He is also the subject of many conspiracy theories.

Several centuries later, another guy named Nikola Tesla had heard of this resonance principal, and dedicated his life to discovering how it could be used. Tesla confirmed that everything resonates when he discovered that a pocket-sized mechanical oscillator can cause buildings to crumble and bridges to tremor through the principles of resonance. All that was needed was a pocket-sized piston-driven oscillator sending tuned vibrations into the steel foundations of a building. The power of resonance lies in its ability to multiply force; Just a little bit input energy results in a lot of output energy.

“Although Tesla was not the first to discover resonance he was obsessed with it and created some of the most incredible demonstrations of it ever seen. He studied both mechanical and electrical versions. In the process he created an artificial earthquake, numerous artificial lightning storms, knocked an entire power plant off line in Colorado, and nearly caused the steel frame of a sky scraper under construction in Manhattan to collapse. Tesla realized that the principles of resonance could be used to transmit and receive radio messages well before Marconi.” link


Dealing with the artist (in a performance venue)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

“The artist is always late”

by Björgvin Benediktsson

There is considerable tact involved when dealing with an artist. Whether it be in a hectic live setting where everything is running late or recording sultry vocals in a cozy recording studio. If some of the below statements offend you engineer/artists remember that I also whine when my vocals sound bad.

The artist is always late

When I started mixing live concerts, underground bands were notorious for always being late. When I said the soundcheck would start at five, this usually meant the first bands showed up at around six. After a while I got used to this as I could use the empty time to set up and linecheck at a relaxed pace. It’s amazing what you can do in an hour if there is no stress involved.

So when the artists finally showed up I had everything set up perfectly without having to show up early to get everything done.


Create bigger sounds using layering

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Layering sounds

Download this tutorial as a PDF

Listen to these tracks to see what you will be creating in this tutorial:

Layered Bass:

Layered Chord Synth:

By Daniel Rothmann (T7)


At some point in your career of music-making you might encounter the problem that your synthesizers just aren’t sufficient for creating sounds big or fat enough for your tracks. This could, for example, be a really heavy bass or a big lead synth. Luckily, there is a technique of achieving these sounds. That technique is layering.

What layering is all about is pretty obvious, yet many electronic producers fail to apply it to its full potential. In essence, layering is “stacking” synths on top of each other, having them produce different sounds to more precisely achieve output in the areas of spectrum you desire. Let’s say, for instance, you want to produce a really heavy bass sound. This could consist of a sub-bass (clean sinus waves at low frequencies); a middle consisting of distorted saw waves with some filter modulation and possibly a 3rd synth playing high octaves to the middle waves. Very few synths come with more than 2-3 oscillators (the oscillator is the component of a subtractive synthesizer that produce raw waves from which sound is built), and in this particular case, we will need 5-6 or more. That is why we will need to layer our synthesizers to produce the sound we’re looking for.


Layering can be achieved in a number of ways: The first, and (possibly) most obvious, is to put 2-3 keyboard players next to each other, playing the same melody on different synthesizers. Naturally, this is a very imprecise and probably inefficient method of achieving the sound you want.