The 6-Step Magic Reverb Settings for Vocals and Snare Drums

Futch
7 min readFeb 3, 2024

Reverb, the ingenious audio effect that adds depth and ambiance to our music productions, is a coveted tool in every producer’s arsenal. Navigating the multitude of reverb settings available in digital audio workstations ( DAWs) or virtual studio technology (VST) plugins can be overwhelming and so in this comprehensive article, we will take a look into the world of reverb and steer you towards the path of sonic excellence by revealing the best reverb settings for any DAW or VST plugin using the 6-Step Magic Reverb Settings for Vocals and Snare Drums.

Finding the Right Reverb Type: Hall, Room, Plate, Spring, and Ambient Spaces

The first thing you’ll need to consider is the type of space the reverb is emulating. This can be physical spaces like rooms and halls, mechanical reverbs like plate and spring, or surreal ambient spaces. Each reverb type offers a unique sonic character that can enhance different aspects of your sound.

  • Hall: This reverb type simulates the rich acoustics of a concert hall or large space. It adds depth and spaciousness to your audio while preserving clarity.
  • Room: If you’re looking for a more intimate and natural-sounding reverb effect, room reverbs are a great choice. They emulate the acoustic properties of smaller spaces like studios or bedrooms.
  • Plate: Plate reverbs provide a distinct vintage sound that is often associated with classic recordings. These reverbs offer shimmering decay and smooth tonal qualities.
  • Spring: Popularized in guitar amplifiers, spring reverbs deliver a distinctive “boing” effect reminiscent of surf rock tunes from the 60s. They add texture and character to any instrument or voice.
  • Ambient Spaces: For those seeking ethereal and otherworldly environments, ambient spaces offer vast textures with long decays. These types of reverbs can create an atmospheric wash that enhances mood and depth.

Each reverb type has its own strengths depending on what kind of space you want to achieve in your mix. Experimenting with these different settings will help you find the perfect fit for your song or beat.

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Understanding Reverb Settings: A Guide to Room Size, Decay Time, and Pre-Delay

To achieve the ideal reverb settings on your DAW or VST reverb, it’s important to understand the key parameters that shape a reverberant sound. Three essential settings to focus on are room size, decay time, and pre-delay.

  • Room sizedetermines the virtual space in which the audio signal is reflected. Smaller room sizes simulate tighter spaces like small studios or bedrooms, while larger sizes represent concert halls or cathedrals. Adjusting this setting can significantly impact the perceived distance and depth of your tracks.
  • Decay time (aka RT or Reverb time) controls how long it takes for each reflection within the virtual space to dissipate. Longer decay times create a more lush and sustained reverb effect, perfect for creating ambient soundscape. Shorter decay times result in a tight and focused sound that suits genres like pop or rock.
  • Pre-delayintroduces a very short (5–100mSec) delay before the initial onset of reflections. This setting helps separate the dry signal from its reverberation tail and adds clarity to your mix by preventing muddiness caused by overlapping sounds.

Mastering these three fundamental reverb settings will empower you to craft rich sonic environments that enhance your music production across various genres effortlessly.

Pro Tip: Reduce some treble and bass from your reverb to create less noticeable and more natural sounding space to your instruments.

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The 6-Step Magic Reverb Settings:

1. Create a Return Track.

Send the reverb form the tracks using a send, create a parallel return track, and insert a reverb plugin (set to 100% wet) on the return track.

2. Select the Reverb Type.

Choose a reverb type form the available options. They will include options like: Hall, Room, Plate, and Spring. Start with a Plate if you’re unsure.

3. Set the Reverb Size.

This setting will determine the general size of the virtual reverb. Large Hall, Small Room, Medium Plate, etc.

4. Set the Decay Time.

This is how long (in seconds or milliseconds) it takes for the tail of the reverb to become inaudible. Start with 2.5 seconds.

5. Set the Pre-Delay Time.

Pre-delay is the gap of time between the dry signal and the reverb. Set it to between 10 and 15 milliseconds.

6. Roll Off Some Bass and Treble.

Using filters or EQ controls, roll off some of the treble (try everything above 3kHz) to get a more analog and natural sound. Roll off some low end below 100Hz too. Try rolling off even more low end (everything below 300Hz for the Beatles reverb).

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Mixing with Reverb: Balancing Reverb Levels in the Mix

  • Dark Plate Reverb on Vocals: When mixing vocals, using a dark plate reverb can add depth and warmth to the sound. It’s important to find the right balance so that the reverb doesn’t overpower the vocals. Start by dialling in a moderate level of reverb on the vocal track, then use your ears to fine-tune it. If the reverb is too loud, it will make the vocals sound distant and washed out. Roll off some treble to make the sound “darker”.
  • Gated Reverb For Snare Drums: Gated reverbs can be used to create a punchy and powerful drum sound. The idea is to apply a short burst of reverb that cuts off abruptly after its initial decay. This technique helps emphasize each hit of the snare drum without obscuring its natural attack and sustain. Adjusting the gate threshold allows you to control how much of this gated effect you want in your mix.

How to create a gated reverb: Start by inserting an expander/gate after the reverb plugin. Set the expander/gate threshold to let the main blast of snare drum reverb pass through and then adjust the release time to match the tempo A shorter decay will work well with faster songs, while longer decays can complement slower tempo.

By carefully balancing these two types of reverbs — dark plate for vocals and gated for snare drums — you can achieve a cohesive mix where both elements complement each other rather than competing for attention.

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Reverb for Electronic Music: Settings to enhance the atmospheric and synthetic elements

Here are some tips to enhance the atmospheric and synth elements in your compositions.

  1. Preset Exploration: While reverb presets can be a great starting point, don’t limit yourself to them. Take the time to experiment with different parameters like decay time, pre-delay, and diffusion to find the perfect balance between spacey ambiance and distinctiveness.
  2. Modulated Reverb: Adding pitch modulation effects like chorus or flanger to your reverb can create movement within the ambience, giving your synth sounds an ethereal quality that evolves over time.
  3. EQ Sculpting: Electronic music often relies heavily on low-end frequencies for deep bass lines or sub-bass drops. To ensure clarity without muddying up your mix, use EQ before or after your reverb plug-in to shape the frequency response of your reverberated sounds.
  4. Automation: Every DAW has automation features that allow you to adjust the decay time in real-time as your song progresses. This way, you have full control over how much reverb is applied at different sections of your track.

There are no limits when it comes to using reverb in electronic music, just tweak settings until you find what works best for each individual sound element in your track.

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Also read:

Best Equalizer Settings for Vocals, Instruments & Mixes

The Top 10 Free Plugins for Mixing & Mastering in 2024

How to Become Great at Mixing Songs

Hey, I’m Futch — Music Production Coach and Ableton Certified Trainer

I’ve been teaching audio engineering and music production for 35 years.⭐️

Check out my new online music production program: Music Production Ninja

Originally published at https://www.levelsmusicproduction.com.

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Futch

I help music makers write, record, edit & mix better songs at home by teaching them the fundamentals of music production. https://levelsmusicproduction.com