How to use Reverb on vocals? Tips and Tricks
Updated: Feb 11
In this post, we will be showing you how we apply different reverb techniques.
Focus on the vocals of any professionally made song and listen to it. How clearly and prominently they are present? How successfully did they cut through the mix? How loudly they can play?
A track's vocal is usually (always) the most significant element. Professional vocals help the listener grasp the words and appreciate the song by conveying a human element that is accessible to the listener and should be obvious.
Vocal clarity is frequently hindered by reverb, but we will discuss how to apply it in a way that still allows the vocals to stand out in the mix.
In this post, I will explain how to use iZotope to create vocal reverb effects.
There are some instructions and tips for quickly learning Neoverb in this article, but you may also find them useful.
Why is vocal reverb useful?
A vocal without reverb appears like it’s in a vacuum when it is recorded and heard. Using any type of reverb for vocals is fine, but some settings and types may be more suitable for certain sounds. In this clip, we will hear a vocal with and without reverb to get a better idea.
Is the effect noticeable?
By adding some extra smoothness and richness to the reverb, we can improve the quality of the vocal. The voice sounds as though it is singing in a space, even though it was recorded in an apartment living room. We usually use artificial reverb to create an environment of our imagination, one with its own reflections, decays, and personalities.
Is there a point where there is too much reverb?
Vocal reverb can enhance the character of your performance or add some extra depth and smoothness. When I listen to another track, I often wonder what reverb was used and how it was achieved. Whether you consider yourself to have too much reverb is up to you, and you may be asking yourself that question for a very long time.
Tip: Using reverb on vocals can be done in a variety of ways.
1. Use reverb on both send and return channels.
In the early days of producing music, I treated reverb as if it were just an effect applied to a sound, like a compressor or a distortion unit. However, reverb is essentially adding another signal to your mix, like another instrument. You should be able to process and affect it as such.
Inserting the reverb effect directly onto a vocal or using a send and return is the way to go if you want to add reverb to a vocal. For most instances, I'd suggest using a send and return instead, as it gives you more control. The reverb signal can be treated as its own independent element in the mix if you use a send and return. With the option to process the dry vocal and reverb independently, you can coexist without sacrificing vocal clarity.
Make a new aux/bus track and send the wet Neoverb from your dry vocal channel in order to do this. Here is what it looks like in Pro Tools:
As a quick placeholder, or in case I want a very wet and processed signal, I usually don't put reverb directly on a vocal. A send and return will give you more level control for balancing and automating your vocal and its corresponding reverb.
2. EQ the reverb
We can now process our reverb signal in several ways to let the dry vocal cut through the reverb more distinctly. An EQ can be used to attenuate key vocal frequencies in the reverb signal to accomplish this.
EQ is wonderful for balancing dry vocals and effects, but masking and unmasking frequencies are important to keep the sound clean. The unmask function in the EQ section of Neoverb, which is located on the upper left, will help you to keep your reverb sound free of clutter.
The first thing to look out for is frequencies between 200 and 600 Hz, as well as midrange frequencies below 200 Hz. Vocal sibilance also produces high frequencies.
Prior to being reverberated, sound may be filtered out using Neoverb's Pre EQ (a high pass filter set to 100-200Hz, for example, will eliminate plosives and rumbles). At the bottom of the window, the Reverb EQ helps to keep the reverberation clean and under control.
Some advanced tonal controls can be found just east of space, time, and size. I will mention a couple of them that will be helpful in adjusting your vocal character.
The reverb's diffusion is a measure of how diffuse the reflections are—a higher value will make the reverb sound more dense, and a lower value will make the individual reflections stand out.
You can set the dividing frequency between the low- and high-frequency reverb engines with the Crossover slider, and the Balance graphic shows whether one is stronger than the other, with 0.5 being equal.
3. Minimize the amount of different reverb spaces.
It's worth bearing in mind when working on a multi-voice project in general, as well as when processing individual vocal tracks.
Creating the sense of physical space is the purpose of reverb. It can be difficult to tell which of the many reverb spaces in your track's environment is real. Using fewer reverb spaces sounds more natural because multiple spaces wouldn't produce the same acoustic effects in the real world.
Keeping all of the vocals in the same project (i.e. background vocals) in one reverb space can be helpful if you have multiple vocals. It prevents the sound of multiple spaces clashing with each other, maintaining a consistent environment in which all of the vocals are played.
You can create the space your vocals live in by combining different kinds of reverb using Neoverb’s blend pad.
Let's examine Neoverb's different spaces and why you might use them for your vocals.
A plate is a great go-to for vocal reverb. Its often bright but smooth character with a bit of natural modulation makes it easy to spot in a mix. Its metallic attack gives it a bit of extra pop that can be either good or bad if you want it to blend in more.
It provides a convincing simulation of a concert hall, thanks to its smooth decay and low modulation. If you want to make something sound distant or keep your reverb sounding natural, this is a good choice.
Rooms are a type of reverb that creates spaces that sound natural to the walls of the room you're simulating. This sort of reverb is excellent for producing realistic but fresh vocal environments. It might be a great place to start if you want to add width and depth to your vocal without creating a long reverb trail. A short room might be a good place to start if you want to add width and depth without increasing the reverb. Placing a speaker and microphone in a room to capture the room's exaggerated reflections and then playing the audio back into the room is one of the earliest artificial reverb styles.
The chamber, which has an “echo-y” quality that falls somewhere between the aforementioned types of reverb, is often used.
Choosing between reverb types can be difficult, but the Reverb Assistant can assist you in finding one that matches your requirements.
Longer reverb tails provide a more spacious sound, but can cause the reverb to linger too long after a note ends.
The length of reverb is its most noticeable attribute. You may use a shorter reverb to create more intense, in-your-face sounds or a longer reverb to create dreamier spaced-out sounds. You may use different reverb types and lengths for different sections of the song if it feels appropriate.
Neoverb adds “time” and “size” to the reverb tail when “space” is changed. Time and size may be controlled independently to adjust the reverb's tail sound. The Pre-Delay setting is also important. A pre-delay may be used to establish a new space and keep the vocal audible by delaying the reverb's onset. You may also time the delay to certain note values to get creative.
According to Neoverb, the “space” as they put it is totally subjective and in the eye of the beholder, but timing the vocal reverbs’ decay to the song can be helpful. For instance, I am working on a dramatic verse that has long spaces between the vocals. I will let the reverbs decay until the next line begins to really let each line hang. Pre-delay has also been added to separate the reverbs slightly from the dry vocals.
Here is a basic version of my mix to illustrate.
When you have the time and rhythm note selected on Neoverb, the reverb will sync to the track. Try out different options depending on the ambiance and setting you want.
Your vocal reverb panning should be panning.
It's always a good idea to experiment with panning your reverb, in my opinion. Narrowing down the stereo image will make the reverb sound more forward, regardless of its size or tone. Reverb that sounds more distant will sound larger, but it often also sounds like it's in the background.
I usually compress the stereo image of a lead vocal to 75-50% to keep it wide but also focused in the centre. A mono vocal reverb can be cool for a retro vibe or for creating a lot of negative space in your mix, or just to create a retro vibe.
Be careful of vocal harmonies and reverb.
It's common for singers to ask for reverb on a lot of ooo's, aah's, and vocal harmonies—they want a lot of sustain! And sometimes, a lot of it. That vocal stack might sound pretty cool with a lot of reverb on a long plate or hall to give it an ethereal, dreamy, and larger-than-life quality.
If I’m sending a lot of background vocals to a reverb, I’ll filter the reverb substantially to make it nice and airy.
Let's see how that sounds in a stripped-down version of my mix.
Begin adding reverb to your vocals.
It can be an interesting effect to add reverb to a vocal and help create a believable aural environment in a song. Using the information provided above, you should be able to profit from these advantages while preserving the clarity and presence that a vocal should have.
Demo iZotope Neoverb for free to experiment with all of the different reverb effects on your vocals if you haven’t already.