Deciding how long a reverb tail to use in your mixes encompasses a lot of variables. What is the tempo of the song? How busy are the parts? Are there a lot of open spaces between phrases, or are they densely packed together? Do you want to convey a sense of an intimate closer space, or a larger distant space? These are just some of the considerations that play an important role in communicating the intended emotion of the music.
Don’t feel pigeonholed into using the values that come up with each preset. They can and should be customized. Lately, I have found that I like the feel created by calculating the reverb tail decay time based on rhythmic subdivisions based on the tempo of the music.
Depending on the content, sometimes a half note works best, sometimes a quarter note, sometimes even a whole note. It also depends on whether or not I am using a room algorithm versus a hall or plate.
Density also plays an important role in the feel of the reverb. Density is how closely packed the reflections in reverb are. Decay is the time needed for the reflections to die away. Lower densities leave more space between the reverb’s first (early) reflections; and the subsequent reflections that die away during the decay phase. Higher densities keep the reflections closer together.
Delay, or pre-delay specifically, is another important aspect of reverb. Pre-delay is the amount of time between the original dry signal and the onset of the first early reflections in the reverb. The higher the pre-delay value, the more we hear and experience the bloom of the reverb tail separately from the source.
Did you know that the Delay field in Logic’s Inspector is a great way to calculate tempo based decay times for your reverb settings? The flip menu shows the number of milliseconds corresponding to each musical subdivision related to the tempo of the project. When using Logic’s Chromaverb this isn’t necessary to carry out the calculation, as there is already tempo synced functionality built into the plug-in. But many third-party reverbs operate with absolute time values and don’t sync to the tempo of the song they are used in. So a quick trip to the Delay time menu will provide you with all the relevant numbers and values you need for inputting tempo based decay or pre-delay times.
Decide for yourself if this is a worthwhile approach. In this video I use Logic’s ChromaVerb with tempo synced decay and pre-delay values, to create a lush enveloping reverb on a lead vocal focused pop ballad