Live mixing is a bit of a different beast to in the studio, working the venue becomes a top priority and each venue whether it be a pub or a stadium has its own quirks and issues that the sound guy has to work with. Reverb for a live mix can be a major bonus, yet it’s a tricky concept to master as the margin between tasteful depth and muddy mess is pretty narrow, and depends on where in the room you’re standing.
A reason why reverb is necessary in a live mix, is that the human ear has been trained to expect a spatial reflection from the sound, depending on the size of the room. Not using reverb in a live mix will not only leave it lacking texture and depth but also sounding a tad weird from the listener’s point of view. The trick is getting the natural environmental reverb to work with an artificial reverb.
To avoid having an unintelligible mess for a signal, use a shorter decay time on the reverb. Some venues have large decay time with their natural reverb and having another lengthy reverb on top of that create muddiness and a loss of clarity. By using a shorter decay time, you can have depth, colour and keep the signal sounding clean. The times will vary from song and style, somewhere below 1 second is a good place to start, especially for a faster tempoed song.
EQ’ing the Reverb
Cleaning out the spectrum is a good thing do with a reverb, having multiple reverbs all over the mix, colouring the entire frequency spectrum can be asking for trouble. Even a natural reverb has a fairly tight bandwidth, filtering off those unwanted and unneeded frequencies will stop the clashing and muddiness from the different reverbs. A LPF of down to 8KHz is a practical starting point for the higher frequency ranged sounds. And a HPF of up to 100Hz for the lower registers will clean out the bottom end.
When adding effects it’s important to remember that in a live setting, particularly on something like a drum kit, each sound is accentuated by the room sound differently, similarly to how it would be accentuated by an artificial reverb. Something like the snare drum is a very loud part of the kit and it reacts differently in a room to other parts of the kit or other instruments. Simply bussing the entire kit to one reverb may not capture the full resonance and image of the snare. Using different reverbs can bring out the textures of the sounds much more clearly, pre delay can also help to provide a bit more space, especially considering that in a live setting everything is close mic’d. A pre delay depends very much on the venue and the music, though somewhere between 40 and 100 ms will certainly distance the effect from the dry signal.
4 Tips for Mixing Live with Reverb | Pooch’s Corner | Waves. (2016). waves.com. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from http://www.waves.com/4-tips-for-mixing-live-with-reverb
Tech Tip Of The Day: Reverb – Is It The Answer? – Pro Sound Web. (2016). Prosoundweb.com. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/tech_tip_of_the_day_reverb_is_it_the_answer/