Managing Reverb Dynamically on a Vocal


New member
Hi HR! I notice that in most professionally mixed songs, a reverb isn't simply slapped on the vocal to remain constant throughout the entire song. One example: the reverb amount and/or length might seem to increase notably on the final word of any vocal phrase.

My question is this:

I assume that mix engineers are just meticulously programming level automation to govern the amount of reverb at any given time. It sounds tedious, but maybe this is my answer. It occurred to me, though, that perhaps these professionals are achieving the effect I hear with ducking tricks that I don't know about, designed to scale back the reverb when a song is busy. Is this what they're likely doing and, if so, what are they keying the ducking to? I'm just trying to understand the most common way(s) professionals manage and vary reverb dynamics in a mix.

Thanks for any input!

- Daniel


If only for a moment.....
The interesting thing about the different kinds of reverbs is that they can be pretty obvious or not obvious at all. And even their different levels or kinds on a vocal at various points in a song can be largely unnoticed.
This is something that I've played about with from time to time. I went through a phase where I wouldn't use reverb on a vocal at all, then it struck me that actually, I could just use it in different amounts depending on what was going on with the vocal at that moment in time. And it's interesting to note that unless I solo the vocal, or unless it's a really quiet part of the song where the vocal is prominently prominent, I can't even hear what I've done to the vocal. I consider this to be a good thing. What we perceive unconsciously in songs is often what goes a long way to helping us enjoy those songs, even though we're not conscious of it.
I know that sounds kooky but if you ever listen to those shows about what makes this or that song great, where they break down a song into each of its constituent parts, that'll give some indication as to how much is going on within a production that we don't consciously focus on, yet as soon as it's pointed out, we get it suddenly. I tend to think of reverb and delay on a vocal in that way.
I used to make it overly obvious when I used effects, which is what one does when one is new or inexperienced. As time goes by and one picks up on things, subtlety plays a much larger role.

I don't know any tricks, and tend to rely on my ears, which means I don't want to hear its presence as much as notice it when it's not there. (What I think maybe what [MENTION=49578]grimtraveller[/MENTION] is saying.) So, the most common is on the lead vocal where I'm adjusting to the amount of send (reverb is always on an aux) based solely on what I'm hearing, e.g., the vocal becomes more exposed so I don't want the reverb to be as noticeable. I might occasionally use automation on pre-delay if I'm trying to adjust the forward/back sense of something, like when a backing instrument takes the lead (might also accompany a tiny automation of pan).

Sometimes I send the vocal and the reverb to a bus and put a compressor on the bus. This has the effect of pushing the reverb out of the way when there is singing, and then bringing the reverb up when there isn't any.