Have you ever tried to make something in your mix sound distant only to end up with a mix that sounds like… “Hey, I just got a new reverb plugin!”? I’ve found that the overuse of reverb is one of the biggest giveaways that one is an amateur. Well, good news! There are other techniques that will help you to create a sense of depth so you won’t have to rely only on your brand new reverb plugin.
Hello again! Dezz Asante here from the TechMuzeAcademy with another MixLessons.com video quick tip. This one comes as a response to a question from a fellow Gear Slutz member named Sonic Beast and he writes in…
“Hi there! I recorded super close miced vocals and finger picking acoustic guitars and it sounds really nice except now that I’ve lived with these tracks for a while I really want to move them a bit away without making it sound reverbish. Any ideas on how this can be achieve?”
So, basically what he’s trying to accomplish is to take an element in his mix and push it back along the depth dimension. Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I talk about 3-dimensional mixing, the concept of placing your audio elements within the 3 spatial dimensions even though you only have two speakers. You’ve got your panorama (left and right), you’ve got your vertical plane which is dealt with by frequency content and you’ve got your depth dimension.
If you want to learn a little bit more about that just go on over to MixLessons.com and throw your name on the email list for the free video training series that I’ve put together there because I do go into great, great depth on those topics.
But essentially, what he is referring to is the depth dimension. So, theres a couple of ways that you can make something appear near or far from the listener and he’s right that reverb is definitely a component in that but it is not the only thing to be considered. This is a common sort of rookie mistake where you want to see something grand and deep and so you just crank up the reverb send or extend the reverb tail or something like that.
Now the thing to consider is thats only one aspect of the way (phycho-acoustically) we perceive depth and distance. If you think about the laws of physics, the further something away is from you,the listener, the sound is now traveling further to reach your ear and a couple of things happen.
First of all, high frequencies which are very short wavelengths and very low energy tend to disappear quicker than low frequencies. This is the same concept behind why someone would use a very low tone as a fog horn. A fog horn out in the ocean is the design to stretch the sound as far as possible so it can be heard with the greatest distance. And the reason why they choose a low bassy tone is because those high energy, long wavelength frequencies tend to travel further before they lose their energy.
So, if you think about that, a sound as it moves further away,the high frequencies stop reaching you, stopped reaching your ear and so a way to recreate that in our studio is to simply to roll off some of he high end which will simulate same physical event that takes place. Okay!
The other thing is of course, the further away the sound is from the listener, the ratio of the direct signal to the ambient signal, the reverb and the space in the room or what have you, is going to be closer together. So, if a signal is very close to you, the direct signal is going to be much much louder than the ambient reflections from the space that the signal is existing.
So,if you want something to appear further back then you, of course, you want to reduce the level of direct signal in comparison to the reverb signal, for a lack of a better term. So, as opposed to turning up your reverb or making reverb louder in the mix, what you want to do is change the ratio between the direct signal – the wet and the dry. The direct signal and the reverberated signal.
So, we got two things so far. Roll off some high frequencies because those they tend not to reach you the further a sound is and alter the ratio between the direct signal and reverb signal. And then, the last thing is simply common sense. The further away the sound is the quieter it is. The lower the energy the sound waves have by the time they reach your ears, so simply turn the fader down a little bit in relationship to what’s surrounded in the mix.
So, if you are to apply these three things you would experience a sense of pushing an element further back in the mix. So, just to recap you want to push something back turn it down a little bit, adjust the wet/dry ratio to the reverb, the direct signal versus the ambient signal and then roll off a little bit of high frequency and this will have a tendency to cause a listener to feel as though that signal is further away and, of course this can be further accentuated by having a contrasting element in the mix, something that doesn’t have these effects, these techniques applied to it, so that listeners have a sense of a reference point for something thats near and something that is far.
So, in the case of Sonic Beast here on Gear Slutz with his acoustic guitar and vocals, he might consider making those vocals upfront by of course not applying these techniques and that comparison, that relationship between that and the treated acoustic guitar will further solidify with a sense of depth.
So, I hope that helps and we’ll see you on the next quick tip.