In my reverb guide, I cover the four elements of choosing and programming a reverb for a mix (dry/lush, short/long, shallow/deep and natural/unnatural). In the guide, I explain how to choose the reverb characteristics that will work for your mix, and how all the usual reverb parameters should be adjusted to create such a reverb.
But that’s a bit abstract.
There’s a simpler way that requires much less theory and explanation. And strangely, it’s still four dimensions: flavour, attack, tone, tail. It’s pretty straightforward.
Flavour is the general style or mode of the reverb. Do you want a natural room? A hall? A plate? An intergalactic cloud? It’s the general sense of size and dimension of the reverberation.
Attack is the speed at which the reverb builds up. Some reverb processors allow you to adjust this directly, others will rely on more general ‘size’ parameters. Pre-delay can also be part of this (though personally I find pre-delay to be a poor substitute for true slow attack).
Tone is simply the overall tonal balance of the reverb. Is it bright or dark? Adjust the high frequency energy. Is it heavy or light? Adjust the low frequency energy. Is it smooth or prominent? Adjust the mid frequency energy. Most reverb processors have limited tonal shaping options – you’ll probably find you can do a lot more with an EQ inserted directly after the reverb.
Tail is the way the reverb fades away. Quite simply: does it fade away quickly or slowly? Furthermore, does it get darker or lighter as it fades away? You might need to adjust the damping characteristics of the reverb.
If you’re feeling stuck and you can’t decide how to approach reverberation in your next mix, focus your mind and think about flavour, attack, tone and tail.