Reverb is an effect that has recently taken an important place in worship music. We used to think of it as something the guy running front of house would add to vocals and sometimes guitar to help the enhance the overall sound. This was true for a long time, helping give the guitar a nice place in the front of house mix, but a lot of how we use reverb has changed in contemporary worship music. With the rise of ambient music and 80’s/90’s style guitar licks, reverb is now a must have on your pedalboard.
Reverb is the new delay
Well, we probably can’t go as far as to say that, but it has become a necessary part of most guitar rigs today. Over the past 3 years, guitar players focus a lot less on their drive stage, and more on the time-based and modulation effects part. Since this is a relatively new “thing” a lot of players are left asking, how do I start using reverb in my rig? The quick answer is, go buy one. Unfortunately, we know that when we get a new piece of gear there’s always a learning curve and the vast variety of reverb pedals on the market does not help. Reverb happens to be one of those effects that have tons of parameters and, many players have little knowledge on how to set these parameters to get the sound that they are looking for. For this article, I would like to talk a bit about the basics of reverb, the different types of reverbs, and the new modern spinoffs such as the shimmer reverb that have become a staple in many worship guitarist’s tones. Here we go!
Reverberating Through History
Reverb is a way to add a spatial sensation to any audio signal. Some of these signals already include natural reverb because of signal reflections in the given recording or mic environment. These signals feedback into the recording source giving the feeling of the room on the recording. In the late 30’s, recording engineers wanted to find a way to augment the sensation of space within an audio record. With the dawn of stereo recordings later on as the new standard (yep, this was actually a new concept at one point) it was now possible to have in theory a 3-dimensional experience in music listening.
The guys at Abby Road Studios in London started to experiment with playing back audio into an isolated room that had large metallic plates in it. This was one of the first experiments and methods to generate artificially created space on a record. Later this method inspired spring and sound tank generated reverb that was found in a lot of old fender amps one of which is the Twin Reverb.
With the dawn of digital signal processors, other spatial options could be created and changed with the click of a button which added even, more options to the musician. This also made available emulations of analog plates and spring reverbs. The most popular style of digital reverb for guitar players comes from the Lexicon 224, which is a vintage rack unit that is still being used today.
The Different Algorithms
Here’s a brief description of some of the most common reverb algorithms available in most digital and analog pedals and rack units.
Designed to sound like a long and narrow corridor (yes I know I said hall in different words) this kind of reverb is usually associated with long sounding decays. This is probably the most used reverb today for guitar players and it has been the starting point for many other kinds of unique and modern sounds.
This is much like the Hall except the reflections will be a lot shorter and you’ll get almost a smooth slap-back out of it. It is designed to sound small and short. This is really good for adding a studio room vibe to your tone.
Like a described before, this reverb has a, very unique sound due to its plate construction. The tone of this reverb adds a metallic color to your tone and while plate reverb is often used on vocal tracks, guitars also benefit from the high-frequency range tones of this reverb. The metal overtones add character and they sit well in almost any style of music. Plates can sound long and deep as well.
This effect was made famous by U2’s guitar player “The Edge”. Using an Eventide H3000 rack processor (This is now vintage Eventide) he would add a full on octave up to a hall reverb to create a synth pad sound that would blanket his already huge guitar tone. Today worship guitar players can’t live without this effect and it is probably the reason why most of us buy reverb pedals.
Reverb w/ Modulation
This was a popular option on the Lexicon 224, the option to add modulation effects to the reverb signal. Like shimmer, modulation is added to the reverb signal to add an extra sense of depth to the hall algorithm. Chorus is the most common but today you’ll see flanger, tremolo as well as phasers. This is super popular and you might recognize it on Strymon’s Bloom setting on the BigSky.
This does exactly what the name suggests, it plays back in reverse what otherwise would be a basic hall reverb. Very weird, but very cool.
A unique reverb algorithm exclusive to Strymon’s BigSky. This reverb algorithm is labeled as “Magneto” on the BigSky and is based on a multi-head tape machine such as a Roland Space Echo. The concept for this reverb was derived from how tape delays oscillate and create a warm a lush atmosphere. This setting is one of the main reason’s I personally bought the BigSky.
Reverb w/ Feedback
Named by Eventide as the “BlackHole”, this feeds back your signal or even the reverse signal into itself to add an almost never-ending decay. It’s very nice for adding pad like sounds, and holding down long parts. It kind of has this dancing sound under you like a delay but smoother and a larger amount of added modulation.
Stay tuned next Friday for part 2 of this reverb series where we will learn how to understand and set up parameters on a reverb unit.