The next step is to consider the pre-delay setting (the time before the onset of the reverb). This can be used to increase the size of the room and the apparent distance of the snare from the listener. However, as the pre-delay time increases the delay itself becomes more prominent. As you increase the pre-delay time, be careful that you don’t create an uneasy disjointed feeling. Setting the pre-delay time to match the tempo of the track becomes more important as you go for longer pre-delays. If it doesn’t match, you can get a strange effect where the reverb feels out of time with the rest of the track:
The amount of reverb to apply is in some respects determined by individual taste, genre and even fashion. However, starting a mix with reverbs that have very long tails is usually best avoided.
This may sound interesting on its own, but it’ll make it a lot harder when making reverb choices for other elements. Generally, the best approach is to start small and get bigger.
Next, we’ll dial in a touch of the same reverb for the hats. Overdo this and you can easily lose the crispness of the mix.
Again, if the reverb has too long a tail here you can risk ruining the rhythm track.
Make It Bigger
Some elements might benefit from a bigger sound. Mixing and sound design really overlap at this point. Rather than just placing the sound in an ambient space, we’re really shaping how it sounds. For the claps, you could try using a reverb with a longer tail…
…although it’s always worth tweaking the reverb to suit the track. Decay, diffusion, plus low and high frequency roll-off are common parameters worth exploring. Decay is usually related to the hardness of the surfaces in a room (the harder they are, the more they reflect, and the longer the reverberant decay).
It’s at this stage that we can really start thinking about three-dimensional mixing techniques. It’s easy to pan sounds from left to right, but moving sounds ‘backward’ and ‘forward’ in the virtual space is a little more tricky. Increasing the high frequency roll-off makes for a duller ambience, which helps place the sound further away from you in the mix. In the real world, high frequencies lose energy very quickly the further they have to travel through a space (this occurs because the high frequencies are more easily absorbed and diffused than low frequencies).
Increasing low frequency roll-off (in music production terms, at least) also helps avoid muddiness and blurring in the low-end.
This is what happens when you get it wrong.