How Much Reverb on Vocals – The Perfect Amount For Any Mix

Reverb gives your vocal more size and space in the mix, giving it depth and more sustain via the tail of that reverb. Like anything in life, there can be too much of a good thing, and this extends to vocal reverb. Let’s talk how much reverb on vocals you should be using to walk that admittedly narrow line between too dry and too much.

How Much Reverb on Vocals

How Much Reverb on Vocals

First, make sure you know how to use reverb on vocals.

I did an entire tutorial on the best vocal reverb settings, so refer to that for more information.

I also recommend that you use vocal reverb as a send rather than an insert on its own Aux/Return track (setting the “Mix” percentage to 100%).

The one instance where I would recommend using reverb as an insert is when we’re going for a very specific effect. An example would be an exaggerated use of reverb to give the vocal the sense that it’s coming from a different space.

When we’re talking how much reverb on vocals to use, we’re generally talking in more practical terms. Here the reverb is simply used to give the vocal a little depth and that added sustain of the reverb tail.

A lot of people mixing their own music fall into the habit of using too much reverb on vocals. They dial in some reverb on the vocal, it sounds good so they want to hear more of it (sometimes because they can’t make it out as well as they’d like over the music), so they add more to a fault.

When we think of some of the biggest, Top 40 songs, we assume there must be a lot of reverb on those vocals and that’s a big part of how they get them sounding so good.

If you really pay attention to your favorite commercial mixes, you’d likely be very surprised at how LITTLE reverb they’re blending in.

This is all the more reason to make sure you always have a reference track in your mix on hand that you can hot key over to for on demand A/B split testing between your mix and the commercial mix. In particular, try to pick a reference track which you want your mix or better said your vocal to sound like.

Not only will this help you in determining how much reverb to use on vocals in your mix, but it’s a reminder of how little they’re actually using.

This is actually a huge aspect in how they pull off such clean mixes. Reverb generally clouds up your mix by introducing a lot of thickness in the reflections in that sub-600Hz region. This is why EQing reverb is so popular; we want that depth but not at the expense of the clarity of our mix.

how to eq reverb

This is another reason why I consider plate reverb to the best type of reverb on your vocals – it has a more sterile sound to it while still imparting the depth you want on your vocal.

Regardless of which type of reverb you use and in getting back to the initial question of how much reverb to use on vocals, the best amount of vocal reverb is turning the send dial up until you JUST hear the reverb.

Note that this should be done in the context of the rest of the mix. You may need mute and unmute the reverb when setting this, but essential if you toggle between muting and unmuting the reverb track, you want to get it to where you can just hear the difference with it on.

In other words, this is louder than a “feel it” level for that reverb. You should absolutely still be able to hear a clear difference whether it’s on or not. If it’s close but you’re not entirely sure, turn the send up another dB.

Also note that you may need to automate the level of the send amount slightly to reflect the changing level of the instrumental.

You can repeat this process for every vocal in your mix, or you can leave certain tracks dry. Just like I pan backing vocals in such a way to create space and get them out of the way of the lead, sometimes I prefer to keep harmony vocals comparatively dry with no reverb.

The only caveat to the subtle but noticeable as the perfect amount of vocal reverb is tracks which are more open and particularly slower tracks (when you can get away with a longer decay). When the song is more about atmosphere and you have a calmer mix (like with a ballad, as an example), that vocal could be better served by turning that sent reverb up.

With a busier mix with a lot more elements to it, you want to keep it more subtle in particular to help keep that mix clean which goes back to just blending in enough to spot the difference on versus off.

Not only does this help keep the mix cleaner, but it sounds much more natural versus drenching your vocal in reverb while the rest of your mix is comparatively dry.

Check out my other reverb tutorials to help find and match the perfect reverb with different instruments in your mix and to achieve different goals with your reverb.

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