Like any track in your mix, you can use reverb on acoustic guitar to add some size in the form of width, depth, and reflections, as well as seat it farther in the background altogether. But let’s not talk about what you COULD do, let’s actually talk how to use reverb on your acoustic guitar to get the best results.
How to Use Reverb on Acoustic Guitar
Like most times I use this effect, I like to use two different instances of reverb with different settings in order to get it sitting just right. This guide will work just fine with whatever reverb of choice you like to use, but I’ll be using FabFilter’s Pro-R for the purposes of this tutorial.
First, I recommend creating two aux/return tracks. You can use the reverb as an insert right on your track (see inserts vs sends), but 9 times out of 10 I want to keep a completely dry instance of my reverb and blend in the effect via the send knobs, hence the aux tracks.
On the first aux track, drop a reverb of choice with the following settings:
This is our shorter, brighter reverb. I like to use this for just a bit of width but we’re keeping it up front. This works well for a single guitar or double tracked acoustic guitars equally (see how to record acoustic guitar).
Decay (.7 Seconds) – I like a short decay here to keep this one close. That’s the ongoing theme with this first reverb: up front and clean.
Character (Bright/Clean/Close) – This is specific to Pro-R, but a lot of reverbs have these kinds of tonal character settings. If you don’t, we can still make an impact with the EQ which we’ll talk about in a moment.
Width (20%) – I recommend anywhere between 0 and 20% for this first reverb. Even at 0% it creates a little bit of thickness. If you want to give it a bit of width, 20% is a sweet spot for this one.
Predelay (5-10ms) – This just provides a hint of separation to keep the transients clean on our source(s).
EQ – EQing the reverb helps keep it clean and from muddying up the mix. 600Hz and 6k for a high pass and low pass filter, respectively works well, ala the Abbey Road Reverb Trick. If you don’t have an onboard EQ with your reverb, just drop an EQ after the reverb on that return track.
This is my verse reverb, or better said anything BUT the chorus reverb. You can blend it in accordingly as you like, automating more in as the intensity of the mix progresses.
When the chorus hits, I like to bring in more width and depth via the second reverb, using these settings:
Decay (1.4 Seconds) – Note that this is double the time of the first reverb. This alone will give this reverb the impression of distance and depth.
Character (Average Across the Board) – I want a darker reverb here to give that impression of distance and depth I just mentioned, but I don’t want it to start clogging up my mix. If your reverb has these kinds of character settings, go for the defaults as I show here.
Width (70%) – Here I recommend 70% width to give our acoustic guitar so much more dominance in the stereo field. Note that on the Pro-R, 50% is true stereo, so if you want to max it out at that then that works. If you have a busier mix, you may want to scale it back a bit. Conversely, if you have a sparser mix, you might want to go wider here. Test it out and see how it sounds in the context (along with blending the wet signal via the send knob).
Predelay (10-20ms) – Again we get that separation to keep transients clean on our guitar, but I like doubling the predelay to match the doubled decay time/size we just set, as well.
EQ – Once again, we’re EQing our reverb, but this time we’re letting in a bit more of those lower mid frequencies and cutting a shade higher, as well with a 400Hz-6000Hz band essentially.
This reverb gets the acoustic guitar so much more presence in the mix. Again, we can blend this as we like. If you want to automate it so that you get a taste of this (more of a feel than hear it) in the verses or prechorus, THEN ratchet it up for the chorus, that works really well.
The send knobs allow you to sculpt the overall level of reverb as you like so if you’ve got more than one acoustic guitar, you may want to dial it back a bit more. Alternatively if you only have one acoustic guitar and you want it to assert itself a bit more in the mix, this will do just that.
Reverb on Acoustic Guitar
- Reverb works well on acoustic guitar to help a single guitar assert itself and take up more room in the mix, or provide a bit more width or depth for multiple guitars.
- Place your reverb(s) on aux/return tracks to keep your acoustic guitar(s) dry and blend in the signal as you like via send knobs (both set at 100% wet in mix).
- Use two separate reverb instances to fulfill two needs.
- The first reverb should be relatively short and small (.7 second decay), 5-10ms predelay, width of 0-20%, and clean via character settings and applying EQ filters to only keep 600Hz-6000Hz.
- The second reverb will be double in size (1.4 second decay), 10-20ms predelay, width of 50-70%, and average character settings with 400Hz-4000Hz kept in for a wider and more distant reverb.
- Experiment with send amounts to blend in your reverbs accordingly and automate reverb #2 up for bigger moments in your song.