It is very standard operating procedure for recording engineers to forego recording reverberation on the initial audio recording. The reason for this is rooted in the reason for REVERB in the first place. We thought we’d include a little historical background on the use of reverb in modern recordings.
REVERB is the decay in sound, after the signal source has stopped vibrating. It is the aura of the instrument sound as it hangs in the air. You clap your hands when you walk into a very large lively room (like a gymnasium) and you get a kick out of how long it takes for the sound to die out. This is reverberation, and it helps us, as human beings, discern exactly how large a venue we are standing in. We are used to hearing sound bouncing off of the walls, floor and ceiling of the room we are in. So much so, it is direct audio that is unnatural. The only time you hear direct audio is when you put something directly up to your ear, or some one comes really close and whispers in your ear. Otherwise you are used to hearing everything from some significant distance.
Most of the instrument samples in the Montage were recorded with a miking technique known as “close miking” – and as the name implies, microphones where placed extremely close to the instruments to increase isolation and focus. A microphone was placed in the Kick Drum, inside the lid of the piano, right next to the hole in the acoustic guitar, etc. far, far closer than you would put your head to listen to these instruments. This miking technique is common in all modern recording based on the trade-off of being able to get the intended instrument as isolated as much as possible to afford greater mixing control.
The upside is focus and detail on the recorded sound, the downside is loss of sounding natural. You are not used to hearing an instrument from the distances these microphones were placed. In fact, you are used to hearing instruments in ensemble with far less detail. But the upside outweighs the downside, because we have a way to return that ‘listener’s distance’ to our very detailed and focused recordings! The reverb chambers became a necessary evil early on in the Recording Studio. It’s job is to return some of the sense of distance from the performers – distance that sounds natural to our sense of listening to music in a room. In a band, we expect to hear all the instruments sound as if they are in the same room. It would be (and is) very disconcerting to a listener when one of the instruments is perceived to be “somewhere else”… we enjoy the illusion that all the musicians are in a single room playing as an ensemble… Even though in the majority of recording today this is not the case. The amount (SEND) of Reverb applied to each PART helps the listener position the instrument in their own mind. Reverb and pan position are extremely important tools to use in your final mixdown process. So individual AUDIO TRACKS are often assemble in the DAW, and during the final mixdown the engineer applied the amount of reverberation to each Part and then pans them (were applicable) so that there is an overall natural feel to the ensemble. Reverb is like a glue that if applied to early (in isolation) might wind up being placed wrongly. If record with REVERBERATION on the audio track it is very difficult (if not impossible) to reduce or change that later. So it is standard operating procedure to wait until mixdown to commit to the amount of REVERB.
The perception of the sound of an instrument in a room alone, and the amount of reverberation that is right, dramatically changes when you add more instruments. Alone you like more reverberation, but the more instruments that are playing the more confused that long overhang becomes… finally chords and melody notes start to clash at the transitions and what was very nice, becomes muddy, muddled and confused. So we wait to commit to the amounts of reverb until we know exactly the full instrumentation and what the final result, all together, sounds like.
Implecations for Live performers: If you are in a venue where the room itself is providing reverberation in abundance, you can BYPASS the SYSTEM EFFECTS