Meet the WikiSinger – The power of reverb on vocals


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No one really questions the importance of reverb and how it will affect either song or vocals. A touch of reverb will lift the vocals and add a smooth feeling to the final mix, but equally true adding too much reverb will kill a good song. Natural reverb is around us all the time. Every space has its own sound. Wherever possible it is interesting to try to record a vocal in a live space using a screen to keep the close mic dry while recording the room at the same time.

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It is not always possible to record in surroundings which have a great natural reverb. In fact most of our recordings are done in rooms adjusted so that very less natural reverbs interfere with the recording. Plugins and hardware effect equipments allow us to add a sense of space to the recording, artificially. We can add a bright short plate reverb to a close miced SM58 vocal recording. We can add large hall like spaces to create chorale effects to vocal parts recorded one after another in a sequencer. Recordings we make in our rooms, definitely benefit from artificial reverberation as we can add some pleasing acoustic ‘halo’ to our recordings which is almost impossible to get naturally from our rooms. When we use VST plugins, synth sounds etc, anyway we need to add reverb since they don’t come with a natural acoustic space or ambience.

But reverb can be so much more then effects, room topology and recording scenarios it can also be an interesting experiment like The Wikisinger.

This guy sings the same song in 15 different locations. Hear what happens!
No artificial reverb added.

The Wikisinger sings the same song in different environments experimenting with natural reverb, early reflections and short delays. One of the scenes is recorded in an anechoic chamber without any sound reflections.

Just to be clear; the vocal sound is one of the most important aspect of every mix. If your vocal is buried in the mix, uninspiring and flat then your listener probably won’t care that much for the song. For the words to be clear, the effect level and reverb time should not be too high. Increase the Pre-delay time to keep the words clear, for the beginning of the words to come across clear before the reverb sets in. The reverb setting will depend on the kind of music or the effect we want. If we are making a choir recording or a vocal group, using longer reverb decay will give the effect of big halls and chapels where such music is usually performed. For a pop lead vocal, we will use short reverb times so that the vocal does not sound too far away or muddy.

Important lessons:

Reverbs should be used in moderation. They should primarily be used to make the vocals sound as if it shares the same acoustic place with the other instruments. We should not try to add too much reverb and delay to make the sound ‘colorful’ or ‘smooth’ or with the intention of masking a shortcoming in the vocal take. Listen to commercial recordings you like and try to learn from them till slowly it becomes natural. Adding reverb adds space to the sound and affects the stereo placement of the sound. Using mono reverbs and placing the wet signal where the original is, can help prevent the stereo smear. Reverb has the effect of pushing the vocals back. Try pre-delay values of 60mS and above to keep the vocals in front.

Background data:

Directed by Vincent Rouffiac
Produced by TOUCHÉ Videoproduktion
touchevideoproduktion.com
facebook.com/touchevideoproduktion
Composed, written and performed by Joachim Müllner
facebook.com/InTheCanopy
inthecanopy.fr
In association with:
IRCAM – ircam.fr
Les Gens Du Son – lesgensduson.com
Studio Davout – davout.com
Image : Vincent Rouffiac, Gérald Massoubre
Sound recording : Jean-Philippe Gréau, Matthieu Lechartier
Choreography : Georgia Ives