PreSonus Blog

Friday Tip: Back to the 60s with Preverb

Reverse audio was a common technique back in the days when doing it was a challenge (flipping tape reels over, recording, flipping them back). Now that reverse audio is easy to do, it’s uncommon…go figure. But let’s revive reverse audio with preverb—reverb that swells up to a sound, instead of decaying after it. We’ll first look at a method that requires having some silence before the clip to which you want to add preverb, then cover what to do if the clip starts at the beginning of a song. Note: the screen shot shows each step, but you’ll end up with only the two yellow clips to create preverb—the other clips are for illustration only (i.e., you don’t need to keep copying the clip).

 

Step 1. Start by copying the clip or track to which you want to add preverb. Use the Paint tool to draw a silent section in front of the copied clip that’s equal to or longer than the anticipated reverb decay tail you’ll add in the next step, then bounce the silent part and the copied clip together. Tip: Consider rolling off some of the low end on the copy so the kick is less prominent. Kicks don’t get along with reverb all that well, and preverb is no exception.

 

Step 2. Select the bounced clip and type Ctrl+R, or right-click and choose Audio > Reverse Audio. Insert your reverb of choice (the Open Air 480 Hall preset from Halls > Medium Halls is a good place to start) into the copied/reversed track or clip, then set the reverb’s Mix control to 100% for an all-wet mix.

 

Step 3. After your reverb sound is as desired, right-click on this clip and choose Mixdown Selection. This clip contains only the reverb sound.

 

Step 4. Reverse this clip, and now you’ll preverb when you play it along with the original clip. You can also try nudging the preverb left or right to play with the timing—for example if the reverb has pre-delay, the kick and reverberated kick might argue with each other.

 

To add preverb before the entire song starts so that the preverb leads up to the first sound, select all tracks and shift them to the right to open up a few measures at the song’s beginning. Now you can extend the copy of the track or clip you want preverbed to the project start so it includes silence. Continue by copying the original track, reversing, and following the steps detailed previously to add preverb, then shift the tracks back to the their original position.

 

To hear preverb in a musical context, go to https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/craiganderton and click on the free preview of song 2, “The Gift of Goodbye.” The preverb is on the guitar solo toward the middle of the song and then occurs again at the end, during the fadeout.

 

  • Sarah Jane Burke

    I was always taught that dithering should be done in private.

    Sorry, I have no shame. 🙂

    YES! That helps a lot. Thank you very much! So even recording at a modest 48/24, slightly lower levels’ affect on resolution is negligible. Learning the relationship of db to resolution answers my questions.

    Thank you again. You rock, as usual.

  • Craig Anderton

    Well, it’s controversial but think of it this way (which is admittedly a bit simplified, but it’ll do the job). Each bit represents about 6 dB of resolution. So if you have a 24-bit file at -12, then you have 22 bits of resolution, which is still better than the real-world resolution of converters. If a signal is down -36 dB, then you still have 18 bits of resolution. A lot of digital audio gear was 12-bit, and with a 24-bit file a signal at -72 (which is pretty far down) would still have 12 bits of resolution. As to how hot to make the signal, some engineers have told me they think converters have a “sweet spot” and it’s not at the extremes. But the reality is what you said: if the mix sounds better if you don’t mix as hot, then…don’t mix as hot 🙂 As to classical music, that’s why dithering is helpful. At seminars I sometimes trot out a comparison of a file at -85 dB with no dithering compared to one with dithering. The difference is night and day. Hope this helps!

  • Sarah Jane Burke

    I think my favorite example of this is on “Mole in the Ministry” by XTC (as The Dukes of Stratosphear). There’s a couple of drum fills with reversed (and flanged!) reverb toward the end of the song. I’m going to steal that idea.

    On an unrelated topic, I was just telling a friend of mine that I think I’ve been recording my tracks (Studio One) too hot because several video recording tutorials I’ve seen say you should shoot for -18 to -12. And I notice that when you put Studio One channels in record, zero becomes -12. But then my friend, old time engineer, tells me that as the volume goes down, so does the resolution. And I thought of you, because I met you at a seminar in Portland in 1998 (?) for Ensoniq’s PARIS DAW, where you played us a fade out, and turned up the volume to show us how it got progressively uglier as it faded. But if this is true, it seems like no one would ever want to record classical orchestral music because of all the super quiet passages.

    So what’s right? My inkling, having grown up recording on tape, has still been to at least be tickling the yellow, which you can get away with in PARIS, for some reason. But I remixed a song the other night with all the hot levels reduced to about -12, and it was easier to mix, plugins seemed to work better, and the sound of the mix was definitely superior to the last one.

    Sorry to ambush you with this question, but I thought if anyone would know, you would. Thank you for reading.

    Sarah Jane Burke

  • Craig Anderton

    Glad you like it 🙂 Remember that you can move the preverb on the timeline…sometimes having a little delay before the audio being “preverbed” is good, and sometimes you want no space between the end of the preverb and what it leads up to. And for something like drum preverb, pitch transposition can be cool.

  • James Watson

    Nice. Thanks!