Abbey Road's Matt Jones On Using Reverbs In a Mix & His Go-To Selection

Reverb is an essential part of every mix, from in-your-face punk tracks to the lush spatial effects of electronica. Whatever style of music you’re mixing, reverb is a necessary component – whether you perceive it or not. Abbey Road Studios' recordist Matt Jones discusses his go-to reverbs, how to configure reverbs in a session and how he uses when mixing.

What is your philosophy for using reverb in a mix? How do you configure reverbs in a session?

The way you use reverb will differ a reasonable amount depending on the style of music that you’re mixing. Also, in the method of delivery – how you’re going to pass that on to the next person in the chain. Saying that, even if you’re not delivering stems, I often find it easier to work as though you are. So I’ll typically have all my tracks laid out in chunks within my session, so I have all my drum tracks at the top and then I have the auxiliaries below that chunk of tracks, where things like reverbs and delays that apply to those tracks will live. Below that, you have the bass and any auxes for that and then the guitars, and then the strings, etc, etc, then keys.

It’s not for every instrument, but each group of instruments that I would call a stem. For example, all the guitars will probably share a reverb. All the keys will probably share a reverb. I’ll have a reverb or reverbs for each of those stems. They might not differ that much in their settings between each one. The keyboard might share the same settings as the guitar reverbs, but they will have their own instance of the plug-in and their own aux to go through for it. That way, once you send everything down to your sub-mixes or your stems at the bottom of the session, you know that everything’s clean. So, if you do get asked for a drum stem, you’re not going to print it and then suddenly get piano reverb all over your drums or things like that. I just find that a more flexible way to work.

As far as the reverbs themselves, I’ll often put an EQ before the reverb. Typically just high- and low-pass to shape the input to the reverb in ways that can be helpful. I find it useful to tame excessive presence or sibilance in a vocal-reverb send, for example. That’s because it can trigger reverbs in annoying ways, so if you can get rid of that before it hits the reverb, it can help the reverb sit behind the source material that’s feeding it a bit nicer, making it a bit easier to blend it in.
This will be after any plug-ins on the vocal. You might want the vocal sounds to be quite bright and upfront, but you don’t necessarily want that brightness to be setting off the reverb too much. So sometimes it’s nice to just low-pass some of that and also high-passing drum reverb to get rid of any of that woofy build-up that can be annoying. It’s often quite nice to have two reverbs going on, especially for drums and vocals. I’m a fan of having a fairly short plate reverb to give that initial illusion of air around a vocal and then a longer room or plate underneath that to provide that richness.

If the music allows, it can be fun to play around and be a bit more creative with reverb. Like having a sweeping, long reverb into a ping-pong-type delay for some movement, or by distorting the send to the reverb, or trying to find an extreme reverb where the decay works with the tempo of the song. Of course, it’s all too easy to get carried away once you start doing things like that and you’ll find that a lot of music doesn’t really have the space for that kind of fun. But, every now and then, you’ll get a track that you can be a bit more creative with, which I always enjoy.

What are your go-to reverbs?

For the plate side of things, I’m a big fan of Soundtoys Little Plate, because you load it up and it sounds good and there’s only one knob to adjust. So, that’s very quick to get yourself up and running. But if you want a more detailed plate, then the Waves Abbey Road plates are excellent, and you can adjust those a bit more to get a more tailored sound. As far as rooms go, the Valhalla stuff is great. That’s most of what I use day to day.
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