Tips & Techniques - July 1989

by Jerry Vigil

Reverb On Background Music Only

Applying reverb to voice tracks is probably the most common use of the effect in radio production. Next time you have a chance to play around with a spot that is a simple voice over music spot, try adding reverb to the music only and keeping the voice track dry (without reverb).

You will have to use a relatively large amount of reverb to hear the effect well, more than you would use on a voice track. When you mix the spot, mix the music as loud as you normally would or maybe a little lower. The end result is a voice track that sounds "close" and "warm" while the music has a distant sound, yet the music is as present as it is in your usual mixes.
A good application of this technique is with spots where the copy is a dialogue between people or just one person talking in character. For example, if you have copy that consists of a phone conversation, you might not put music under it because there usually is no music being played during a real phone conversation. This particular spot might be a club spot that would lend itself to having music in the background of the conversation. By adding the reverb to the music, the music tends to take on the effect of not being part of the spot, as though the music were coming from somewhere else, as opposed to being right there with the characters in the conversation. Just as you would use reverb on a voice to indicate that the voice is coming from a distance, you can use reverb to set the music away from the voices in the spot. This puts the listener there with the characters in the spot and the music at a distance from the characters and the listener.

This technique doesn't have to be used simply to separate the music from the characters in a spot. The effect itself is unusual enough to use simply to give a spot a different feel. Play with the settings and look for other ways to use the effect.

Mixing Stereo Placement

There is more to stereo placement in your mixes than left, right, and center channel. If you're in a multi-track studio with a good console, you more than likely have the ability to pan tracks anywhere between left and right. The more tracks you are using, the more opportunities you have to vary the placement of different elements of the spot or promo.

Since any music you might be using is probably stereo already, you should pan the left channel full left and the right channel full right; but if there are 2 voice tracks involved, try panning one between the left and center channels and the other between the right and center channels. If there are sound effects involved, try placing one of them full left and the other full right. Play around with the different options depending upon what sound effects there might be or the number of voices involved. Setting the pans will be easier with headphones.

There is no fixed rule here. You're the producer; you can pan anything anywhere you want! On your next mix, consider 5 locations to pan instead of 3. Add the 2 locations between the left channel and center channel, and the right channel and center channel. Even though the actual number of locations is infinite, these 5 will be the most noticeable on the air.

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