Audio production in live performances is a different ball game compared to audio production in recorded audio. There are number of ways in which live sound differs from recorded sound.
For example, the equipment used in stage performances is relatively different from the equipment we employ in recording studio production.
For example, in live sound vocals are usually sent through different effects units depending on the desired outcome of the performance.
In this post I’m going to discuss whether singers use reverb on stage or not, because a lot of other effects are usually used to deliver a good singing performance.
With that said, do singers use reverb on stage?
Reverb can be a very powerful tool in live performances because it creates a deep customized listening experience that draws the listener in. However, reverb in live performances is usually subtly used because in essence, using reverb in a large room would be trying to recreate what’s already there and this may cause some issues.
Singers and other musicians may employ different types of reverb effects units both physical and analog, but mostly physical to create a smooth live performance.
With that said, it’s worth knowing that over using it would do more harm than good because most concert venues already have natural reverb and lots of Ambience which means running audio through a reverb effect would make it difficult for people in the back to hear the singer.
Using Reverb on stage
Using reverb on a stage is an art and requires a good level of attention to detail.
I’m going to discuss some tips on how reverb can be employed in certain situations and completely left out in other situations.
Assess the acoustics of the concert hall
The location of the live performance is the most important thing that is considered when looking to use reverb on stage.
Reverb performs the function of giving an audio signal properties of reverberation.
Therefore, its not only wise but important to get a sense of the overall natural ambience and reverb of the particular concert hall.
A live sound technician will therefore, get a sense of the overall space by micking up and trying different settings while singing into the microphone.
In a room that particularly possesses qualities of natural reverb and echo, employing additional reverb is not the wise choice and will in most cases be completely avoided.
This is to allow the natural reverb to do its thing without getting in its way.
Take note of enclosed spaces
It’s also vital and important to take note of enclosed spaces like bars or small clubs.
Going for a little reverb in such spaces will make your sound “bigger”, which may well be desirable. However, using room reverb in a concert hall would be a disaster.
It’s certainly right that, in a mix of different instruments, reverb will add a degree of mush, which will push your guitar into the background somewhat. And if every instrument player uses reverb, the mush multiplies.
In both a large concert and small bar, this could be problematic depending largely on how the reverb is applied and the parameters used.
Be subtle with reverb
As you’ve probably noticed, reverb can certainly be a complicated tool to use in live stage performances.
Which is why it must be employed only subtly.
This generally allows you to avoid any reverberation problems that could over shadow the singers voice.
People in the back of a large concert hall may find it difficult to pick up the voice of the singer if too much reverb is used.
Furthermore, applying reverb on instruments in addition to the vocal would make it even harder to keep everything in the face of the audience.
Assess your reverb unit
Live sound technicians also have to be careful in choosing reverb units.
Not all effects units are created the same, therefore one has to choose a reverb unit that can get the job done.
This most of the times means choosing a reverb unit with the right parameters.
The right reverb parameters are the ones that allow you to modify the reverb with respect to the venue. Be it a small concert hall or a large concert hall or any other.
Allow for space for other instruments
Reverb has to be used moderately if its being applied to other song elements aside from the vocals.
If notice that using reverb on the vocal over shadows other instruments then it’s best to completely not use it in order to give space to other instruments so they can be audible through out the room.
Genre also matters. Some genres just have to incorporate reverb.
However, even with such genres, an appropriate investigation into the venue, reverb units, and other factors that may contribute to the flow of sound have to be taken into consideration.