When working on music and want to add some nice room ambiance to a vocal track that has been recorded dry, add reverb. But when you’re in a large room and you hear your own voice distinctly coming back to you, you call it echo. Wait, Is there a difference?
‘Reverb’ isn’t just some fancy term to make industry professionals feel elite, though it has that effect. Reverb and echo are two different things. Here are the technical definitions of each:
Reverb is characterized as random, blended repetitions of a sound occurring within thirty milliseconds after the sound is made. This is all the sound that immediately bounces off any nearby surfaces before it gets back to your ears. So first you’ll hear the original sound and then all the stuff bouncing off the walls, furniture, glass and even acoustic tiling. Our brain is specially equipped to notice reverberations before our conscious perception does. It blends the reverb with the original sound before we even notice it and then tells us that it all came from the same location, so don’t get confused. Weird, huh? With enough practice though, you can turn off this feature and notice the reverb that occurs in every space. Snap your fingers, or, make a sharp clicking sound with your mouth, and try to listen to the room around you instead of yourself. You’ll start to hear it. Try it in different rooms. It’ll sound different each time.
Echo is defined by distinct repetitions of a sound occurring after 30 milliseconds. This is when we can unquestionably hear a distinct… well, echo of a sound coming back to us. When we are at a big canyon or inside a gigantic room and we, of course, say “Hello!” and then a moment later you hear it again, that’s echo. For some reason, in the world of music production, echo is called ‘delay’.
Note: Some locations have their natural reverb so you don’t need to add any more.
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