Reverb Pedal User’s Guide
The sounds we perceive do not simply travel in a linear vector from the source to our ear. Sound waves move throughout the space in which in they are created, reflecting or “reverberating” off of any surfaces they might encounter. Harder surfaces such as walls or tile floor reflect greater proportions of the sound while softer surfaces, such as carpeting or acoustic paneling, are more apt to absorb sound waves. If you have ever heard your footsteps echoing as walk to through a parking garage, you are familiar with this effect. Since the sound waves are reflecting off multiple sources, different reflections will reach your ear at varying time delays. Each reflection also results in certain decaying of the original wave. Guitar players and sound engineers use this effect to create ambience and perception of a physical space in their music. They refer to this effect as “reverb.”
The first studio reverb unit was a “plate reverb,” which fed a portion of the original signal though a transducer into a metal plate. The reverberations throughout the plate were picked up by a contact microphone and re-combined with the original signal. Later, spring reverb was developed in order to bring studio reverb to stage performance. A portion of the signal is sent through a spring, and the resulting oscillations in the spring produce residual delays and decay in the signal. This is most common reverb effect used in tube amplifiers. Digital reverb was developed for stage and studio using multitap delays to simulate the early and late reflections within a chamber. Digital delay pedals can range from the straight forward to very complex, with many allowing users to select the time of reverb they would like to use. Common digital emulations include:
Plate- Emulates classic studio plate reverb.
Spring- Emulates the reverb of an amplifier string reverb unit.
Hall- Emulates the reflections of a large concert hall.
Room- Emulates the reverb of a small room.
Cathedral- Emulates the reverb of a large stone cathedral.
Gated- produces reverb only as long as the original sound source is present. This removes any overlap and keeps the sound from becoming muddied.
Common Delay Controls
Reverb pedals typically have 3-4 control knobs, including:
Mix- controls the amount of signal sent to the delayed channel.
Decay- establishes the amount of time which the reflections will last.
Tone- sets the frequencies of the reflection’s overtones from low to high.
Type- sets the type of reverb being emulated (i.e. plate, spring, etc.)
Common Reverb Pedals
EHX Holy Grail- The minimalist reverb pedal you would expect from Electro-Harmonix. Just one knob to select the amount of reverb and a switch to toggle between spring, hall, and “flerb” algorithms.
Boss RV-6- Durable, compact and straightforward, this pedal is a great combination of simplicity and versatility. Alongside level, tone and time knobs, a fourth potentiometer allows players to select from eight different types of reverb. An excellent choice for a reverb novice.
Line 6 Verbzilla- A slightly more complicated version of the RV-6, this digital pedal has a few more bells and whistles. Separate time and decay controls enables users to set both the length of the delay prior to the first reflection as well as the length of time before the reflections fully cease. A “trails” switch sets whether or not the reflections continue to decay naturally when the pedal is switched over to bypass or whether they stop abruptly.
Reverb Pedal Settings
I developed these setting on the Amplitube iPad app for my student’s usage.
Country Blues- Swell: 2 Tone: 6 Level: 4.5
A bright, slapback style reverb with tight reflections. It works wonderfully with a blues shuffle rhythm.
Ambient- Swell: 7.5 Tone: 4.5 Level: 7
Use this setting to thicken up your guitar’s sound. Excellent for arpeggiated chords.
Arena- Swell: 4 Tone: 6 Level: 3
A big stadium sound, suitable for both rhythm and lead.
Common Signal Chain Placement
The first choice for reverb effect is usually the amplifier unit. If using a reverb pedal, it should go last in the signal chain as it adds the feel of a room to the overall sound. If you are using amplifier distortion, be sure to run the reverb out of the effects loop.