Natural Verb

When it comes to music, what people often think of as the “magic” of a song is more often than not the intersection of great music and great production.

My name is Glenn Sawyer, and as a producer at The Spot Studios, figuring out what makes a great song even better is a big part of what I do. As such, I’ve managed to accumulate a large bag of tricks and my production partner Rich Veltrop brings even more to the table. Through this column, I hope to share what I have learned over the years and give you the inspiration and the insight to take your music to the next level. Reverb is one of the most useful tools available to a musician. It serves a variety of functions from helping an instrument sit better in a mix to giving your dubstep snare that over the top epic quality. These days the variety of uses that reverb can serve is equally matched by the options for obtaining it.

From spring reverbs on guitar amps to “in the box” digital verbs there are no shortage of choices, but one source that is often overlooked is natural ambiance or just the sound of the room. Fortunately for Rich and I, we’ve got a variety options when it comes to natural ambiences at The Spot and the most striking natural verb can be found in our primary live room, The Cathedral. With stone floors, brick walls, and 25-ft vaulted ceilings it has an open sound that lends itself to a variety of uses. The most obvious being drum recording. And yes… most certainly delivers epic Bonham “esque” drums.

Although, our “big rock drums” are worthy of their own column what I want to talk about today is creating the sound of an audience singing along with the band. A great example of this can be found in the Steele and Colfax track “ City on a Hill.” In the bridge section of this song there is a vocal call and response between lead singer Tim Yunker and the rest of the band that’s accompanied by boot stomping and foot clapping. Given the nature of the section, we felt it was appropriate to incorporate the sound of an audience singing along with the band’s response to Tim’s call. So how did we do this? First, we set up one of our tube powered Mojave MA200s in the center of the Cathedral. We placed the band in our control room, which is located on an open loft that overlooks the cathedral. Having the band 15 feet above the microphone and approximately 25 feet away means that when we recorded them singing the response to Tim’s call we got a very roomy sound that was also delayed enough to be unusable by itself. This “unusable” recording became our audience and the next step was to add the rest of the band. To do this we had the band sing group vocals close to the mic. Once these vocals were mixed in with the
vocals we recorded from the loft…..magic… and audience singing together in beautiful harmony with all natural verb. Now that you know how we did it, you can take a listen to the track at Check us out online for more information, and who knows, maybe the next Sweet Spot will focus on your song and the magic we create together.

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