Modulated Reverb Part 1 (reverb and modulation explained)
Reverb is an audio effect that results from reflective sound bouncing off walls or other objects. It is a natural echo sound that occurs when sound bounces off of different materials. For example water, stones, caves, walls of all different materials, and hundreds more scenarios too vast to be listed here. One of the most common examples I use to explain reverb is mountain reverb. Think of if it like this, if you go to the top of a mountain, surrounded by other mountains, then clap your hands or shout a phrase. Seconds later you here kind of a repeat of your phrase or hand clap. This is reverb. It is very similar to delay. Reverb is an excellent effect used on guitar to give a spatial sound. It can also be used in over the top like applications to make the guitar sound ambient and spacey. Hall reverb and modulated reverb are the most common types of reverbs used to bring a spacey, ambient, atmospheric sound on the guitar. Currently my favorite reverb effect to add spacey feels to my guitar tone is Modulated Reverb, and that is the subject of this article.
Modulated reverb is a reverb effect seasoned with some (any) form of modulation. The beautiful thing about modulated reverb is that no modulation occurs on your original guitar signal, but instead the reverb decay/ echo is laced with a modulation of some sort. This gives the reverb decay a feel of movement and life. Depending on the specific type of modulation on your reverb you can get underwater type sounds to out of space cloud like feels.
Examples of Modulation
Modulation type effects include Chorus, Vibrato, Phaser and Flange. According to Websters Dictionary modulation is “an inflection of the tone or pitch of the voice; specifically : the use of stress or pitch to convey meaning.” Modulation effects, such as chorus and vibrato, give a depth and dimensional feel to the instruments they are applied to when used tastefully. Modulation type effects usually have a rate parameter and a depth parameter. The depth allows you to dial in exactly how deep the pitch or inflection manipulation will go. The rate is how fast that will occur. The line between tastefully and over the top can be very thin with these type effects.
See part 2 and we will use Vibrato as an example of how modulation is used and controlled and talk about some guitar specific pedals on the market that offer some for of modulated reverb.