What is Reverse Reverb

What is Reverse Reverb What is Reverse Reverb

A reverberation played in reverse? Can't get a simpler definition than that... so is our article done? Case closed? Obviously not! :)

"What is reverse reverb" is a question also about applying reverse reverbs in your music, to manipulate the reverb signal on a track.

A Bit of History

Also known as reverse echo , reverse reverb took a while before rising in popularity, becoming a standard go-to effect of Shoegaze music.

My Bloody Valentine are known for their unique reverse reverb sound, influencing the way it's gonna impact their music. Using tape also, the engineer played the track in reverse, creating a unique sound with the reverse reverb and reverse regeneration effects, reminiscent of "Ten Little Indians."

Undoubtedly, an early example of its use can obviously be heard in this song, creating a dreamy, modulated tone.

Now, if you ask Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, he'd say he invented the effect, as demonstrated on the original recording of "Ten Little Indians".

The song does feature a unique reverse reverb mode. Jimmy used a distinctive reverse reverb effect, achieved through a specific reverse reverb setting, achieved with the studio's equipment.

However, him saying "I invented reverse reverb" is like Jelly Roll Morton's "I invented Jazz in 1902" statement. Complex ideas - either theoretical or technological are developed , rather than invented .

Stockhausen experimented with the effect earlier; possibly even some of the older serial music composers did also. So, even if technically true, Jimmy still "Stood on the shoulders of giants" (as Bernard of Chartres and later Isaac Newton would put it).

The Technique

In your DAW, take a reverb plugin, crank its wetness up to maximum. Cut the signal where the original (dry) sound ends, preserving the reverberation in its entirety. Then, assign it to a separate channel in the mixer. Reverse it. Done.

The above is a hugely simplified description of the flow, though the description does serve its purpose in contemporary context.

In practical terms, the flow would depend on the gear at hand and would need to be adjusted accordingly. We'll touch upon this below, while commenting on the tools, use cases and their corresponding specifics.

The Tools

But let's share an actual dream this article's author dreamt once. Goes like this: Kevin Shields runs in to a studio session and vastly excited says:

"To produce a rich sound output, always use reverbs. I heard your tremolo effect during the break. You used delay and a ton of other effects on the vocal tracks of the mix. But not enough reverb!"

Anyways... :)

Reverb Pedal

Through a pedal, reverse reverb is achieved by reversing the audio signal (not just the reverb).

Most will agree that this extremely popular item's roots are in the plate reverb, as produced by the German company EMT in 1957. That's too early to speak of reverse echo effect as such still.

Once invented, the reverse reverb pedal made reverse reverb easily achievable and a lot more straightforward.

The original input is recorded and run through a processor, which takes the reverb and plays it backward "on the spot". This produces quite an other-worldly impression, especially when listening to the recording.

Reverse reverb pedals create a unique reverse effect on tracks. They can be used in a live performance as well, making the reverb pedal a must-have all-round gadget.

Analog Synthesizers

It almost goes without saying... it would be a pity if they weren't capable of this, bearing in mind the number of cables they originally required... :)

Analog synthesizers can create a warm and vintage feel in production, bringing forward the now almost forgotten analog effect. What is old enough, is new in due time.

It's difficult to describe the flow because there are endless variations. They'll depend on the specific hardware, along with the skills of the producer.

The Good Old Tape Recorder

Yeah... who does that nowadays... but then again, few people write orchestral music too; does that mean that such an ensemble (or the genre) is useless? Not in any way!

Using tape in music to create unique sounds on tracks is like using pedals for other effects. The specific natural decay, as recorded on the tape bears finesse and a very specific quality.

Now, practically speaking, contemporary producers would refrain from hardware if/when they do not see anything exceptionally specific about it.

But, Then Again:

Nature. Rather than digitally reversing the sound, a reverse reverb through a tape is typically sequenced or even recorded while the track is being played in reverse. This adds subtlety and a different overall nuance, as compared to just "flipping" the original decay.

Using reversed reverb techniques, you can manipulate the tape to create unique effects in your recording. This effect is similar to reverse delay, as the tape can be used to manipulate the signal further.

Use Cases And Specifics

Most typically, reverse reverb is used to add an interesting lead in. Rather than reversing long sections, only the first note of a given section is preceded by it's reversed reverb.

Reversing the reverb of instrument can be an interesting technique also. It can drastically change the output of the pedal (for example), and add a new context to the sound. Using a specific technique with a pedal can enhance the desired effect.


The reverse reverb effect on the vocal track is heard in virtually every pop song nowadays. it is most often affecting the first word or specific guitar parts/sections.

This doesn't mean that the effect is boring of course, as it can transform an otherwise flat recording, producing an open track play.

With processing at an unprecedented level today, the reverse reverb is capable of adding a unique twist to your vocals by applying reverb effects in reverse even during recording.

Guitar and Other Non-Bowed Chordophones

The term chordophones refers to instruments whose notes are produced by vibration of strings.

Non-bowed stands for string instruments which are played without a bow. This means that the decay is very fast and cannot be controlled naturally.

Because of this, compressors (even limiters) are often applied along with the 100% wetness of the corresponding reverb plugin.

The reverb is a lot "airier" as a consequence, at its beginning sounding as a soft white noise almost.

Bowed Chordophones, Brass and Woodwinds

Similar to vocals, these can control a note's dynamics from its initiation through the end of the note/chord.

It's natural that they can control the sound's decay naturally and completely unrelated to reverberation.

This then makes it possible for natural variances in the decay to be created, nuancing the reverb to oblivion almost.

It's worth noting here, that any orchestral excerpt which features sustained chords over longer period of times, from softness to loudness - are in fact a predecessor of reversed-reverberation as an aural effect.

Drums And Percussion

Typically, the decay related to these is the fastest, similar to the non-bowed chordophones.

Percussion is split into metallophones (cymbals or gongs for example) and membranophones (drums in general: kick, snare, floor tom etc.)

Vibrations of metallophones last longer, of course. However, the decay can not be controlled naturally still, and they can not be tuned.

A drummer can adjust the controls to tune a drum to a specific note. However, the decay of any drum is very fast and any reverberation can only be preserved with heavy compression.

In Summary

Reverse reverb is a technique where the reverb tail plays backwards, creating unique reverb modes. To achieve this effect, simply add a reverb track and then reverse it.

To create a unique reverse reverb effect, you can manipulate your reverb track to shape the way your reverb sounds in the final track. Also, reverse reverb can be applied to the tracks to create a captivating lead in reverb.

Reverse reverb can also be achieved by reverb pedals and tape. Reverse the sound on the tracks to create an interesting effect in the mix, especially with vocal recordings. When applied to the vocals, it creates an intriguing play in reverse effect.

You can also add reverb for additional depth and richness. Captivating qualities can be achieved in the context of the reverb-reverse effects combo.

By applying reverse reverb effect to the track, the engineer can transform the audio file recorded on tape entirely, with a unique sound using effects pedals.

Therefore, while recording, the producer must hear reverb with reverse reverb effects on the vocal, even when not planning to use the latter specifically.

In Closing, Back to Jimmy...

I feel due to give Mr. Page an additional credit, just to be sure that I'm not misunderstood, in relation to my comment on him inventing the reverse reverb.

Using an analog pedal virtually as an integral part of his guitar technique, he aimed to record psychedelic sounds with a unique output.

In recording, Jimmy used a rack unit to apply reverb to the vocals on the track, enhancing the sound while maintaining the dry sound signal.

He also applied a delay pedal to sort of produce a "vocal" effect with his guitar, showcasing his skillful use of pedals while he continued to play.

A pedal would almost by definition have a psychedelic function in the song. The technique of using an echo in the record added depth to the sound.

Well, that's it. If Lee Mallory initiated the "California Sound", it might be fair to say that Jimmy Page is the father of reverse reverb.

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