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How to Use a Reverb Guitar Pedal

The 'reverb' effect is one of the most widely used guitar pedal in the music world – from heavy metal players, over rock stars to pop artists and glam bands, everyone is relying on it to some extent.

Even though the performance of a reverb is relatively simple and straightforward, a lot of beginners don't know how reverb pedals work and what exactly is it that they do. These are just some of the topics that we'll touch on today, so let's get started:

What is a reverb pedal?

A reverb pedal introduces the effect of 'reverberation' - the sound bouncing off of physical objects (and people), and returning in a slightly different shape. Guitars and amps typically generate these reverberations, and the purpose of a reverb effect pedal is to 'direct' these echoes.

Reverb pedals are available in a variety of types, including Spring, Plate, Hall, and Digital as the most popular ones. Plate reverb brought the revolution of this guitar effect while digital reverbs took it a step forward by including all of the above in a tiny, easy-to-use package.

What can be done with a reverb pedal?

The versatility of a reverb pedal allows it to be used in a variety of ways. It can be an integral component in your sound, or it can simply spice it up and refine it, it's ultimately up to you.

Improving your guitar's overall sound

The most common application of a reverb pedal revolves around ambience – in other words, the reverb effect can uplift your entire soundstage, enrich the dynamics, and drastically improve the breadth of your guitar sound. The reverb reinforcement can make cleaner tones sound bigger and sustained tones longer, but it can also make crunched, gain-driven tones fatter.

With accurate tweaking, you will also be able to achieve a dual-guitar sound while playing only one. Even though only a portion of your original signal path is going to be replicated, with some trial and error (and of course, proper application of technique and practice) the reverb effect becomes camouflaged within your guitar's sonic signature, amplifying its performance without oversaturating your tone.

Perfect for guitarists who like to experiment with sounds and effects

Unlike tone-defining guitar pedals, reverb can be used liberally regardless of what type and style of music you intend to play. Even though it fits all music sub-categories and genres like a glove, it also excels in the realm of experimentation.

Certain boutique-level reverb pedals are capable of completely re-imagining your tone, oftentimes with relatively unpredictable results. This mainly regards top-tier reverbs that are supplied with somewhat atypical tone controls, such as sway, pre-delay, and shimmer.

These controls allow you to add elements of octavers, modulators, pitch-shifters and delay effects atop of your reverb effects; this will, in turn, morph your guitar tone into a wilder, much stronger beast.

Ideal for live performances and gigs

A reverb pedal also possesses the ability to make your tone smoother and more approachable, especially live.

Another way to use a reverb pedal is with sublimity. Tweaking the control knobs leaning towards the start will make your pedal 'tamer', the attack much quicker while the rapid decay will force the effect to retreat almost as soon as it enters the stage.

The reason why this is excellent for live gigs is fairly simple – quick echoes will ramp your tone up without interfering with your amp's signal, with your guitar's sonic signature and, obviously, other pedals you have linked up in the chain.

Typical Reverb Pedal Controls

The sound and behavior of a reverb pedal largely depends on how you tweak the knobs, but before you start randomly using them, it may be worthwhile to get acquainted with them:

Attack
The 'attack' knob refers to how rapidly the reverberation can be heard when the signal of your guitar is detected. The higher you crank this knob up, the 'faster' your reverb's attack will be.
Decay
Decay sits at the very opposite end of the spectrum when put back-to-back with 'attack'; it affects the speed at which the reverberations fade.
Mix
Mix is sometimes labeled as 'Level'; this knob acts as the 'volume' knob, in a sense, where it affects how present the reverb effect is in your signal chain. Mix will not affect the 'loudness' of your guitar, but it will affect the 'strength' of the reverberations.
Tone
All reverb pedals sound differently; sometimes it takes a trained ear to notice, but if you crank the 'tone' knob to the max, what used to be a subtle hint will become substantially more apparent.
Modulation
The 'modulation' knob is a feature that is almost exclusive to top-tier reverb pedals. It changes the shape and form of your reverb, providing you with enhanced versatility in your tone-seeking ventures.
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