FX Tips – Reverb: Reverse Reverb

Reverse reverb is an interesting technique that can give some extra power to well chosen song sections. In the days of reel-to-reel or cassette recording the effect was somewhat involved, requiring flipping the tape and careful calculation of which track you would record to in order to avoid overwriting another important track. In the days of the modern home recording studio we are a bit more spoiled with our computer powered DAW and software plugins. To illustrate this effect, I’ll show you how to apply it to make a simple 4/4 drum part sound much more dramatic. I will be using REAPER as my DAW and Waves Renaissance Reverb as my effect.

Setup the snare drum track

drum source tracks

Here are my starting tracks. What you see is a very basic and boring 4/4 drum part. If the picture is not enough to give you an idea how basic it is, listen to this mp3 clip. As promised, we are going to spice it up a bit by applying some reverse reverb. Click directly on the snare drum clip to select it in REAPER (that would be like clicking directly in the center of the above screenshot). From the Edit menu, choose Reverse items as new take. You should now see something similar to the image below (colors may vary based on your REAPER skin).

snare drum reversed

Notice the snare drum track is now split vertically into two sound clips. The dimmed out clip is the original forward snare drum and the brighter, highlighted clip is the new reversed snare drum. If you are not seeing the clip as shown, go to the Options menu and choose Show all takes in lanes (or press CTRL+L). If you play the track now you will already hear it has gotten quite a bit more interesting. You could certainly stop here and it would be quite a nice effect for part of a song, but it wouldn’t be reverse reverb without the reverb.

Apply the reverb

Add your favorite reverb plugin to the snare track. I’m going to use the Waves Renaissance Reverb but any reasonable reverb will do the trick. You could even use the Cockos ReaVerberate included with REAPER. Configure your reverb to 100% wet and 0% dry signal. Adjust the reverb so the tail dies about the time the next kick drum is hitting. Experiment with the length of reverb tail when doing your own mixes, but for the effect we’re going for here, that is the reverb length we want. Here is a sound clip of the current settings. Again, if we stopped here, it would still be a cool sound, but the snare is playing backward and the reverb is playing forward. That is the exact opposite of what we want!

Reverse the reverb

It is time to turn everything around to get the full reverse reverb effect. Solo your snare drum track in REAPER. From the File menu, choose Render (or press CTRL+ALT+R as a shortcut). The render options dialog seems initially complex, but you mainly need to worry only about the options I have circled below.

reverb render options

Set the Resample mode to Best to preserve audio quality. Name your Output file, turn on Render master mix and choose your Output format (typically .WAV). Also be sure you have selected Add items to new tracks… to get your reverb on its own track. Click the Render button and REAPER will do some magic and add your reverb to a new track.

reverb track, forward

The reverb track is shown highlighted above. If your reverb track is not highlighted, please highlight it now. Since the reverb track is playing forward, we still need to reverse it. From the Edit menu, choose Reverse items as new take just like we did for the snare. You’ll end up with two clips showing on the reverb track where the originally rendered reverb clip is dimmed and the newly created reversed reverb track is highlighted. This is exactly what we want on this track. Now we just need to fix the snare track.

Right now the snare is playing reversed which is not what we want for the full effect. On the snare track, click directly on the dimmer, original, forward snare drum clip.

reverse reverb

Now you can play back your song and you will hear a glorious reverse reverb effect!

Sound clips demonstrating reverse reverb:

  • Original, dry, boring, 4/4 drum part – mp3
  • Snare track reversed, reverb applied (forward) – mp3
  • Snare track forward, reverb reversed, final effect – mp3

You can use this great effect on snare drums, kick drums, staccato guitar lines, or anything else you can think of. Your home studio is your playground, have fun!

Waves Renaissance Maxx Native Bundle

Waves Renaissance Maxx Bundle price check


The two main go to plugins I use from this package are the Renaissance Reverb and Renaissance Vox. The Renaissance Reverb has a very smooth and characteristic sound.
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5 Responses to “FX Tips – Reverb: Reverse Reverb”

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  1. Gelon says:

    Yeah, very cool effect. Jimmy Page used it a lot, especially with vocals (“Way down inside, woman, you need…”), on the Zep albums. I seem to recall a story about when he first wanted to do it, where he had to convince Andy Johns that it would work. Andy told him there was no way…As you said, back then they had to flip the reel. Thanks for keeping the idea a live.

  2. Martin Neal says:

    Sorry Benvesco, I dont understand it when you say to click on the Snare drum clip, to select it in Reaper. What clip? How do I get this clip in REAPER.

    mARTIN

  3. bvesco says:

    The “clip” is the same as saying click on the “track” or the “block” that has the snare sound in it. You get it into REAPER by recording a snare drum, bringing in a snare loop, or any other way to get sound into the program.

  4. It is a classic effect and everyone has to do it at least once !

    • HandsOfDj_5 says:

      Ben Vesco
      hi and i’m proud to say you just made me fro scrach as as a mixing engineer . Every now start to want my services and nobody every believe that i don’t have a studio, it me; my laptop and FL Studio 11. Thank you. I’m in Durban(SOUTH AFRICA), in october check my ep that full of your teachings.