I have noticed a new trend in recent times of what to my ears sounds like excessive reverb in recordings. I have mentioned this before, but it seems to have reached a new level both metaphorically and literally. The use of reverb can be great in mastering a track, BUT many artists sound like they are singing from the bottom of a well.
I commented about this to a performer who suggested that some artists use reverb to make some limitations in vocal delivery and/or don’t have enough awareness to reign it in a bit. With acoustic instruments and the ukulele its very easy to lose the dynamics of the instruments in a wash of reverb. Similarly, there seems to be a trend especially among female artists for producers to bathe the vocals in reverb and then describe the result as “ethereal” To my ears it really doesn’t sound good at all, but of course some folks love this kind of sonic manipulation.
Twenty years ago, many aspiring artists would have access to reverb through hardware and Alessis Midiverbs were common tools, especially for guitarists. The higher end Lexicon reverbs used in most studios would not be affordable to most individuals. Production in sound has also changed over time, so some 1980s production which sounded great at the time can now sound dated. Trevor Horn’s ZTT label had a very specific sound that would be very out of step these days.
Most aspiring musicians can now easily have access to great mastering and mixing tools, BUT often the DIY efforts sound horrible. In the same way a decade ago, many artists mastered tracks for maximum volume, these days we appear to have an unfortunate outbreak of maximum reverb. I’m not surprised that this happens with hobbyist performers, but it also seems to be the case with some professional studio engineers. I’m not talking about a preference for the overall sound but instead mixes that are literally saturated in reverb.
These days companies like UAD provide terrific options for musicians and often “less is more” when such tools are used. With some careful attention to detail it’s possible to create really fantastic mixes that in days gone by would not be possible. Of course, many people are listening to music on platforms that don’t really reveal the true sonic potential in the mix. Neil Young is one such artist who has railed against really compressed music formats and platforms. Personally, I applaud any initiative to create the best possible sound regardless of how it’s being consumed. My hope is that the era of reverb hell will be short-lived, but then it’s of course just my opinion. Many artists would benefit from taking more care about their music production regardless of whether they do the mastering and mixes themselves or employing someone to do it for them