Thursday, August 27, 2009

Try It Out: Instant Retro Street Cred With Spring Reverb

I want to start a semi-regular feature on this blog called 'Try It Out' that will encourage you to try some different types of effects you might not have considered before. I'm retroactively including the Ring Modulation article from last week. So for today's article, I'm going to discuss spring reverb.

Back in the days before digital and plug-in reverbs, reverb units worked quite literally by having a physical object that vibrated to simulate the sound of natural reverberant spaces. For instance, vintage plate reverbs used transducers to vibrate an actual piece of sheet metal which was in turn amplified via pickups. Spring reverbs worked on a similar principal but instead vibrated a spring which was attached to a pickup. The obvious advantage of spring reverbs was that they could be made much smaller, opening up more portable options, often built into guitar amps, or even synths, such as the Arp 2600. They sounded quite a bit different from plates too.

For lack of a better descriptor, spring reverbs sound, well - springy. There is a distinctly lofi, underwater feel to spring reverbs that make them instant vibe machines. There is just a certain atmosphere lent to tracks by spring reverb that is hard to describe, but instantly identifiable. It's the sound of trip-hop. It's the sound of countless famous guitar tones from the 50's and 60's. It's the sound of countless dub recordings and those influenced by dub, such as Martin Hannett's jaw-dropping production for Joy Division. And often, it was the sound of pioneering electronic music such as the menacing, metronomic knock that punctuates Kraftwerk's underrated
"Hall of Mirrors".

You can find spring reverb sounds in most modern convolution plug-ins, dedicated spring reverb simulators, many classic digital reverbs, some amps, and even via more modern hardware units from manufacturers such as Doepfer and Vermona. With these sounds available so widely, there is really no excuse not to try it out. The sound won't be to everyone's taste for sure. It's a murky, subterranean kind of sound that sounds best with music that embraces those elements.

Here's a little sound clip to help demonstrate the effect:


Vitriolix said...

Don't forget Surf Rock, it practically defines the style.

Being a practitioner of ambient dubs styles, I live and die by a good spring 'verb :)

Tom said...

Yeah, surf rock wouldn't be the same without it for sure. It's one of those effects I don't use too much in my own music, but I love playing with it. Such an eerie sound.