Most modern home recording software offers its users the ability to use a noise gate. There’s only one problem: what is a noise gate?
Here’s an overview of this common compression tool and some tips for using it in your home recordings.
How A Noise Gate Works
A noise gate is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; it’s a compressor set up to allow noise to get through when it’s louder than a certain point. If the noise is quieter, then it doesn’t get through. The compressor eliminates quiet sound.
Noise gates can be set up in a variety of different ways, and can be frequency-specific. A frequency specific noise gate will only affect sounds in a certain range, so you could have the high part of a guitar sound drop out if it isn’t over 5db, for instance. This would give the guitar a very odd sound, so I’m not recommending it, but producers have been using frequency specific noise gates for years to bring different effects to their tracks.
Overused Audio Gates
As with other types of compression, a noise gate can be overused. Listen to any of those “big drum” songs of the 1980s. They typically use gated drums with a heavy reverb effect, and there’s a reason that we don’t use them anymore: they sound dated and ugly, unless you’re Phil Collins (who, by the way, is both dated and ugly).
Of course, a noise gate doesn’t have to be so prominent in a song, and one of the more common uses of a noise gate is to get rid of things like sibilance in a vocal track. Any time that an “s” sound hits a certain level, a gate can take care of it, making a producer’s job much easier, or a gate could be applied to a vocal track to remove airiness or unpleasant audio effects.
Learning How To Use An Audio Gate
Your home recording software probably offers various forms of compression, and may offer a dedicated gate setting for its compression. Play around with it, and try using it on an especially noisy track. Change the threshold to control where the gate kicks in, and use the attack and release knobs to control how quickly the gate “attacks” the track and how quickly it stops affecting it. As is the case with most types of compression, the best way to get to know gate effects is to use them, so have fun and play around to your heart’s content. Every home studio should know how to use gate effects. They’re a very useful tool that can give your recordings a professional edge.
Do you have any questions about audio gates or other compression effects? Post in our comments section below.