Pro Audio Files

Tips for Creating a Gated Reverb Effect

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here. Welcome to The Pro Audio Files YouTube channel. Jumping in for the first time, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button, hit that like button, because it helps us do what we do.

We’re going to be talking about gated reverb. Now, if you’re older, you’re going to remember gated reverbs from the 80’s, because that was a quintessential 80’s thing, and then it sort of died out, but noticeably, and Vox even brought this up, which is the inspiration for this video, a lot of Pop records today are building back in that gated reverb sound. So I thought it would be really cool since I’ve got a Mixing with Reverb tutorial coming out pretty soon to do a demonstration of how to create gated reverb as an effect.

So alright, let’s get into this. The very first thing we’re going to need is a drum groove going here. You know, it’s usually off of the snare, so I’ve just got some drums setup here in Battery, and they are both from my Weiss drums kit. That link will be in the description, because they’re pretty cool drums. Here’s my kick.

[kick]

Right? And here’s my snare, which is actually two snares layered together.

[snare]

So we’ve got nice, crunchy, grungy little drums, and we’re going to get a little groove going here. Alright, here we go.

[drums]

Alright. Just something kind of like a big beat sort of thing. Once we’ve got our drum groove tracked out, now it’s time to actually create the reverb effect itself, and there are three main components of this reverb effect. The first and foremost of course is the reverb. The second is going to be compression, and the third is going to be a noise gate, and how we do each one of them, there’s a lot of flexibility and a lot of creativity that’s involved. So you can really choose your own stuff. I’m going to start with the reverb.

For the reverb, the one thing that is really important in my mind is that there’s a good character to the reverb, and an interesting and unique character to the reverb, because this is all about creative effect. We don’t want something that’s too clean, we want something that’s got a lot of vibe, so this is going to work with certain types of plates, this is going to work with spring reverbs, which is a great choice for this in my opinion, this is going to work with room reverbs, which tend to have a lot of modal action going on, or chambers, which tend to have a lot of modal action going on.

The only things that I don’t really like for this are like, really pure, clean sounding halls, really lovely sounding, like, nice, clean sounding chambers or rooms. Like, I want something that’s got vibe to it for sure. So I chose the Valhalla Room, and one of the things that I like about this effect is because ultimately, what’s going to happen is that our reverb is going to get cut off abruptly. We can kind of have this big, scopic sized reverb, and the size ultimately kind of ends up shrinking as a natural effect of this process, but by building that size into it, we get this really cool, contradictory vibe that happens.

Anyway, I’m going to hit the play button, just so you can hear what my room tone kind of sounded like before any other effects.

[room tone with drums]

Now, I would say that while this room is a little on the cleaner side, it’s not like, super pristine polish, and actually, a really cool thing you can do is you can actually just setup a couple of microphones in your own room, and play the snare drum out into your own space, especially if you can like, take your acoustic absorbers down or anything like that, or put the microphone out in a hallway or something like that, but there’s still some very clear modal interaction. There’s some vibe that’s going on in this room. It’s not like the most pristine room in the world, and it’s not meant to be.

So the next step is going to be the compression. The compression, we want something that’s very aggressive. The quintessential compressor would be the Shure Level Lock. That was one that was used in the 80’s for this all the time, but some other examples would be something like an 1176 with all the buttons pushed in, or the dbx 160 VU, which has like, this very distinct quality in the attack, and a certain tone to it that’s like, very affected.

So I’m using in the box the SoundToys Devil-Loc, which is modeled after the Shure Level Lock, and you’re going to hear very quickly that it’s an exceptionally aggressive compressor, and because there’s no output gain stage on there, I’m going to put a trim on the back end of it, and knock 9dB off, just so it’s a little bit more level matched.

But here’s our before.

[drums and reverb, before and after Devil-Loc]

And here’s our after.

So I’m really compressing the snot out of this reverb, and what’s happening is it’s extending the tail, and it’s also creating a very distinct, obvious upper mid-range color that has a lot of vibe, and has a lot of personality, and a lot of energy.

Now, the very last step of this is the noise gate. So once we’ve created this compressed reverb tail, what we want to do is truncate it. We want to just chop it off once it gets below a certain level.

The way a noise gate basically works is it takes quiet sounds and it makes them go away, and we set a threshold for where that sound was too quiet. So if we set the threshold very high, it’s going to remove a whole bunch of that decay. If we set the threshold very low, it’s going to let most of that decay tail off.

Now, what I’ve done is I’ve found a sweet spot. The threshold control is actually like a timing control when we’re doing a gated reverb, and where we adjust it basically changes the duration of the note that the reverb takes up, and so what I found is basically what’s an eighth note, and you’ll hear it pretty clearly. Before…

[reverb and drums, before and after gate]

After.

So you can hear that, [imitates reverb]. That sound abruptly cuts off after about basically an eighth note passing by. If I want to make it a little bit longer, I can take the threshold, and turn it down. I can probably find something that’s pretty close to a quarter note.

[reverb, adjusting gate]

That’s a little short of a quarter note. Let me make it a little longer.

[reverb, adjusting gate]

So that’s a quarter note. Or I could make it like a 16th note, which would probably be somewhere around here.

[reverb and drums]

But for this purpose, I really liked the eighth note feel, because it creates this feeling of this like, burst of energy that then suddenly goes away, so it gives you this very exciting fun feeling where it’s like, “Boom! Gone.”

[drums and reverb]

So it’s a cool vibe. So I’ll do the A, B, before and after real quick.

[drums and reverb, before and after processing]

And I really encourage you to play with this technique. It seems to have come back into style. It can certainly be a lot of fun, and you can do it with white noise bursts, you can do it with spring reverbs, you can do it with all sorts of creative ideas that, you know, hey, I mean you could take the snare, you could comb filter it and time stretch it, and basically make something that doesn’t even sound like a reverb, but kind of does its own thing. There’s just a million possibilities that you can have fun with using this basic concept of a vibey style of reverb, very aggressive compression, and very truncating, aggressive noise gating. That’s the formula.

Now, in my Mixing with Reverb tutorial, I do talk about gating reverbs, but I talk about it more in the pragmatic sense. In between the 80’s gated reverb, which was kind of like today’s auto-tune, it sort of showed up on every record as like, the thing to do, after that went out of style, gates still showed up on reverbs for the next 27 years, but it was in a much subtler way, and was functioning as a practical device for keeping the reverbs from masking other elements, and I delve into that in the tutorial.

Anyway, thank you guys for checking this out. Once again, please don’t forget to hit that like button, hit that subscribe button and drop a comment. Tell me what you think, tell me what you’d like me to talk about next, if you have any questions with reverb, all of that stuff really helps out the channel, it helps me keep making videos and giving you this great information, and don’t forget to check out Mixing with Reverb. That’s coming out September 18th. If it’s before September 18th, get excited, because that’s coming up soon, if you’re watching this video and it’s after September 18th, hey, good news, it’s already out!

Anyway guys, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.


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