A standard trick in any engineer’s trick bag is knowing how to make a gated reverb. Gated reverb was a staple 80’s effect used on countless snare sounds popularized by artists such as Phil Collins.
Using the snare as a trigger for the snare-reverb you can thicken up your snare sound without cluttering the drum sound with a long reverb trail.
In any DAW, this technique is pretty simple and easy to do and doesn’t involve a lot of steps.
- Snare track
- Aux send
- Effects return track
- Gate with a side-chain
- A Hall Reverb
Now, with all the ingredients together you mix the snare track as you like it, EQ’ing and compressing as needed. When you have the snare track as you want it it’s time to send it via an aux to a stereo reverb.
Dial up a hall
We use Logic’s Space Designer to dial up a big hall setting, but you can use any reverb plugin of your choice with a large hall setting. Remember to have the effect on 100% wet so the channel only has the reverb sound.
Now insert a gate after the reverb. Put the threshold as far up as you can, essentially killing the reverb. Now via your side-chain on the gate patch the gate to the snare-drum track.
When the gate on your reverb track is side-chained to the snare track you can start fiddling with the parameters of the gate. Reduce the threshold so it starts letting the reverb through. The reverb should breathe in time with the snare drum creating a thick snare drum sound without an excessive reverb trail.
Experimenting with the attack and release you can get different results. A fairly fast attack and medium release in time with the snare creates a sound that sounds like the reverb is being sucked into the snare again. I like having the attack a little slower. That way you hear the snare sound first and it sounds like the snare is breathing out the reverb before promptly sucking it in again.
Experiment with the parameters until you get something you are satisfied with. Gated reverb can not only be used on a snare, you can experiment with other instruments as well. All these tricks and tips on this site are always an open ended experiment and it only depends on your willingness to fiddle the knobs and switches what kind of results you can get.
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