Noise Gate: What And How

November 30, 2022 by No Comments

Noise gates are special audio processors that reduce extra or unwanted noise in an audio signal. Simply put, noise gates eliminate noise that you probably didn’t want in your mix, to begin with, while allowing the sound that you DID want to pass.

What is a Noise Gate?

A noise gate, also known as a gate, is a type of audio processor that is used to reduce excessive noise in an audio signal. Simply put, a gate will completely block all unwanted noise when used properly. Hardware or software noise gates are available.

When recording, background noise and noise from other sources can build up and degrade the sound quality. Let’s say you were taking vocal recordings. The click track and muffled noises from next door are picked up by the microphone as the vocalist goes through the motions of recording that flawless take.

You have a recording that is nearly excellent in this case. Although you have a flawless take of the vocalist, the recording also contains what engineers refer to as click track bleed and muffled noises from the neighboring room.

This is the ideal scenario for using a noise gate. In order to reduce and, ideally, completely eliminate the unwanted noise, you insert a noise gate onto the vocal channel during the mixing stage.

What Are the Types of Unwanted Noise?

  • Room reverb
  • Ambient noise
  • Noise pollution from outside (traffic, people, etc)
  • Headphone bleed (click track and instruments coming through headphones)
  • Electrical hum
  • Movements of musicians when recording
  • Fret buzz (on stringed instruments)
  • Noisy keys (buttons) on brass instruments
  • Squeaky foot pedals from kick drums and high hats

How Do Noise Gates Work?

It is simple to use a noise gate.

Once a noise threshold is set, a noise gate shuts off all sound and noise entering your audio channel. The gate closes, preventing any noise when sound falls below this threshold. This threshold determines how loud the sound can be before the gate opens and lets the sound passes.

There are four common parameters on a noise gate plugin:

  • Threshold: A gate’s threshold controls when it should open and close.
  • Attack – determines how fast or slow a gate closes
  • Release – determines how fast or slow a gate opens
  • The hold parameter controls how long a gate is kept closed (or held closed) before opening.

These four parameters are present in all software. On pedals, they are typically simpler and only have one or two of these parameters. There are additional parameters that you will see on various types in addition to these four. Noise gates come in a variety of styles, some of which are more advanced than others, some of which are made for particular purposes, and some of which are made to the preferences of the manufacturers. However, the four parameters that were previously mentioned are the most significant and are present in all of these tools.

To demonstrate how these four parameters work, let’s use an example.

Examine our vocalist’s nearly flawless recording. Even though the vocals are perfect, we want to use our noise gate to reduce the click track and muffled neighbor noises.

Add the audio gate to your vocal channel. Today, the noise is not an issue when the singer is singing because the volume of the vocals covers it up. However, as soon as the singing stops, you can still hear the constant clicking and the sporadic mumbled sound. In order to set the gate’s (opening and closing) threshold, you must first pinpoint the loudest portions of the clicking and muffled noise. This instructs the gate to close and remain closed when the clicking and muffled noise is below the predetermined threshold.

As soon as the singing picks back up, the sound will be much louder than this threshold, causing the gate to open and play the desired sound. Even though the vocals are louder than the background noise, the unwanted noise will still be audible. It is probably insufficient to only use the threshold. If so, excellent; you’re done!

noise gate

Most of the time, you will need to adjust the attack, release, and hold parameters. the attack should come first. As you are aware, the attack determines how quickly the gate closes. In order to create a fluid attack time that sounds real, try your best. The unit of measurement used to describe the speed of the attack – and all parameters on noise gates, in fact, is milliseconds. Once you achieve the desired result, adjust the release and hold times (which are also measured in milliseconds).

There is no special method or equation for adjusting a noise gate. Your noise gate parameters will vary depending on the recorded sound and performance each time.

Where to Use Your Noise Gate?

Okay, great. You now understand how to utilize your noise gate effectively. But how do you incorporate a noise gate into your signal chain? The actual response is that it is dependent on the type of sounds that your sound source is producing. The most sensible rule to adhere to is to place your noise gate directly after unwanted sounds.

Vocals

In the case of vocals, this might entail doing so after an EQ, compressor, and light modulation processing. The reason for this is that by the time the vocal signal gets to the end of this chain, cumulative audio artifacts from the compressor and modulation effect might be audible. It could be added in this situation at the end of your chain, before any delays or reverbs.

Guitar

You should place this tool at the start of your processing chain, either before or after your EQ, for a heavily distorted guitar. This is due to the fact that a heavily distorted guitar picks up each movement the guitarist makes with his fingers and hands. You should include a noise gate to eliminate all of the fumbling screeching noises in order to preserve the perception of polished recorded sound and keep guitar riffs and licks clean.

Drums

Drums could serve as another illustration. Let’s say you want to reduce the amount of unwanted room ambiance that your microphones have picked up. Your noise gate could be positioned at this point to start the signal chain. Before EQing your drums and adding the rest of your effects, you can do this to get rid of extra sound and unwanted frequencies.

To put your noise gate in the signal, there isn’t really a set place for it. However, you are still able to rationally consider what you are attempting to do. If your recorded sound contains excessive, unwanted noise, add a noise gate right after the audio to cut the noise off early in your signal. Insert your noise gate into the signal chain the moment you start to hear unwanted noise, which is typically somewhere near the end of your chain if the noise creeps up due to an accumulation of small audio artifacts.

How Are Noise Gates Used in Mixing Audio?

Here are three steps for you to follow.

Removing Unwanted Background Noise

Noise gates are a great tool for reducing unwanted background noise in your recordings. In order to reduce the amount of amplifier buzz during the pauses between notes played, a noise gate can be added to an electric guitar. They can be used to tame breathiness and remove any background noise or reverberation from vocal performance.

Trimming Transients

You can use noise gates to trim any transients that might fall below your predetermined threshold because they can be used to modify the volume dynamics of a recording. One of my favorite uses for a noise gate, for instance, is to streamline and deconstruct my drum loops.

Sculpting Your Sound

The hi-hat sound, which I wanted to remove, fell below the threshold I had set, whereas the kick and snare’s initial hit did not. This made the drum example above fairly simple and straightforward. What if a piano was used to illustrate the same idea? A noise gate can produce a punchier sound when used with a quick attack and release.

noise gate

What Are the Tips When Using Noise Gates?

Noise gates are not a challenging audio tool to use. Sometimes, the proverbial light bulb simply doesn’t go off right away. Drag and drop some audio into your preferred DAW to practice with the noise gate’s controls. Here are three suggestions to get you started since it will take you some time to develop your own methods.

Remove Sound Manually

The sounds you don’t want in your track can be removed by going through your audio file. However, you can isolate and remove any noise in the sections of your recording where there is no performance. Obviously, you cannot remove the performance itself from your recording. For instance, the gaps in vocal parts with click track bleed and outside noise or the spaces between guitar phrases.

This is good for 3 reasons:

1. You reduce the risk of computer crashes because the noise gate and computers don’t have to work as hard to do their jobs.

2. By doing this, you lessen the possibility that the noise gate will produce audio artifacts (which can happen if the noise gate is made to work extremely hard).

3. It will reinforce the behavior of keeping your audio tracks organized and neat.

Listen

This one may seem obvious, but many newcomers get it wrong. Without really paying attention to what’s happening to the audio, they frequently adjust compressors, EQs, and any other effects.

All producers’ initial tracks frequently sound a little strange because they didn’t pay close attention to the audio when mixing, which is very common. Be very aware of what is happening to the sound when adjusting the noise gate’s attack, hold, and release parameters. Pay close attention to what is happening.

Less is More

This holds true for many aspects of music production. When using a noise gate, take the less is more stance. If a noise gate’s parameters are used hastily and aggressively, the result is audio artifacts like stutters, clicks, and pops as the noise gate intermittently opens and closes.

Just dial back the intensity a bit if you feel like you are pushing it. By doing this, you can be sure that no audio artifacts will pass through. The best way to preserve human performance and natural sound are always to be tasteful and apply the less is more philosophy.

Conclusion

Noise gates are excellent tools for reducing unwanted noise and adjusting the overall dynamics of your recordings. Now that you know how noise gates function, hopefully you can use them to improve your audio productions. Nectar and Neutron’s user-friendly interfaces make working with noise gates incredibly straightforward and effective.

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