What Does a Gate Do in Recording?

    Using a Gate for Drums

    Why do Producers and Engineers Use a Gate? 

    1. Tighten Up Drums
    2. Reduce Background Noise

    Have you ever recorded vocals and noticed you weren't working in the best acoustically treated room? Are your drums lacking that tightness you are looking for?

    Using a Gate will help you remove background noise when cleaning up a vocal recording, and it will help give your drums the feel you’re looking for.

    Table Of Contents


    What is Gating and How to Use a Noise Gate

    Benefits of Using a Gate

    A gate is a hardware device or plugin that can be set to automatically mute certain pieces of the signal of an audio track.

    Some gates will reduce volume rather than mute it, but you can manipulate certain parameters to set the gate exactly how you like it to get your audio sounding how you need it to.

    Let's discuss some of the gating controls.


    Essentially, your threshold is the level you set where either sound is muted or it comes through. Any audio volume below the gate threshold will not come through, and any audio volume above your threshold will be heard.


    The range will define exactly how much sound reduction is withheld below your threshold.


    Attack refers to how quickly your audio enters into your mix.


    The release is the parameter that will control how long the threshold is activated for. If the release is short it will allow the signal to come back in quickly and vice-a-versa.


    This is where your mixing ingenuity comes into play. The hold defines the length of time that the gate stays open after the signal drops below the threshold, and before the Release period has initiated.

    How to use a Gate in music

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    Tighten Up Drums

    Tightening up a drum sample can be quite simple with a gate, as long as you know what you're doing.

    The gate itself gives you a nice visual reference so you can actually see what is happening, rather than trying to learn how to hear what the gate is doing.

    When you first insert the Gate the track will sound muted. You’ll be able to see the audio in the gate itself, but there will be no audio coming out. From there, you can pull down the threshold until you start hearing audio. This is where it gets fun!

    So, you may have a snare sample that is just too long for your liking. As the snare peaks through the gate it’ll already start sounding tighter than it was a few seconds ago.

    The further you pull down the threshold, the more of the sample you’ll start to hear. Now is the time when you start to fine-tune that threshold until you achieve the tightness you are looking for. Easy as that!

    Sometimes, you may be working with a group of drums, but you really only want to hear certain parts of the group. You can apply the same technique as you just learned until you only hear drums you want to hear.

    Now, you have to remember that any of the drums playing louder than the instrument you want "solo’d" will not be able to be muted because of how a gate works.

    The gate is taking out the lower volume audio so if you want your hi-hats "solo’d," but your snare is cracking through, the gate is not going to do the job for you.

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    When Should a Noise Gate be Applied?

    Using a Gate for Drums

    Many producers and/or engineers have been in the situation where they either record a vocal, or receive a vocal that has an ear jarring background noise such as an air conditioner. 

    Luckily, the gate can be your savior when trying to clean that up. Usually, the background noise sits very low in the recording and may even sound far.

    A gate is the perfect way to get rid of that!

    However, gating a vocal can be slightly more difficult though since vocalists sing at different volumes throughout the recording.

    This is where the “release” comes into play, in addition to the threshold.

    This parameter is really going to be the one you focus on most when making sure each part of the vocal is being heard throughout the whole track.

    Important note: Make sure to listen to the whole length of the file with the gate to make sure no parts are being muted! 

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    Start Practicing for Yourself

    Now that you know how to use a Gate go ahead and try it on your own productions!

    Having a gate as a tool is very useful in many aspects of music production and engineering, but these were only a couple of ways to make use of it.

    If you want to expand your knowledge regarding mixing and mastering, one of the best ways is by attending an accredited music college.

    That worked out for Turbo the Great and KEYZBABY, who co-produced the #1 song in America, WAP.

    If you'd like to learn more about how a degree could benefit your career, check out the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media's Music Production and Audio for Media Associate degree by clicking the link below today.

    Music Production and Audio for Media Degree

    Additional Articles:

    Dr. David Mitchell

    Dr. David Mitchell

    Dr. David Mitchell is an educator and published composer who writes for large and small ensembles, interactive electronics and electroacoustic music for performance as well as original scores for films, video games, promotional ads and corporate videos. His commercial work includes music for Hilton Hotels and The Coca Cola Company. His works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. In addition, Dr. Mitchell has won numerous competitions, including the Olin Parker Composition Competition, Southeastern Composers League Phillip Slate Composition Competition and The Contemporary Chamber Ensemble Composition Competition. Dr. Mitchell holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA) in Music Composition and Theory, Master of Music Composition and a Bachelor Degree in Guitar Performance. He is an instructor and the Director of Education at The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media.