Whether you’re cranked up to 10 at a gig, or you’re in the studio and don’t want to hear a mess of noise while you’re tracking, a noise gate can be one of your best friends.
Noise gates come in pedal and plug-in form, so you can use them live or while recording. The best way to think of a noise gate is like a physical gate - when you’re there, you want the get to be open so you can get in, but when you’re not there, you want the gate to be closed so no shady characters can enter your house (i.e. noise). You can also compare a gate to a compressor. Compressors compress when volume is above a certain threshold, while Gates close while under a threshold.
You’ll typically have threshold and release/decay settings no matter what gate you’re using. The threshold will be set depending on how much noise is coming through, and the release is, how long do you want the gate to be open before it closes back up again (and is silent).
Setting a gate will be different depending on your setup. If you’re using a ton of gain, or have single coil pickups, you might experience more noise and have to set the threshold lower. The release you’ll want to set so that the gate isn’t so rigid and choppy. You’ll be able to test this by playing a long, sustained note. If it’s cutting off before you want it to, set the release to longer.
Check out the video below where I show you how to set a gate via BIAS Amp and using Pro Tools Gate plug-in. Sometimes it’s better to see and hear an example, rather than read about it, especially when discussing something like a gate.
In the beginning of the video I’m letting you hear a BIAS amp with the gain cranked up, and my guitar’s volume at 10. You can hear how noisy it is, and hear some excess funkiness going on after I play a couple of chords. Then I turn the gate on, but it’s too fast at clamping down, so I’ll set the threshold a little differently, and lighten up on the decay.
Next, I show you how I turn BIAS’ gate off, and instead use Pro Tools’ Gate plugin. The great thing about many of these plugins is that they have some fantastic presets that you can use as good starting ground. I chose “Noisy Instrument” as the preset, and then set the threshold a little differently because it was again, closing too soon, which made my guitar sound abruptly cut off.
Hold the gate
I hope this helped you understand the benefits of using a gate in your setup. Nearly all plug-in versions should do the trick, and most pedal versions come in at under $100. Using a gate properly can make you sound a whole lot more professional, because your guitar tone will sound tighter without all that noise. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter or Facebook.