What Is A Noise Gate? And How To Use It? - Detailed Guidance

What is a noise gate and how to use it? Learn to produce a more transparent and nuanced track by utilizing noise gates to get rid of unwanted sounds! 

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: July 7, 2021

Noises often intertwine into the stunning sound we’ve put so much effort into recording. But what is a noise gate and how to use it?

Noise gates can declutter the background noises to filter out sounds for a more professional track. You can use a hardware noise gate or software, and this article will show you in detail how to use a noise gate to remove unwanted noise.

This tool is quite simple to master, and with our step-by-step tutorial, using it will be even easier. So don’t worry, aspiring producers! We’ve got you covered!

Here is a quick explanation about noise gate:

A noise gate is an electrical device or piece of software that regulates the loudness of an audio stream. It is often used with guitar or drum sound, to remove unwanted noise like humming, snare, etc.

What Is A Noise Gate?

Noise Gate Control

So in short, what is a noise gate and how to use it?

A noise gate is an audio processor. Its primary function is to reduce the amount of noise in an audio stream. Simply put, a noise gate will eliminate any unwanted sounds.

Noise gates are available as software plugins or hardware devices. You can configure it to automatically mute the signal and unmute it to hear the background.

You can program the gate to automatically open and close as required, as well as regulate how long it remains open and how quickly it opens and closes. The ‘close’ and ‘open’ functions of the noise gate can help produce stuttering effects and other effects.

For instance, when recording a great guitar part, you can hear the guitar amp hum throughout the sections of the song when you are not playing. A noise gate is a good option since it will close during these sections and reopen when the guitar is played again.

This is an excellent illustration of when a noise gate might be helpful. In effect, you put a noise gate onto the vocal channel during the mixing stage. After that, you modify the noise gate's parameters to attenuate and ideally eliminate the unwanted noise.

What Types Of Unwanted Noise?

What Types Of Unwanted Noise

In general, you might want to use a noise gate to remove the following noises:

  • Ambient noise
  • Static
  • Crosstalk
  • Unwanted room reverb
  • Noise pollution from the environment (traffic, people, etc.)
  • Musicians' movements
  • Buzzing sound of stringed instruments
  • Brass instruments’ noisy keys
  • Drum’s kick and foot pedals sound
  • Noise in the backdrop
  • Minor blunders in performance

How Does Noise Gate Works?

So how does noise gate work? This section will answer that question and show you how to use it to purify your track.

Main Parameters In Noise Gate Pedal Controls

There are five significant parameters in controlling noise gates to get clean sound:

  • Threshold determines how much the gate opens to allow sound to pass through.
  • Attack determines how long it takes for the gate to transition from closed to open.
  • Hold enables the gate to remain open when the signal level has dropped below the threshold.
  • Release or decay specifies how long it takes for the gate to open.

A fast release will immediately shut off the sound, while a slower release is more like a fade-out.

It's important not to set the release too quickly since this may cause a clicking sound.

Ratio or reduction is the proportion of the original sound to the gated sound.

Instead of completely muting the background ambiance on a voice track, you may use the gate to allow part of the ambient to be heard. Doing so helps your track sound more naturally.

How To Adjust The Settings 

This step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to use noise gate.

How To Adjust The Settings

1: Apply Noise Gate To Your Track 

People often say patch up the gate inline. This means that you directly apply the noise gate to the song you need to process.

You shouldn’t make a different track for your noise gate, especially if you use it regularly.

2: Set The Threshold At Maximum And Everything Else At Minimum

Except for the threshold, set all other parameters to a minimum. Keep the threshold at its highest setting.

With these settings, you can gate all background sound, so you will hear nothing during the playback.

3: Start Slowly By Adjusting The Threshold

A noise gate's threshold is similar to a compressor's threshold. It determines how loud the track must be for the gate to open.

However, unlike a compressor, which reduces loud sounds, a gate allows loud noises to pass through.

You'll be able to hear a track once it reaches the same loudness as the threshold. Anything below the threshold will have its loudness drastically reduced.

Reduce the threshold gradually until you start to hear your snare's transient. Here is an example to show you how we use threshold. Continue to gradually decrease and increase the threshold until you only hear the snare drum directly, but no other noise.

At first, it may sound strange and clicky. No worries. It's pretty normal! Everything will be OK if you continue to shape!

4: Set Up The Reduction

Now that you’ve established our threshold, it’s time to determine how much the kick bleed should be reduced.

You now decide how low you want any sound below the threshold to be.

The reduction lowers the sound down just when the gate shuts. Your track’s background noise will be quieter as you set the reduction to a lower level.

The amount of reduction you use comes down to personal preference, so go with what sounds most natural to you.

5: Decide On An Attack Setting: Fast Or Slow

The attack determines how long the gate should take to open. Increase your attack till the gate opens smoothly and your signal sounds natural and clear.

A rapid attack will open straight away, while a slower one would start slowly and fade in the sound. When utilizing a noise gate, a fast attack is usually the best option.

You don't want a drum strike or vocal line to be chopped off in the middle. So make sure your strike is quick enough to avoid clipping your recording.

Keep an ear for the sound's first start and the sweet spot when it sounds nice. You can try starting with a value of fewer than 5 milliseconds and work your way up.

6: Set Up The Hold

The hold keeps the gate open for a short time. When the track's volume drops below the threshold, the hold ensures that it does not fade out immediately.

Increase the hold setting so that the noise gate is open for a long enough time to capture any ambient sounds essential to the feel and quality of your track.

Try starting with a 100ms hold and work your way up. Reduce the hold if you're receiving too much background noise.

7: Set Up The Release 

You may regulate how softly and when it takes for your sound to fade away using the release. This parameter decides the duration for the gate to close.

Raise your release until the gate closes at a pace that lets your signal fade to quietness with a smooth finish. Fade-out should end before the instrument's next attack.

Start with a 300ms release time and listen to how it sounds.

If the fade-out is too abrupt, extend it a little bit. If you're receiving unwanted noise, make it shorter.

What Tips When Using Noise Gates?

Noise gates are fantastic and straightforward tools for decluttering your mix. They may, however, transform your music into a jagged mess if you don't know how to utilize them.

The following tips can help you avoid common mistakes and make your mixes sound more professional.

Manually Removing Noise

You should begin by manually removing the irrelevant noises in your track. You will keep the major portions of your recording, but you may identify and remove any noise with no performance.

This approach is good for the following reasons:

  • The noise gate and computer don't have to work as hard to perform their jobs. You will face less risk of gadget failures.
  • You can avoid noise gate-induced audio artifacts. This often happens if the noise gate is forced to work hard.
  • It will encourage you to keep your audio tracks clean and neat.

Be Prudent With Noise Removal

Be Prudent With Noise Removal

This is true for many aspects of music creation. When utilizing a noise gate, remember that less is more.

If you abuse the settings of a noise gate carelessly and aggressively, you will produce many audio artifacts, such as stutters, pops, and clicks sound. The reason is that the noise gate opens and shuts erratically.

If you feel like you're overdoing it, simply tone it down a notch. You can now be sure that your mix will sound as natural as possible.

Really Listen

This one may seem self-evident, yet many novices usually overlook this step. The most common beginners’ mistake is to adjust compressors, EQs, and other effects without really listening to the audio.

It's incredibly typical for novice producers’ first songs to sound strange because they ignored what was going on with the audio. Be highly aware of what is happening to the sound while adjusting the noise gate's settings.

Where To Put Noise Gates?

Now you know how to make good use of your noise gate. The next thing to note is where to put noise gates in your track.

The answer depends on the kind of noise from your sound source. The clearest guideline is to place noise gates after any undesirable noises.

Put Noise Gates In Vocals

Vocals

A lot of mixers put noise gates in the voices. A noise gate may assist you in getting rid of background noise in the voice recording.

For example, you can eliminate irrelevant room noise between voice portions.

However, noise gates cannot eliminate all background noise. You won't be able to remove the annoying honks from some random vehicles throughout the verbal phrase.

Guitar

You should put noise gates if you use a highly distorted guitar. This should be the first step, either before or after your EQ.

A highly distorted guitar catches up with every finger and hand movement made by the musician.

That’s why you want to add a noise gate to prevent all the fumbling screeching sounds. This will help preserve the impression of polished recorded sound and keep guitar riffs and licks pristine.

Drums

You'll nearly always receive "bleed" from the other drums while recording drums. This implies that the mic you're using to capture the snare will most likely also record the kick.

The other drums may be heard in the background when the drummer isn't pounding the snare. We can remove background noise by using a noise gate on the snare track.

You'll want to gate your drum recordings most of the time. Your overhead mics, on the other hand, should not be gated.

Overheads are used to capture a large image of the complete drum set. Your kit will sound strange if you put noise gates on them.

There are no hard and fast rules for where to put your noise gate. You may, however, think logically about what you're attempting to do.

For example, if there is excessive, unwanted noise coming straight from your recorded sound, you can insert a noise gate at the beginning.

Or, if the unwanted noises accumulate towards the end of the track, put noise gates wherever undesirable noises are.

Final Words

If you managed to read through this long article, you now know the answer to the question “what is a noise gate and how to use it?”. By following all of the mentioned steps, you can produce a clean, isolated track devoid of extraneous noise.

Using noise gates is all about listening to your inner voice. Always pay attention to the songs in the mix. The placement of a track in the mix ultimately dictates how any signal should be gated.

Be patient and practice on a variety of recordings. You'll get clearer signals if you learn how to gate correctly. Pay attention, trust your hearing, and noise gate as needed!

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