Gates are the perfect plug-in to remove noise and unwanted signal from our audio but if your gate plug-in supports side chaining you might be able to use it for a whole lot more.
By feeding a percussion pattern or drum loop into your gate you can transform any sound fed through it into it's own rhythmical pattern. Let's take a look at this simple but effective technique in Ableton Live.
First up we have to focus on the sound we want to treat with our gate effect. I find that this tends to work very well on sustained sounds. So short percussive stabs or sequences may not be such a good idea but pads, strings and sustained vocals are perfect.
In this case I have gone for a synth based string sample, which I think should work pretty nicely. As I mentioned in the intro I am using Ableton Live here but of course you could use any DAW that has a gate plug-in and side chain capabilities.
Audio: The string sample I plan to treat:
Next I loaded Live's stock gate plug-in. At the minute it should have no effect, with the threshold jacked all the way to the top you should be able to hear your sound with zero processing.
The Ableton gate is added
Now we need our trigger sound. Just about any percussive groove based pattern will do here. Obviously this will be the basis of your gated pattern, so pick something that you like! You can either use a drum or percussion loop, or you could actually program a MIDI part.
The latter will give you a completely custom gate pattern but in this case I have used a loop to keep things simple.
Audio: The loop I'll use as the trigger:
The gate is opened to reveal the side chain functions.
Now get into the gate plug-in and open up the hidden panel. This is done by hitting the small arrow icon in the top left of the gate's interface. You should now see the controls for the side chain feature.
Activate the side chain and choose the audio channel you just placed your trigger sound on as the source. With these steps completed, your side chain is successfully set up.
Now move the gate's threshold control until it catches the peaks of your trigger audio. You should start to hear your gate react with the sound. At this point you can fine tune the attack and release settings. I find a fast attack, with no hold and a moderate release is a good starting point.
Once you're happy with the effect you can add some final touches, I always find that a subtle delay line works very well. To hear this working clearly you might want to turn off or mute the trigger audio.
The final gate setting in action.
Audio: The gate and trigger in the mix:
Audio: The gated string in isolation with some delay:
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