Further flights of fancy
Staying with my non-MIDI example of a multitrack recording for the moment,
you may find that the bass drum you recorded didn’t really have the depth
of sound and produce the degree of satisfaction you were looking for. You could
by other means replace the bass drum with a triggered sample, but then you would
lose the natural sound and the subtlety of real drumming (and even after all
these years of MIDI, good drummers are still worth their weight in gold). Another
solution is to find a low frequency sine wave from somewhere – from the console’s
oscillator, your Akai S1000 or synthesiser – and patch it to the gate’s
input. Route the real bass drum to the key input while still including it in
the mix and carry out the external triggering procedure as before. Now you will
get the bass drum and you will also have a low frequency pulse to mix in to
provide all the beef you need. You’ll want to experiment with the frequency
of the sine wave (don’t blow your speakers!) and with the attack, hold
and decay of the gate so that the addition of the sine wave isn’t obvious.
Another related use of external triggering via the key input is making particular
parts start and finish at the same time. It’s common with backing vocals,
once you start layering them up, that the starts and ends of the lines can get
a bit messy. Maybe mostly they were OK, but some start a fraction early, some
end a fraction late. To deal with this, mix the whole lot onto a subgroup (or
two for stereo) and send it through the gate. Use the backing vocal with the
best timing as the trigger for the gate and you will find that the whole thing
has tightened up considerably. This technique won’t do anything for discrepancies
in timing during the line, but the start and finish are really the most important
things to get right.
Just to finish off with, and there are a whole host of tricks you can get
up to with the DS 201 if you put your mind to work, let’s take a look at
that good old standby – gated reverb. Of course we always use the gated reverb
preset on our trusty multi-effects units don’t we? But, you know, sometimes
the traditional ways can be the best. The easy way to produce real gated reverb
would be to apply the signal plus reverb to the gate’s input and use internal
triggering, ignoring the key input. With the DS 201 however, this limits the
settings of the hold control you can use since you will sometimes get jitter.
The better way is to feed the dry signal to the key input and the dry signal
plus reverb – or even the reverb only – to the normal input. This way you get
full control over the gating and you can get a very wide range of reverb envelopes,
which you normally don’t get with multi-effects units. Also, surprise surprise,
you can use this technique with real reverb – if your bathroom is big enough.
In conclusion, there is a wonderful world of sounds available to the person
willing to experiment with noise gates. A Drawmer DS 201 is sitting waiting
in a studio near you right now – go and see what you can do with it.