Gating: The best friend your heavy mix never knew it had?

People have often asked me, "BYTE, how do you get such aggressive mixes on just a crappy laptop?", to which I respond,  "What the heck are you talking about? These mixes are awful! They're wimpy as hell!" I know my sense of humour is dry and unfunny, but I do, however, have a few tips on getting a nice clean mix that can actually make track sound solid and more direct; more aggressive.  These tips can also be used for music which doesn't have to sound aggressive, so keep reading even if you are not interested in making dance music with Renoise.  OK, so here goes...
  • Avoid redundant compression

    When using breakbeats or pre-recorded loops, stay away from compressors. Breaks are already compressed, and using compressors on them will only take away from their dynamic range.
  • Gate breakbeats

    Instead, use gates to make them more punchy. Renoise's gate is a brick wall gate, but there are gate VSTs out there that have a gradual threshold. Multiband gates are particularly nice, as you can to things like gate the bass to get rid of muddiness, then amplify/eq the bass to get the punch back, whilst not gating the mids and trebles.
  • Try gating other instruments

    Use gates on other channels too! Gating synth hits and such will get rid of the reverb tail that tends to raise the noise floor. This may sound nuts, but it makes a huge difference when you're trying to make your mix sound big and angry. If you still want that air in between the hits when the beat's not playing, then you can turn on some reverb, or kill the gate for a pattern or two.
  • Avoid too much reverb

    Avoid putting reverb on everything. Reverb is the number 2 villain in regards to muddying up a mix. Beware too, because many synths have built in reverb and echo. It may sound cool by itself, but when placed in a heavy mix, it can be disastrous. Gates can be used to clear this up.
  • Take advantage of the power of silence

    Use negative space to your advantage. Keep in mind that for a song to sound heavy, sometimes you need to consider what's not playing. The human brain gets used to stimulation very quickly, so sometimes you need to take a break before you attack it again. This is common knowledge among professional torturers, and now you know it too =D
  • Apply Volume Envelopes to shorten tails

    The Instrument Editor's Volume Envelope in Renoise is great, because it allows you to create a short hit region on drums and such, fading out the reverb trails quickly. This is especially important on those amazingly long 808 kicks that never cease to plague the low end of my mixes.
  • Gate at the front of the DSP Chain

    Gates should come before every other DSP in the chain, ESPECIALLY DISTORTION. Gating after distortion is pointless, as the sound data the gate uses to trigger(ie: volume threshold) is lost with distortion. If a break you're using is already distorted to all hell, don't be afraid to chop it and envelope the volume in the instrument editor.
Well, that's about it for now. I often spout off about how gates kick ass, and how compression tends to just muddy up mixes more than everything, so I figured I'd write an article on it. From now on, I'll just link to this when people ask about how to clean up their mix *Heh* By the Smasher of Bytes


Yeah that is good. I think this is like the 'cold fire' technique foresters use to clean the floor of the forest. If you remove the junk, everything is cleaner and basically better. Another way to do this without using a gate plugin, is to use the Instrument Envelope tool in Renoise to shape the end of the sound. I use this extensively on drum sounds to cut away the rumble and dirt. There is a danger that you can over-do this and make things sound too mechanical, but it is a very important technique.
Good advice, but I prefer to use (downwards) expansion instead of gating. This way, sounds don't "suddenly" appear out of nowhere but will have a more realistic attack.
once again audio production degree pointless jk any degree is worth the time tx smasher
Well if mechanical is what you're after, which many of us are, then these techniques are gold ;)
actually ...... almost every live drum kit recorded for the past twenty years has had this technique ....
the thing about not using compression on breaks is fucking retarded. heaps of hyper idm/breakcore uses heavy as fuck compression; your advice does not make any sense [Moderator: Keep it friendly!]
i only use gates as a time saver or an excuse for laziness. your final mix should always be composed of waveforms and you should manually strip silence where you want it, either by editing the waveform with cuts and fades, or using gain/volume automation. If you do this, you can always shape the attacks and releases just the way you want them. you should do this with sends as well. you shouldn't be sending in a final mix. the bus/aux outputs should be bounced out into their own waveforms. if you're sitting there thinking, well then i can't adjust individual send levels! well, dude, then you aren't done mixing, and you aren't ready to do your final mix. my point is to save this aspect of dynamic control for the final phase of the mixing process.
Not everyone produces "hyper idm/breakcore heavy as fuck compression" style tunes d00d! Thanks for your opinion "Richard" however, you sound really uneducated in mastering and general socialization. Your comment seems rather like a comunication blocker then an opinion, like your trying to prove something and noone else matters but what you think :s BYTE that's AWESOME advice man.. Keep it up =D
I NEED mix tricks, and so this was very helpful.