Gating drums can be a tricky business, depending on how and where they’ve been recorded. Unless you’re in a good space with some decent separation, you can find yourself in a bit of a hole when it comes to gating in terms of dealing with boominess, all kinds of spill, and frequencies which are battling each other relentlessly. In these situations, when you apply gates to a kit with intent, you can run the risk of compromising on your transients and overall sonics.
A recent mix session we worked on included quite a lot of the above – the drum stems we received had been recorded in a pretty confined space over nine tracks: kick in and out; snare top and bottom; a stereo room mic; tom mics; and a pair of overheads. No mic on the hats, as the space was so tight.
The other issue was how dynamic the drummer was: a very talented, jazz/funk player, with lots of tom action and interesting progressions, and occasionally a bit heavy on the right foot, which caused a few headaches when it came to compressing and gating using our regular channel strip.
The kit hadn’t been recorded badly, it was just messy to deal with due to the recording conditions, and how busy the playing was. I guess when you’re asking a drummer to ad lib to jazz, you’re making a rod for your own back!
The Sonnox Drum Gate, I was soon to discover, can alleviate many of these issues, and is a really special plugin for a number of reasons. It’s not justa fantastic - and quite surgical - toolfor the pro user who knows his or her frequency ranges inside out, but it’s also a great tool for the amateur, who might need help tidying up a kit using a piece of software that isn’t daunting with 200 knobs on it.
Let’s start with the GUI: a lovely, intuitive look with three separate elements. We have Detection, Delay, and Leveller, along with three selectable drum icons: kick, snare, tom. Nice and straightforward. The plugin also offers a walkthrough where it points out which bit does what, and so on. I have a quick look, all seems fine, then I dig right in, pulling up the said drum session.