If you took a peak into any iconic 80s album, the same distinct sound can be heard time after time, a sharp drum sound that punches through the music, that comes and leaves without an echo. This sound, called gated reverb, was discovered back in the late 70s when Peter Gabriel was recording his third album, Peter Gabriel.
When his producer was using a microphone to talk to the bandmates, it later picked up a short reverb of the drums that were played earlier that day. The microphone had a heavy compressor, which took out any of the loud sounds, and emphasized the smaller ones. It also had a noise gate, only allowing amplitudes over a certain threshold pass though. The product? A crunched wave form. The introductory song to Peter’s album being made that day was solely dedicated to the sound that they created.
if you’re not too familiar with the above song, I’m sure you are with this one made a year later by Phil Collins.
Throughout the decade, gated reverb was everywhere. Everyone from Prince, MJ, Cyndi Lauper, and David Bowie were using it. It went from being a super distinct sound to almost just fading within the other sounds playing with it
When hair bands died, gated reverb went down with them. It was so overplayed by the time the 90s rolled around, everyone was sick of it and bands started using the echo-y drums that were used in the 70s. In songs from bands such as Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nine Inch Nails, not one trace of that beloved 80s reverb can be found.
But just like how fashion trends come and go, the same goes for music trends, and gated reverb is back. It can be heard countless times in Lorde’s new album, Melodrama, and Carly Rae Jepson’s 2015 album, Emotion.
↓ Check out this playlist for more songs with gated reverb!↓
A couple of the songs have linear reverb, which is essentially a whipping drum sound, that cannot be made naturally, only electronically. Kudos if you can point out which ones have it.