So, I knew about gates and expanders.
I knew that gates were used to “turn off” a sound source when the volume fell below a certain threshold. I even knew that expanders were very similar, except that they turn down the signal instead of turning it off, supposedly making it sound more natural.
But, well, when people spoke to me about using gates and expanders in mixing, I never took them really seriously. I had tried to use gates on tom tracks before to reduce the bleed from the other drums, but it always sounded weird to me, and didn’t really seem to do a whole lot of good.
In a recent Dueling Mixes song, I was dealing with lots of drum bleed, not only in the tom mics, but in the kick and snare mics too. Since I knew that expanders were supposed to get rid of the bleed but sound more natural than gates, I decided to try using one.
Oh man, it made such a huge difference.
The whole point is to remove the bleed while retaining the important audio content, right? Well, after a bit of tweaking, that’s exactly what the expander did! I was amazed!
Ok, let’s back up for a minute. I mentioned already that I had tried using gating before on drum tracks. I just couldn’t find the settings that “worked”. Either I still had too much bleed after the drum sound trailed off, or I was cutting off too much of the tail of the drum sound, making it sound unnatural.
But when I played around with the expander, something just clicked. I messed with the settings, and pretty quickly found a point where the drum still sounded great, and the bleed was all but gone.
Next time you have lots of bleed in your drum mics, try an expander. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
How about you? Any experience with gates or expanders? Like them? Dislike them? Leave a comment and let me know!