What Phil Collins did to 80s drumming is coming back in a big way.
For most of us, the term ‘gated reverb’ is both meaningless and unsexy. However, the sound itself is definitely something you have heard and loved before. And it’s coming back, in a big, 80s revival kind of way.
The term is used to describe an effect placed upon a snare drum which gives it that loud 'crack' sound that is so recognisable in a lot of 80s music. If you feel uplifted after hearing the huge drum sound in Phil Collins’ "In the Air Tonight," get doused in patriotic pride every time you hear the opening of Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the USA" or - my personal favourite - get caught up in the emotion every time you hear MJ’s "Man in the Mirror," then you are being touched by not only some of the greatest power ballads of all time, but the pumping snare sound of gated reverb.
The effect itself was invented and made famous by the father of epic 80s drumming, the aforementioned Phil Collins, and was stumbled upon completely by accident during the recording of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled solo album. Their producer, Hugh Padgham, had left a talkback mic running during the recording of Collins’ drum track. This mic then ran through a heavy compressor and noise gate that incidentally softened the initial sound of the snare strike and amplified the overall noise decay. In layman’s terms, it took the short sharp crack of a snare sound that hits fast and dies quick and made it last longer, which resulted in an extended snare 'crack' that is clean and cuts through an entire track without taking over the whole mix. This effect, which Collins later made his own in "In the Air Tonight," became a cornerstone of music from the decade of huge, emotional pop-power ballads, the introduction of the synthesiser and some of the most outrageous fashion we have seen to date.
The fact that gated reverb is making a comeback is not surprising. After all, we are in the age of nostalgia, reminiscence and vintage revival. If you are a drummer like me, the comeback of this style means a return to hard, clear grooves and some epic 80s drum fills. If that’s the case, then it’s time to get excited for more and more of everything we love about the sounds of the 80s like that iconic, fat snare sound. Keep listening for more gated reverb and look out for more reverb-soaked songs in the future.
Above: a prime example of the gated reverb revival.