How a recording-studio mishap shaped '80s music

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Published: 1 year ago
Warning: This is an unapologetic ode to gated reverb drums

Here's a Spotify playlist of some of the best gated reverb songs:

Over the past few years a general nostalgia for the 1980s has infiltrated music, film, and television. I deeply love those gated reverb drums of the '80s - you know that punchy percussive sound popularized by Phil Collins and Prince? So for my second episode of Vox Pop’s Earworm I spoke with two Berklee College of Music professors, Susan Rogers and Prince Charles Alexander, to figure out just how that sound came to be, what makes it so damn punchy, and why it’s back. 

Correction: At 2:01, a previous version of the video mistakenly said the noise gate only lets frequencies above a certain threshold pass through. We should’ve said “amplitudes” instead of “frequencies.” The error has been rectified.

At 3:45 we noted that plate reverb boxes were made using aluminum. In fact, they were usually made of steel.

Further reading:

Some songs don't just stick in your head, they change the music world forever. Join Estelle Caswell on a musical journey to discover the stories behind your favorite songs.

Check out the entire Vox Earworm playlist here:

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Here's a Spotify playlist full of gated reverb heavy songs from the 80s and today! Let me know which songs you think I should include and I'll pick a few to add:

1 year ago

Radio GaGa by Queen

3 days ago

Enough with the vocal fry chicky... that glottal croak you're affecting is destroying your vocal cords and for many of us like me it's annoying as hell, like nails on a chalkboard.

You could be doing a vid on the meaning of life and it still would be Nope for me. I lasted about 30 seconds before I bailed.

Get some speech therapy. You're future self will thank you for it

1 week ago

+PingOverwatch This is their playlist in Google Play with some songs from this video that were not on that list:

2 months ago

Long live the 80s.😊

3 months ago

Vox you cultural Marxists finally made a good video! I upvoted for once. Hail Trump!

4 months ago

Love the video, love Earworm, however: Every time you adjust anything on the boom box, its set to Radio.

1 day ago

I hate that sound, It seems so fake

2 days ago

I remember that phil collins song on the radio. it was popular.

3 days ago

Never liked gated drums.

3 days ago

What made the 80's awesome was music in harmony and in touch with the dawn of the real computer age.#Old school for you!

4 days ago

In the 70s/early 80s amplifiers had large springs inside about 2 foot long that made the reverb sound...even if u bumped into it...
H&H was one of them..

4 days ago

I 'came of age' in the 80s, and I HATED that sound!!! 90s pop was the worst crap ever!!! I was so thankful when decent sounding music started being performed by '91 or so.

4 days ago

Kind of interesting how after 30 years of going away, the 80's are slowly coming back. I was born in the 70's, and it always makes me laugh a little knowing that those born from 2000+ prefer the music, and yes in some sense the fashions of what I grew up with.

5 days ago

thriller author of NINTH CAR at books sez: I've always felt gated reverb was an overrated technology, as there's no improving on a well-miked, well-mixed pro drum kit--a la the sound Jimmy Page achieved on the legendary power drumming clinic Bonzo gives on ZEP's "In My Time of Dying."

5 days ago

Echo chambers at Berkley college, who would have guessed?

5 days ago

Should be retitled as How a recording mishap shaped a decade of crap music and made us all jaded.

5 days ago

I remember around the time of Busta Rymes "Gimme some more" when big bangy back beats started to get replaced with weak little rim shots and pings. It was a let-down. Gated reverb is all about creating a sound that slams. Definitely more conducive to head nodding.

5 days ago

And here I thought we owed it all to Joy Division.

5 days ago

Sounds like crap. Bring back the loose head sound. Drums don't need gimmicks.

5 days ago

While I've known about how gated reverbs came about your video really makes the story fun. Pretty much true of everything from Earworm, always great stuff!

5 days ago

i've never ever heard of those fake songs you just quoted at the start of the video...

6 days ago

Nicely explained.

6 days ago

Interesting, I do get an 80s vibe from today's music

6 days ago

Might have been kool in the 80's, but unfortunately a lot of recording engineers STILL think that ya NEED it on recordings, especially in small studios where local-type bands would record.

6 days ago