How a recording-studio mishap shaped '80s music


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Published: 8 months ago
Warning: This is an unapologetic ode to gated reverb drums

Here's a Spotify playlist of some of the best gated reverb songs: http://spoti.fi/2vH7ZZL

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: http://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/classic-drum-sounds-in-the-air-tonight-590970

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comment  Comments

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: https://open.spotify.com/user/estellecaswell/playlist/5zh0IzdP530nxTKRmarv5q

8 months ago

Wow, never realized this is the part I liked from Midnight City

5 days ago

Rose Coloured Boy - Paramore

1 week ago

why does it have todays songs in it they are awful i was looking foward to this play,ist and its awful

4 weeks ago

Favourite song with gated reverb drums has to this Corrosion by The Sisters Of Mercy

4 weeks ago

Nobsav Phil Spector too!!

1 month ago

Dat crunch

15 hours ago

There are few things I hate more from the 80ies than this horrible snare drum sound.

20 hours ago

Cool educational episode. Props to you for putting this together.

Generation copy does another bad job of copying what came before. BTW, this is the number one snare sound to AVOID in credible rock music. Drums are RARELY DRY in rock music, particularly the snare, they just don't use that cheesy gated reverb sound. Phil Collins also was one of the worse things to be generated by the 80s, up there with Madumna.

23 hours ago

Thumbs up for the SPX90 manual excerpt.

1 day ago

I want an army of didgeridoos!

1 day ago

Kate Bush is a genius, take your shoes off and throw them in the lake.

2 days ago

who is this gentleman hosting?

2 days ago

its back??? it never left

3 days ago

That boombox...

3 days ago

Pryda snare

3 days ago

Oh Lars

3 days ago

I found the gated snare effect fatigued my hearing very rapidly. It so dominated some songs that it became all you could hear, to the detriment of everything else. It suits some music eg hard core thrash, industrial etc but it was used on just about anything, inc ballads.

3 days ago

Are you serious! Just use a trash can lid for your snare and boom. 80s drums.

3 days ago

Funny how they referenced Pink Floyd for the dry drum sounds in the 70s, yet it was all gated reverb for their Momentary Lapse of Reason album in 1987.

3 days ago

Bless you bless you bless you for this!!! Long live the AWESOME 80'S!

3 days ago

Actually, signal gates were developed at Bell Labs and Haskins Labs initially to alter telephone distortion in the 40s and 50s, and perfected later by NASA. (I still have a "The Plate" 8 X 4 reverb box in the attic of my studio, as well as a tile chamber reverberant space which still sounds awesome to these old analog ears. And by the way, Sam Phillips used a gate on his toms and snares when using slap back echo to allow the echo effect to not get stomped on by loose drum heads.

3 days ago

Amazing video you guys put in work!

3 days ago

We are in a period of historism in pop music, where old recording techniques are recreated.

3 days ago

I prefer room mics, really. Then my drums sound like drums.

3 days ago

Hardest thing to figure out in this video?
Where did you find that late 80's early 90's Boom Box?

4 days ago

1:02 OH GOD YES I never expected to find a mention of Eachoes on here! Love that song to death!

4 days ago

Now I know why I disliked 80s OVERPRODUCTION so much.

4 days ago

Thousand thanks.

5 days ago

Ugh! The demise of gated reverb didn't come soon enough. They might as well have sampled wet farts and called it revolutionary.

5 days ago

wow

5 days ago

Interesting stuff. I always thought the sound of the 80's was more synthesizers and things like that. But yeah, now that you've mentioned this I'm thinking back to all those songs and it's just there.

5 days ago

You're awesome. I learned a lot here, thank you.

6 days ago

I remember when they invented that sound. I always hated it.

6 days ago

Gated reverb drums are why I don't like a lot of '80s music. I absolutely adore The Cure but I think a lot of their songs would have sounded better with more natural sounding drums.

6 days ago
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