The A-Z Of Music-Making: The G’s & H’s – From Gate To Headroom

Part 1 of our A-Z series closes with G and H. Though they may be few, knowing your gate from your headroom is no less vital than previous entries. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon…

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(Click the titles for the best of each definition)

1. Gate

A noise gate allows signal to pass through when it goes over or under a certain loudness threshold. A gate can be used to get rid of background noise and also to tighten up drums.

2. Harmony

A combination of notes sounded at the same time, creating a pleasing effect. Simplify your harmonies to get clean and impactful sounds. If you can’t help but play big chords, imagine gaffer-taping your fingers together so you can only play one note at a time.

If you’re making tracks for a club-type environment, then all the subtleties of complex production can be lost as you can only hear a handful of elements over the speakers. Simple and impactful production works best in this context. On synths, try using a root note and a minor or major 3rd one octave up, this sounds open and great in the mix.

3. Headroom

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Headroom is the gap in your mix between the loudest peaks of your recorded audio and the point at which distortion starts. On digital gear, the maximum point is 0dB. It’s good practice to have a safety zone between your loudest peaks and the limit of the gear to handle those sounds.

On a multitrack DAW project, individual track levels may look safe, but when they’re summed together, they may be too hot and begin overloading your master channel – causing clipping. Back everything off until you have at least 4dB of headroom. When submitting an unmastered mix to a mastering engineer, mix down with about 4dB of headroom.

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