How to create a Phil Collins-style '80s gated reverb drum sound

As well as holding a reservation at the very top table of rock drummers, Genesis sticks/frontman and solo artist Phil Collins is also partly responsible - along with Peter Gabriel and producer/engineer Hugh Padgham - for arguably the most over-the-top drum sound every committed to tape.

First deployed on Gabriel’s track Intruder in 1980, gated reverb was invented by accident when Padgham accidentally switched on the talkback mic on the console, then stuck a gate over the resulting sound “for a laugh”. The rest, as they say, is history, and here we'll show you how to get the same effect in software.

For more vintage effects processing action, get your hands on the November 2018 edition of Computer Music.

Step 1: Here, we’ve loaded a virtual drum kit into Logic and recorded a simple kick and snare pattern à la Intruder.

Step 2: For this tutorial, we’re going to use PSP Audioware’s excellent emulation of the legendary EMT 244 and 245 Digital Reverberator units. For our purposes, we’ll need to call it up on an auxiliary send bus, so we click on the track’s Send slot and use the dropdown menu to assign it to Bus 1.

Step 3: Now go to the Audio FX slot for Bus 1, click on it, and load PSP 2442. In Logic, this is just to the right of where we assigned our send, but other DAWs will offer different methods for creating busses and loading effects into them.

Step 4: Turn the drum track’s Send knob up to around -6 and crank the 2442’s T(s) knob up to the full 5 seconds. That’s a really long reverb tail - it’s practically unusable. Return to the Aux bus, and add a Gate plugin just after the PSP 2445 plugin – almost any gate will do.

Step 5: Activate the gate’s Sidechain dropdown and choose Bus 1 as the input. Set the gate’s Threshold to about -32dB, Hold to roughly 150ms and Release to around 148ms. As you can hear, this is a near ringer for the effect used all over those infamous Phil Collins tracks!