Is this really the most overused music production technique of 2023?

There's a handful of classic production tricks that pop up everywhere in dance music: the sidechained kick and bassline, the filter-sweep riser, and the arpeggiated lead synth line are all instantly recognisable techniques that appear in countless tracks.

YouTuber Zen World has singled out another musical trope that he believes is the most overused production technique in dance music this year: the trance gate. This is the effect you'll find applied to synths and vocals in genres such as trance, house, techno, and EDM, wherein a noise gate is rapidly opened and closed over a sustained sound to produce a stuttered, rhythmic pattern.

The trance gate technique takes its name from where it originated, in trance music. While the effect was popularised by artists like Tiësto in the '90s and '00s, Zen World argues that it's recently made a resurgence and can now be heard everywhere in contemporary dance, pointing to tracks from Mau P, Meduza and Fred again.. that feature gated synths and vocals. 

While we can think of several contemporary artists that have also made use of the trance gate effect (Bicep, Ross From Friends and Moderat spring to mind) we're not sure that we'd be so quick to label the effect as "overused". It's a worthy technique that can sound great if deployed in the right context, bringing a special kind of rhythmic, percussive flair to loops and samples; we're not tired of it just yet.

Zen World goes on to outline several routes that producers can take to achieve this sound, including a nifty method that uses the settings for Ableton's Warp modes to slice up a sample and reduce the decay of each slice.

The downside of this method is that it makes it difficult to apply additional effects (such as reverb or delay) in the signal path before the gate, a technique Zen World later demonstrates when showing viewers how to use Ableton's stock panning plugin Autopan to create a gated sound. By adding a reverb with a long tail to the signal path before the gate is applied, the overall effect begins to sound even more impactful. 

Zen World also runs us through several third-party plugins that can be used to implement the trance gate, including Xfer's LFOtool and Kilohearts' aptly-named Trance Gate. He also shows viewers how to program gates directly into their synth patches within Xfer's Serum synth plugin

There's a ton of plugins out there that can be used to create this sound. In addition to the aforementioned Trance Gate, we'd recommend three free plugins that make creating rhythmic effects like this quick and easy: Alex Hilton's A1TriggerGate and Audiomodern's Gatelab are both worth downloading, while HY-Plugins HY-ESG mixes things up by using Euclidean sequencing to control the gate effect.

If you're in need of some free music samples to run into your trance gate, why not download our trance essentials sample pack?

Subscribe to Zen World's YouTube channel or visit his website.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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