Create a Classic Gated Synth Using SideChain (video)

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s will recognize a few of the sounds that defined the sound of euro-pop and new wave. One of them is a 16th note Gated Synth sound. Watch this video and find out how to create it in Pro Tools.

There’s a few different ways to create this type of synth part. But in my opinion, it always sounds best when created using a Gate plug-in with a 16th note trigger going into the SideChain input. The Gate envelope controls (attack, release, hold) allow you to perfectly control the ‘shape’ of the sound.

In this example, I’ll be using Pro Tools 7.4 on a Mac. But this technique will work in Pro Tools 8, Pro Tools 9. And any software or hardware configuration where you have a Gate with a Key/SC Input for that matter.

Create a Classic Gated Synth Using SideChain 6:30

The tutorial shows you a technique. You don’t have to use it on a synth (like I do in the video). You can apply this to electric guitar with amazing results. But as always – experiment.

If you combine this technique with a bit of automation (see this video), you’ve got a whole new set of production tools that will easily add excitement and energy to your productions. Enjoy!


  1. Paolo Luviè says:

    Fantastic !!! This reminds me , more or less, the old and huge Obx-a Oberheim , and above all the typical 80′ s fat sound.
    Many thanks and best regards


  2. Alexsander says:

    Very good! Congratulations, great tutorial! Thank you!

  3. Paul ~ Yeah – the OBX is one of my favorites, too! Glad you like the video. You’re very welcome.
    Alexsander ~ Thank you! You’re welcome.

  4. Corvuslab says:

    I just started learning pro tools and this is one great trick. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Marcus Allison says:

    Do you happen to know how to mix a 808 drum kick? You know, kinda like down south bass music?

  6. Marcus Allison says:

    I would like to say thanks for all the info you have given everyone. Keep it coming Chris!

  7. Marcus Allison says:

    What I am asking goes with mixing synth and bass drums like the 808 kicks that are used in more Southern tracks. I want to how I give it a full feel as if it’s mastered? What plug-ins can I use?

    • Marcus ~ I understand. Truth is – the proper answer to that involves way more than I can really explain in a comment. But here’s some thoughts…

      Low end is generally the most difficult part of any mix to control. But it’s particularly an art form in R&B, HipHop, Rap, Reggae, where so much of the critical content is in the low end. There are all kinds of tricks, techniques and “secrets” for making it happen.

      I would say to get creative with how you’re approaching the kick drum and remember the basics. Rarely will a single sample yield the result you’re looking for. A sample triggering a Sine Wave through a Gate, for example, is a tried and true method for enhancing the tone and decay of a kick.

      Some guys use the MoogerFooger LP plugin for Kick Enhancement. Any plugin that enables you to add nice sounding LF Harmonics is worth checking out. (Some distortion boxes and compressors do this nicely).

      Also – getting back to basics, one thing that is a challenge for all of us is to avoid cluttering up the low end and not leaving enough space in the spectrum for the Kick to come through. For example, if your Kick is fundamentally happening at 62Hz, then cut some of the Bass at 62Hz. This alone should be standard practice and can make a big difference, moving you away from muddy, undefined low end toward punchy, tight, chest pounding low end.