In this day and age, there is a whole array of available guitar effects pedals out there. Some of them are more popular than others, but some are so obscure that you rarely even see them being used. It just so happens that some of these outcasts are the most useful tools a guitar player can have in his pedalboard.
Noise gate pedals definitely belong to this niche group. They are seldom used even though they do a pretty significant job. If you are not familiar what noise gate pedals are, and what they are used for, you are in the right place. Today we are going to intrude you to this awesome tool, and show you some ways you can use it to improve your tone.
The rough answer to this question is that noise gate pedals eliminate that amp or pedalboard hiss. The long answer is a bit more complicated than that. When you add a noise gate pedal to your signal chain, there are several things you need to setup before you can expect the best possible performance out of that pedal. The way noise pedals work is by having a volume related threshold.
Once that limit is reached, the pedal gates the signal, completely. That value is something you need to set on your own since every guitar rig is going to be specific in its own way, and every pedal is kinda different. If you'd like to know what makes a good noise gate pedal, check out our article that deals with that topic in depth. ‘What Makes a Good Noise Gate pedal'
To give you a practical example, let's say you are playing a gig with a single coil guitar of some sort. It can be a Strat, or anything else for that matter. During the breaks between songs, you will probably notice a hiss coming from your amp. It's not the standard feedback that we are talking about here, but an underlying interference that is there and won't go away. A noise gate pedal takes care of that problem by simply shutting off the signal once it drops below a certain decibel level. Any of the popular models will get the job done. You can check them out on our list.
There are many reasons why you should have a noise gate pedal in your signal chain. Sure, it's a tool first and foremost, but a very valuable one. The example we have showed you is just the most basic application of a noise gate pedal. Being a bit creative goes a long when you use one of these stompboxes. If you have an awesome reverb dialed in, but it takes too long to dissipate, adjusting the threshold on the noise gate pedal can take care of those last few pesky iterations of the reverb effect.
Overall, the people who are interested in this type of effect pedal are going to be those who care about their tone in a very specific way. Those playing metal or similar, more aggressive genre of music probably don't see a benefit to having one of these on their pedalboard, however once you step into genres of music where subtle touches are key, it is a whole different story.
Lastly, we need to talk about those complicated pedalboards. Linking a large number of pedals together has its obvious benefits, but it also has some pretty annoying flaws. All those circuits being linked by a huge amount of cables is bound to bring some unwanted noise into your signal. Before it ever reaches the amp, your guitar's tone will probably be altered in a way that creates noise. You might not think much of it when you're playing at home, or in your local studio. However, once you hook your gear up to a professional stage setup, that minute noise gets amplified exponentially. Again, having a decent noise gate pedal alleviates that issue quite efficiently.
At the end of the day, noise gate pedals are one of those tools that you can use to sort out some very annoying issues guitar players face every day, and some that require a bit of creativity. If we had to sum up the role of this pedal in your average pedalboard, we'd say that you won't notice when a noise gate unit is doing its job, but you will definitely notice where one isn't. The best thing about this type of effects pedal is that you can get one at an affordable price. Sure, it won't have all the bells and whistles, but it will still give you that core performance, which is what matters the most anyway.
With that said, you probably don't and won't see many noise gates pedals being used in your environment. They are often seen as going extreme in sense of tone shaping and optimization. However, as soon as you hook one of these bad boys up to your rig, you will wonder how you managed so long without one. We could say that understanding tone and how to make one better is a skill that comes with experience, but that is definitely not a reason for new players to not be aware of an awesome tool like the one we talked about today. If you are on the fence about a noise gate unit, go test one out at your local guitar shop, chances are you will love it.