Master the art of sidechaining for punchier, more dynamic music mixes


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Sidechaining is a popular technique in music production that involves using a compressor to control the level of one sound based on the level of another sound. Sidechain compression is a powerful technique that can add depth, clarity, and energy to your mix. Often used in electronic dance music (EDM) and other bass-heavy genres, sidechain compression involves using a compressor to control the level of one sound based on the level of another.

This can be useful for creating a pumping or ducking effect in your mix. For example, the classic "duck effect" in dance music is often achieved using sidechaining. In this technique, the bassline is used to trigger a compressor on the kick drum, causing the kick drum to duck or lower in level whenever the bassline plays. This creates a tight, punchy groove that keeps the bass and kick in perfect sync. Other notable examples of sidechaining can be found in tracks like Deadmau5's "Strobe" and Daft Punk's "One More Time".

Sidechaining In Your DAW

Most DAWs come with a compressor plugin that includes a sidechaining option, so you don't need any special software to set up sidechaining in your mix. Simply insert the compressor on the sound that you want to control and select the trigger source in the plugin settings.

To set up a sidechain compressor in your DAW, you will need to choose a sound that you want to control (called the "sidechain source"), and a sound that you want to affect (called the "sidechain target"). In most cases, the sidechain source will be a bass or kick drum, and the sidechain target will be a synth or other instrument that you want to duck or pump in response to the sidechain source.

Once you have selected your sidechain source and target, you will need to set up the compressor to respond to the sidechain source. In most DAWs, this involves routing the sidechain source to the sidechain input on the compressor, and then setting the compressor to react to the sidechain input.

Once the compressor is set up, you can adjust the threshold, ratio, attack, and release to achieve the desired effect. For a ducking effect, set a high ratio and low threshold, and for a pumping effect, set a low ratio and high threshold. Experiment with the settings to find the right balance for your mix. Finally, adjust the release time to smooth out the effect and prevent any unwanted artifacts.

Sidechaining in Ableton

In Ableton, sidechaining is achieved using the "Compressor" audio effect. First, add the Compressor to the track that you want to control the volume of, and set the "Sidechain" dropdown to the track that will be used to trigger the effect. Adjust the "Threshold" and "Ratio" parameters to control the amount of compression applied to the signal.

Sidechaining in Logic

In Logic, sidechaining is achieved using the "Platinumverb" and "Sidechain Compressor" audio effects. First, add the Platinumverb to the track that will be used to trigger the effect, and set the "Sidechain" option to "On". Then, add the Sidechain Compressor to the track that you want to control the volume of, and select the track with the Platinumverb as the "Key input". Adjust the "Threshold" and "Ratio" parameters to control the amount of compression applied to the signal.

Sidechaining in FL Studio

In FL Studio, sidechaining is achieved using the "Fruity Limiter" audio effect. First, add the Fruity Limiter to the track that you want to control the volume of, and enable the "Sidechain" option. Then, select the track that will be used to trigger the effect as the "Sidechain input". Adjust the "Threshold" and "Ratio" parameters to control the amount of compression applied to the signal.

Produce a Track with Sidechaining

Put your new skills to the test and produce a track using this technique. If you need some guidance or inspiration, consider signing up for a live interactive music production class with top producers on TIL. Our experienced instructors will walk you through the process of creating a track from start to finish, and provide valuable feedback and advice along the way. Plus, with our interactive platform, you can ask questions and get personalized help in real time for a fraction of the cost of private lessons. Sign up for a class today and take your music production skills to the next level.

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