Side Chain Compression Explained
Side chain compression is an advanced mixing technique that is sometimes described as pumping, ducking, or breathing. This technique can be heard in Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” around the 0:31 mark when the horns duck under the mix every time the kick drum hits.
What Does Side chain compression Do?
Side chain compression essentially takes one sound (your control signal) and uses it to affect a different sound. Often you’ll find side chaining used on compressors, gates, limiters, and expanders. In our case we’ll be using a side chain technique with a compressor
How does a side chain compressor work?
Take a look at the session below. The third track is the synth pad after side chain compression has been applied. You’ll notice that the synth gets quiet every time the kick drum hits. Basically you will be using your “control track” to control the volume of a different audio track. In order to get the desired pumping or ducking sound, the side chain will lower the volume of your affected track when your control signal gets loud.
How do I use side chain compression in my own mix?
What you’ll need:
• A compressor plug in
• Two audio tracks
1. A control signal
2. An affected signal
I suggest using something percussive or rhythmic for your control, and something melodic for your affected signal. In my case I used an 808 kick drum as my control signal and a synth pad as my affected signal.
Note: Because you’ve set the output of your control to a bus you won’t hear your control signal anymore. In other words, once my 808 Kick’s output is set to bus 3, I won’t hear the kick drum in the mix anymore.
Step 2: Add a compressor / expander/ gate to your affected signal. In my session I’ve added a compressor to my synth pad.
Now you’ve added a compressor to the track that you want to compress, but you still aren’t using side chain compression. Until you change the key input on your compressor to match the output of your control signal, the compressor will act as it normally does.
Step 3: Set the key chain input on your compressor to the same Bus as the output of the control signal. In this example I’ve set my key chain input on my compressor to match the output of my 808 Kick drum (Bus 3).
Step 4: Once you’ve got your control and compressor key input set to the same bus, the only thing left to do is click the key in the side chain section of your plug in dialogue box.
With a little tweaking of your compressor parameters you should now be able to achieve the same pumping or ducking sound that you hear in many popular songs!
For a video tutorial of how to apply side chain compression check out WinkSound’s instructional video!
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