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Did you ever wish you could control the dynamics of one element using another? Well, maybe you never thought about it, but I promise you, you will after watching this video. A more advanced dynamics processing technique called side-chaining allows you to control the dynamics of one signal using the dynamics of another. In fact, you have already used this technique, if you have ever used a De-Esser. So, a perfect example that you probably heard before is radio ducking. The dialog when the DJ comes in automatically ducks out the music.
So, it triggers gain reduction on a compressor. So, let me show you how to set on up in Pro Tools. So, let's say what I want to do is I want to trigger a Gate to open and close every time the kick drum hits. And maybe using this technique, I'll take a signal generator. So, I'm just going to create an aux track and I want a chain of signal generator of the kick drum. (Beep, beep, beeping sliding down a scale.) Now, my goal is I want the Gate to open and close or the signal generator to turn on and off with the kick drum.
Now if I just insert a Gate here (Beep, beep, series of long beeps.) The problem is I need to tell the Gate to open and close, using information from the kick drum, not from the signal generator itself. Otherwise the signal generator is just going to stay static. So, either it's open triggering the threshold or it's not. So, this is where side-chains come in. So, what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to use the key input here and I'm going to take this signal off of that Kick Bus.
Now, if I didn't have a sub-mix of the kick already, what I would do is I would just take a send off that kick track to a free bus. I'll use a Mono bus, all side-chains are going to be mono in Pro Tools, and then I would set that to unity gain set it at Pre-fader, so the volume didn't affect it here and then attach my key input to that same bus. So, I'm going out Bus 29, a Pre-fader send ,and I'm bringing into the key input of this Expander here.
Now in some plug-ins that's all you have to do, but in the DigiRack, I need to activate the side- chain by clicking on the little key. This tells this processor to listen to this side-chain and use that for its threshold interaction and then apply whatever it's doing, whether it's gain reduction or gaining in this case, to the signal in line. In this case, the signal generator. So, let's listen for a bit and I'll tune this up. (Music playing) So, this is the trick engineers used to use before drum sample replacement to get a little extra oomph out of a kick or maybe they would side-chain some white noise to a snare.
What I'm doing here is I'm just attaching a 56 Hz tone and it's opening and closing the Gate using the side-chain. So, without the Gate, it's just a low frequency tone. And so, the side-chain Gate is opening and closing in time with the kick drum. You can also use this if let's say you attach this to a sync sound and it might pause in time or it loops, so that it opens and closes in time with another loop. This can be really cool if you sort of attach one thing to another.
Now a more practical use, because generally I'll probably just use sound replacement, if I want a better kick drum sound. In this specific session, I'm actually using a side-chain as part of the mix. Instead of a Gate I'm side-chaining a compressor on the bass guitar track. If I look here at the compressor on the bass sub, it's actually keyed off the kick bus. And the goal here is that because the kick drum and the bass guitar sort of share the same space in the mix, sometimes they can kind of fight each other.
And so what I want to do is use this compressor to just duck out the bass just for about 30 milliseconds, maybe even shorter, and so I'm going to let the kick drum sort of speak with its transient so that the bass transient or the pick of the bass doesn't fight with the kick drum. And this can really help, especially if you have a bass that's playing on top of the beat. Now, if you have a bass that's playing ahead of a beat, that's something that I'll have to go in and edit in the Edit window. Actually move the bass notes, which I'll do sometimes.
But this just helps the bass sit in the pocket a little bit better. It's a trick that engineers have been using for a really long time to kind of get the bass and kick to sit together, way before Pro Tools even. And we just listen here. I'll bring up my other two bass tracks. (Music playing) So, it's really subtle, but it kind of tightens up that low end a bit.
It allows that kick drum to spike through and the bass kind of fills in right afterwards. Remember we are not taking away a whole bass note. We are only taking away a fraction of a second from it. It's kind of a cool little trick. Again, side-chains are really neat and you can do a lot of different things with them. Some are more utility, kind of getting the bass and kick to sit a little bit better and some are more creative, like I want to take and side-chain a loop to a synthesizer that it kind of pulses in time with that.
Sometimes I'll use it in post production to duck out the music, if I don't have the time to automate something and I can use it maybe on Reverb return or a Delay return, so it's more nonlinear on the tail. So, whether creative or utility, side-chains are a must know mixing technique and it might seem like a hard concept to grasp at first. It will quickly become one of the most useful tricks in your signal routing bag.
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