Join Dave Darlington for an in-depth discussion in this video Basics of side chaining, part of Waves Plug-ins: Mixing Techniques.
Sidechain compression is become quite a popular term these days due to the massive use of the sound in EDM. Formally the province of only the most skillful engineers, sidechaining with the Waves plug-ins is easy for anyone to understand and use with great results. At its core, sidechaining simple means controlling the reaction of a compressor, or any processor with the signal other than the audio that's being processed. The most popular one today is controlling synths and other backing tracks with a kick drum. Every time the kick drum hits, the compressors engage, lowering the level of the synths, creating a rhythmic pumping sound in time to the drums.
Here's how to quickly set up sidechaining using our old friend R-compressor. Put the R-compressor across a bus that contains all your synths. Route your kick drum to a different bus. Some producers like to make a separate track of a ghost kick that only go to the bus, and is unheard in the mix. Make this bus be the input to your sidechain. Set the bus to Prefader so that if the track is muted, or the volume changes, the trigger will continue to be constant. Set a healthy ratio and just bring down the threshold until you see and hear the compressor pumping the keyboards away in time to the kick.
Voila, instant EDM. You can tweak the Attack and Decay to really control the rhythm, or slide your trigger back and forth until it feels good. Don't limit your sidechaining to keyboards and kick drums. Other uses of sidechaining, for example, are sidechaining the backing track of music to the lead vocals, so that when the band and vocal both reach a crescendo, the vocal's still soaring above the backing. Let me change sessions, so I can show you that. Here's our backing track with a compressor. And here's our bus from the vocal, in Pre-fader, triggering the compressor.
Watch what happens when it hits this big crescendo here and she's still audible above everything. You still get a sense of build, but she was easily audible over the top. In this case, I'm using a very low ratio, so we don't really hear the compressor pumping as we did in the EDM example. Another popular application is the ducked delay, where delay is only apparent when the vocal pauses. I have an example of that here. This is accomplished by sidechain compressing the delay return with the vocal signal. As long as there's a vocal signal, the delays are reduced.
When the vocal lets go, the delays are less compressed and more apparent in the music. You can hear that when she is singing, those big repeats are a little bit lower. And when she takes a breath, we hear the backing repeat. So sidechaining is a great tool for creating the contemporary EDM sound, but it can also be used to great effect for ducking sounds to make more room in your mix.
- Tone shaping with the Renaissance EQ
- Notch filtering with the Q-Series EQs
- Controlling levels with the Renaissance Compressor
- Side chaining
- Utilizing algorithmic reverb in R-Verb and TrueVerb
- Modulating delay with MondoMod
- Adding crunch with amp simulation
- Sweetening the mix