Side chain is both music production and mixing stages is a useful tool, It can be used for a stylistic purpose such as pumping the bass and add new rhythmic elements to a section or all of the additional instruments. And it can be used more subtlety to help balance out key elements of your track and achieve a more coherent mix overall.
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When using a sidechain to help achieve a better mix, The most common practice is to set a compressor on the audio you want to be affected.
You then send a signal from the trigger audio, something like a kick drum, This then controls the compressor on for example the bass.
This is the basic premise of a sidechain. Its actually a mixing technique that goes way back and is found on desks like the Neve VRL from the 1960’s
Because the kick no triggers the compressor on the bass, This now lowers the level of the bass, Meaning that the kick drum that shared the same frequency space briefly has more room to be heard.
Its a good practice to with off things like, Automatic gain. Features like these are great for regular compression uses. But here we are not trying to reduce dynamics we are basically briefly “ducking” the audio. So no need to add gain back in.
The second main use of side chain to create a pumping effect or stylistic choice. Genre’s like Deep House, Dubstep and Future Bass are built on this very effect.
Here we have some specialised plugins to do the job, Its a little harder and faster plus you don’t want to rely on an audio trigger. This needs to be exact and ruthless. Here we use cableguys Volumeshaper 4 to do the job. Watch the video to see just how it works.