Sidechain Compression, also known as "ducking," is a powerful mixing technique that can be used to create space and separation between different elements in a mix. It involves using a compressor to reduce the level of one element in a mix whenever another element is playing. This can be used to create a sense of depth and movement in a mix, and is particularly useful for creating a pumping effect in electronic music. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of sidechain compression and how to use it effectively when mixing music for beginner music producers.
The basic principle of sidechain compression is to use a compressor to reduce the level of one element in a mix whenever another element is playing. This is typically done by routing the audio signal of the "control" element (such as a kick drum) to the sidechain input of the compressor, and then routing the audio signal of the "target" element (such as a bassline) to the audio input of the compressor. When the control element is playing, the compressor will reduce the level of the target element, creating a sense of space and separation between the two elements.
To set up a sidechain compression, you will need a compressor plugin that has a sidechain input. The most common parameters that you'll find on a sidechain compressor are the threshold, ratio, attack, and release. The threshold is the level at which the compressor begins to take effect. The ratio is the amount of compression applied to the signal once it exceeds the threshold. The attack and release are the time it takes for the compressor to start and stop compressing the signal, respectively.
When using sidechain compression, it's important to start with a low ratio and a high threshold, and gradually increase the ratio and decrease the threshold until you achieve the desired effect. A ratio of 2:1 or 4:1 is a good starting point, and a threshold of -20 dB is a good starting point.
It's also important to be mindful of the attack and release settings. A fast attack time will cause the compressor to start compressing the signal quickly, which can be useful for creating a pumping effect. A slow release time will cause the compressor to stop compressing the signal slowly, which can be useful for maintaining the sustain of the target element.
Another important aspect to consider when using sidechain compression is the relationship between the control and target elements. For example, if you're using a kick drum as the control element, you might want to use a bassline as the target element. This will create a sense of space and separation between the kick drum and the bassline, and will help to prevent them from clashing and competing for space.
It's also worth noting that different types of music will require different sidechain compression settings. For example, in electronic music, sidechain compression is often used to create a pumping effect, while in pop music, sidechain compression is often used to create a sense of space and separation between the vocals and the instruments. Experiment with different settings to find the right balance for each element in your mix.
In conclusion, sidechain compression is a powerful mixing technique that can be used to create space and separation between different elements in a mix. By understanding the basic principle of sidechain compression, the key parameters, and the relationship between the control and target elements, you can create a more dynamic and interesting sound in your mixes. Remember to always use sidechain compression in moderation and to trust your ears. Happy mixing!