Things You Should Consider When Using Side-chain Automation
In this recording tutorial we are going to discuss what side chaining is, how to properly set up, and what options to consider before using this powerful tool.
What is side chaining?
Side chaining is described as using a specific input signal or track to drive (key) another track. The concept of side chaining may sound very complicated at first but when you start to understand how to properly set one up within your D.A.W. you will realize how powerful this simple tool is.
When to use
Side chaining is used in countless mixing situations. Here are just a few examples as to when you can use side chaining.
Use the kick to duck the levels of the bass every time the kick hits.
Duck the guitars every time the vocals come in.
Duck reverbs or delays on the vocals every time the vocals come in for added intelligibility.
Tempo sync any pad or synthesizer part with the kick or bass.
Duck the rhythm guitar when the lead guitar comes in.
Raise or lower the level of the snare in the overheads, etc.
As you can see there are countless occasions in which you can use this technique to be an effective automation tool.
To set up a side chain in your D.A.W. the first step is to create a buss/group to send the signal that you want to use as the key input to. Once the key signal is bussed to an auxiliary track, you will want to load a plug in on the channel you want to reduce. Make sure this plug-in allows the use of a "keyed" input or side chain input. Once you have the plug-in loaded onto the channel you want to affect, select your key input so that your auxiliary track is driving the side chain. Once you have your side chain signal loaded, set up the plug-in so that the attack and release times are near their quickest settings. If you are using a compressor or gate as your plug-in please watch out for pumping. The more drastic your gain reduction is set on your affected the more severe this effect is going to be. If you simply want to duck the levels of another track a -1 to -3dB will be sufficient.
For example if I want to use the side chain signal to duck the bass every time the kick hits, I would create a buss for the kick, send that signal to an auxiliary track, then load a compressor or gate onto the bass. From there I would use the side chain signal to drive the input of the compressor. I would then set a relatively quick attack and release times. I would then set the gain reduction so that every time the kick hit there would be a -3dB of gain reduction. If I wanted a more severe effect I would use more gain reduction.
This powerful mixing tool can save you loads of time when it comes to riding fades but there are a few things to consider before using.
Compressor versus Gate side chain: When using a compressor to duck the levels of any keyed signal, realize that a compressors automation is going to be a lot more up and down than if you were to use a Noise Gate. A Gate simply reads the signal below the threshold. It turns on and starts reducing the signal when it dips below the threshold and turns off when the signal exceeds the set threshold. By understanding how a noise gate works you can clearly realize that you get a more consistent ducking level reduction by using a gate. However, as mixing is effectively an art form. It is essentially up to the mixer to decide as to what method they would like to use.