What is Sidechaining in Music Production

What is Sidechaining in Music Production?

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In this guide, I will tell you all about sidechaining or sidechain compression.

If you are just beginning your music production journey, it is essential to learn different techniques.

These techniques can help you produce high-quality music.

Even if you are talented in sound design, playing instruments, and choosing the right notes, there are a lot of other techniques you can learn to improve your skills further.

One of which is sidechaining.

What is Sidechaining?

sidechaining in fl studio, ableton, cubase, pro tools, logic pro, and garageband

To put it in simple terms, sidechaining is where one track plays loudly, but when another track begins to play, the loud track will decrease in volume.

If you still don’t get it, imagine the start of a movie, the opening song plays, and as soon as the dialogue comes in, the music gets quiet to let the dialogue stand out.

You can understand the conversation clearly, even with the music playing in the background.

What is Compression?

sidechaining compression in fl studio, ableton, cubase, logic pro, pro tools, garageband

With the use of compression, it allows audio to stay within a specific dynamic range, giving other audio tracks more space in the mix.

It sets the threshold of the volume, for example—notes played on a guitar is too loud or too quiet are adjusted to be on the same level.

Compression can make your tracks more coherent, and it is a tool you’re going to need for sidechaining tracks.

Some DAWs have built-in compressors made explicitly for sidechaining. Here are the DAWs that have this effect:

  • Ableton
  • FL Studio
  • Pro Tools
  • Cubase
  • Logic
  • Cakewalk
  • Reason

You can also download VSTs if your DAW does not have this effect.

Why is Sidechaining Used in Music Production?

Why is Sidechaining Used in Music Production - sidechain compression techniques, tips, and tricks

Sidechaining is a widespread technique in music production to create emphasis on a track.

It is a useful tool for mixing different tracks without clashing, and a compressor VST is all you’re going to need.

Sidechaining is used to enhance a mix, but other producers use it for other effects such as creating danceable rhythms.

You can use this technique to incorporate noise into your tracks.

Sometimes when recording, you will notice a lot of unavoidable background white noise that can ruin a track.

If you add a compressor on the track with sound and adjust the threshold, the continuous noise can become a rhythmic pattern and fit in the mix.

Your creativity is the only limitation with this technique, but that is not the sole use of sidechaining.

You can also use this technique to change the role of an instrument in the mix entirely by adding emphasis.

For example, a backing vocal track can be side-chained to the kick or snare.

When the drums hit, the backing vocal will dip, creating a cool subtle effect.

You can do it for almost any tracks that are untouched in the mix to enhance the audio.

However, using this technique too much can become overkill, so use it wisely.

Common Uses of Sidechaining

Common Uses of Sidechaining - examples of sidechain compression

Let’s take a look at the most common uses of the technique:

Giving Emphasis on Vocal Tracks

Mixing vocals is one of the most challenging things to do when mixing tracks.

In most genres, vocals are always the center of attention.

If you can’t hear the vocals clearly, the song may lose its essence.

Adding gain to the vocals, on the other hand, might ruin the frequencies and end up distorting the vocal track.

Sidechaining is an excellent technique if you are experiencing this issue.

By sidechaining tracks to the lead vocals, the other tracks will quiet down so you can hear the vocals clearly.

It is a great technique, but do not use it for the whole song.

You can choose sections where you want the vocals heard clearly to add emphasis to the words.

EQ is still the best way to let vocals pierce through the mix without compromising the volume of other tracks.

Isolating Certain Frequencies

You can use this technique to apply on certain frequencies within a track and not the whole track.

You can use it to scoop the mids of your funk guitar tracks or use it to allow the upper frequency of synths to cut through the mix.

Creating Rhythms

In electronic genres like EDM, sidechaining is used to create rhythmic patterns.

When a kick hits, another track ducks, ultimately creating a danceable pattern.

This technique works well for this purpose.

Mainly, sidechaining is used for cleaning up a mix, but because of the creativity of some artists, they found different ways to use it to their advantage.

What Genres Often Use Sidechaining?

What Genres Often Use Sidechaining - sidechaining compression in hip hop, trap, edm, pop

Sidechaining will work with any genre to achieve a clean mix.

However, it is widely used in EDM and hip-hop to create polyrhythms and other sounds.

Basically, any genre with a 4/4 time signature can use this technique to create pumping bass, synth, and kick drum patterns.

Conclusion

Sidechain compression and sidechaining are great techniques that you should try to learn right now.

Even if you are a beginner, it is a great way to expand your music production knowledge at an early stage.

There are so many uses of sidechain compression to mention, so use your creativity and use this technique to your advantage!

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