Sidechain Compression – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Music Production Glossary

I. What is Sidechain Compression?

Sidechain compression is a technique used in audio production to control the level of one audio signal based on the level of another. It involves using a sidechain input to trigger the compression of a main audio signal. This allows for dynamic control of the volume of one track based on the volume of another, creating a pumping or ducking effect.

II. How Does Sidechain Compression Work?

In sidechain compression, a compressor is inserted on the main audio signal, and a separate audio signal is used as the sidechain input. When the level of the sidechain input exceeds a certain threshold, the compressor reduces the volume of the main audio signal. This creates a dynamic effect where the volume of the main signal is lowered in response to the level of the sidechain input.

III. What Are the Benefits of Using Sidechain Compression?

There are several benefits to using sidechain compression in audio production. One of the main benefits is the ability to create a pumping or ducking effect that can add energy and movement to a mix. Sidechain compression can also help to clean up a mix by reducing the volume of competing elements when one signal is present. Additionally, sidechain compression can be used creatively to create unique effects and textures in a mix.

IV. How to Set Up Sidechain Compression in a DAW?

Setting up sidechain compression in a digital audio workstation (DAW) involves a few simple steps. First, insert a compressor on the main audio signal that you want to control. Next, select the sidechain input for the compressor and choose the audio signal that will trigger the compression. Adjust the threshold, ratio, attack, and release settings on the compressor to achieve the desired effect. Finally, fine-tune the settings and listen to the result in the context of the mix.

V. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Sidechain Compression

When using sidechain compression, there are a few common mistakes to avoid. One common mistake is setting the threshold too high, which can result in the compression being triggered too aggressively. Another mistake is using sidechain compression on every track in a mix, which can lead to a cluttered and unnatural sound. It’s important to use sidechain compression judiciously and only when it serves the musical or sonic goals of the mix.

VI. Examples of Sidechain Compression in Music Production

Sidechain compression is a commonly used technique in music production across various genres. In electronic dance music (EDM), sidechain compression is often used on the kick drum to create a pumping effect that drives the rhythm of the track. In hip-hop and pop music, sidechain compression is used to duck the volume of the instrumental when vocals are present, allowing the vocals to sit more prominently in the mix. Sidechain compression can also be used creatively in experimental and avant-garde music to create unusual textures and dynamics.