July 19, 2012

Tips and Tricks: Side Chain Compresssion

For those of you who have already gotten past ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this and are already back to obsessing over what you’re going to play on it; we are returning to the tutorial from earlier this week and exploring the pump-y, jump-y world of side chaining. Side chaining is often a process that inspires fear, head scratching and pretending like you know what whoever brought it up is talking about. However, modern DAWs have stepped up and made the actually simple process even easier. Today we are carrying out the process in Ableton, but the principle is fairly similar no matter where you do it. Route an outside signal into side chain enabled processor A and use that outside source as a means of effecting signals passing through that processor. In both cases today we are using a compressor, though this is not the only side chain-able effect in Ableton’s effects arsenal. The results of side chaining the compressors, whether inserted in a single channel, or over a master bus, are the commonly heard pumping effects so common to EDM and other modern genres. Though it can also be used as a means of simply ducking other sounds to make room for new elements in the mix and create a nearly automated system for keeping mixes dynamic.

The first thing we will do is side chain a compressor over the white noise build up we made the other day to create a pumping effect and add a little more energy to the build. Then we will take a section of the bass line recorded with NI’s Massive synth plugin and use a second side chained compressor, wired off the same kick drum, to create a pumping bass drone. Hopefully this will be a crash course for the uninitiated. If you have questions about how to accomplish the same effects in your DAW of choice, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

Video Transcript:

This is Lonely Paul with today we are returning to the same file that we worked on last time to build our white noise effect, and today we are going to do a Side Chain effect using the kick drum signal today to make the whitenoise effect duck with the kick so that it has more rhythm to it. The way that side chaining works is you send a signal from some other channel or some other sgnal in your mix and you put that through what ever the relevant processor is and you use that to attenuate the levels or any other effect depending on what kind of effect is receiving the side chain signal.

Today we wil do the standard of using a compressor. with the compressor you actually in Ableton just open up this little panel, and you get a side chain panel here and you enable it by simple pressing it. To select where the signals are coming from you just drop down this little menu here and what we want is i’ve got both of the se kicks funneled into a group and i want the full kick sound to attenuate the level so i’m just going to hit group, I’m going to bring the threshold down and what that means is basically it will push below a certain level when it hits that signal and I’m going to have the attack come strainght too so that it moves exactly in time with the kick. The long and short of that is now that we have that kick signal coming you will hear, as this signal builds you will see it ducking with the kick, and that’s how that is done pretty much, now there are a few other uses for side chaining you can actually do it if you had say a straight bass noise which here when the bass comes in it’s just doing this.

But if i wanted to I can just take a clip and i said this last time but I will say it again, you hit Shift+command or Shift+control M to create a MIDI clip and you can go ahead and drop the noise in we know that this is in A minor or I know that this is in A minor whether you do or not, and now I’ve got a straight note just playing.

That is a noise from the massive synth from Native Instruments and it’s all over the place. I’m going to hit shift and the down arrow to take that down an octave, let’s see what about further. That noise falls appart and goes crazy on its own but if i wanted to actually make it pump more with the music i would take the compressor and i still want it to feed off of the kick drum i want the attack good and tight and i’ll bring the ratio up a bit more and maybe even push that up a hair so i’m going to bring up the side chain dialog like we did and i’ still going to call it that same group.

That’s a little crazy but if i back off a bit. I’m not totally in love with that sound but the beauty of Ableton is I can just copy this track and I can just kill off that part for this side and kill off this part for this side, and i do generally like what this is doing so i can hit freeze, oh it won’t let me freeze because i have the compressor side chained into it, so instead maybe I’ll select my favorite section of that note and this is a cool lesson to learn, I can just cut the compressor out and then freeze the sound very quickly, tada it’s doing it right now, now if this were in real time it would take a lot longer but since we’re using a software plugin it’s a lot quicker opparation, then I just flatten it so I have a wave file and when I get the wave file I can pick what i like out if it which i pretty much like it before it falls apart there, so i’m just going to pull that up and let’s go ahead and enlarge it here and we will stop right before the noise just wigs out.

In fact I sort of like that with the little bit I’m going to click into the loop and I’m going to enable it to actually be a loop first I’ll crop the clip so that it’s just this and I’ll set that up as a loop and now I can just drag it out over time, I say that but I didn’t have it official set up as a loop so let’s do that really fast ok now it’s a loop and I can drag it out over time and you’ll see the noise that I just made repeat its way across the way, I’m going to bring it right up to there and we’ll go back and do exactly what we did with the compressor and since I saved it by cutting it I can just go boom and there it is and now we have with this, I don’t like the way that noise is hitting after all so instead I’ll just bring it in like this, so there you go we have a little pumping bass that we did with the side chain, and we have gone ahead and addressed our side chain white noise so when it comes back here it has that some kind of growing intense build up but it’s also pumping with the beat which gives you a little more space and a few more holes, so that’s fun and those are some of the most used effects in electronic music today, and we also did a little bit of loop manipulation in Ableton so we covered a lot in our short little tutorial today and I guess we’ll call it a day.

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