Side Chaining tutorial by Rich Lewis from Track Spark
in     by Track Spark 12-01-2016

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This Side Chaining (pre/post fader) tutorial by Rich Lewis was made for our December goody bag.

Rich Lewis has 13 Years of professional experience in broadcast composition, production and sound design with his company He composed the current official podium music for Formula 1 and has been chosen to write FIFA's official music for the 2014 World Cup. He's written channel idents for ESPN, MTV and FOX among others. He's also composed extensively for BBC, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Disney, and Warner Brothers among others and for brands such as Sony, Orange, Honda, Virgin Media, Nissan and Levi's.

Tutorial transcribed

Hi guys, it’s me again. Rich from Track Spark here with another tutorial. It will be a lot shorter today. Today is about sidechaining and using the pre-fader and post-fader settings which is a really useful thing to know. If you don’t know what sidechaining is, it’s where one signal, typically the bass is compressed by a completely different signal, typically the kick drum. It's usually the bass and the kick because they’re fighting for space in a mix, in the same low frequency area. It doesn’t have to be the bass and the kick, it can be anything you want it to be which is what I'm going to show you in a second. So firstly I’ll take you through the basics of sidechaining and then I'll show you the pre-fader, post-fader. Sidechaining is massive in dance music at the moment but it's also used in in any genre, so I don't think this is just for dance music.

Ok, so I've got my bass and my UK sub here and I’ve got them routed through this bass group here. The track is garage track I did a while back. It’s not completely mixed, it’s only a rough mix so please don't judge me too harshly on it. I’ll play it to you really quickly. That’s the track and I’m going to sidechain the bass and the kick, this analogue kick here. I’m going to bring up the channel setting for the bass group. I’ve inserted a compressor into the bass group and this little button here, and it’ll be the the same with any DAW, activates the sidechain. If I play this, the kick drum will now compress the bass so that it ducks out and creates more space for the kick so it can punch through in the mix. Like I say, this is used in pretty much everything and anything you want it to. So here we go. It’s fairly subtle at the moment but you can hear that they're both so fighting against each other whereas when it’s on, the bass is ducking out. If I pull the setting right down here and make them extreme, you can really hear the bass is ducking down and sucking back up after the kick drums finished playing. You can play with the release time and make it take longer to come back up which is a huge thing in EDM at the moment where the bass is ducking out and it come back up on the offbeat. So the longer the release then the longer it will take to come back up. You can get some really cool rhythms while playing with that but I want to move on from this. That is basically sidechaining, it doesn't have to be bass, it could be a snare and a lead synth. It could be anything you want to be, play around.

It should have been set to post fader and the issue with being set to post fader is as you mix a tune you’re going to tweak levels and you can tweak EQ etc. and that is going to affect the amount of signal that’s going from the kick drum to the sidechain compressor on your bass. So if I think my kick’s to loud and turn it down, that is now effecting the signal going to the compressor. So in order fro me to not have to worry about that, then I want to click the pre fader button. I think in logic it's in the channel settings, in your sends. Now the amount of signal is completely independent from my actual fader. We can hear that the bass is being compressed and coming back up again but we can’t hear the kick so it makes it much easier to deal with in mixing terms as well. I haven’t got to play around changing my threshold and changing my ratio and all the rest of it.

So that is one really useful tip for normal sidechaining, Make sure you put it in pre-fader because it saves a lot of hassle. You can also use it with any other instrument as I said and you can create some really cool rhythms. Let’s say you had a synth part and you wanted make it really funky then try sidechaining it to a snare on pre-fader and pull it out, you may get something really cool happening. Or even a loop. What I’ve done is I’ve got this tambourine part playing 16ths, it’s really simple. I wanted it to be a little bit more interesting so I’ve created another channel and as we can see here if we zoom in, this is an analogue kick sound doing that push rhythm. I’ve got my sidechain set up on my tambourine and there’s my compressor with my sidechain. My settings are a little funny but you can play with that to make it sound how you want it to. I sent my weird analogue kick to my tambourine and set it to pre-fader so now I can completely pull this out. I don’t need that and I don’t even want it. I just wanted to create a rhythm for this tambourine part. Now you can see that I’ve got a really high threshold. The ratio’s a bit weird so I’m getting this funny shape. I’ve done that so I can get this nice cool effect. Because it’s set to pre-fader, i don’t actually have to have the sound in there. I can pull it out and it doesn’t matter. I hope that was useful. Email us and let us know if there’s anything that you want me to do in the next few tutorials. Take it easy.