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#63: Sidechaining Explained – The Hidden Feature That’s Become Indispensable In Modern Music Production Tools

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Sidechaining is one of those things that get talked about a lot these days.


Using the sidechain input of a compressor to create pumping or ducking effects has become a standard technique in modern music production. And not only in electronic music!

But there's more to it. The sidechain can be used to solve problems, create more space in the frequency spectrum, trigger gates to open or to gain more control over how a compressor reacts to the incoming signal.

But...should you care as a self-recording musician? Isn't that a mixing-only thing? Why would you want to understand this?

Let's discuss!


This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.


Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

Sidechaining

[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] So think about the problems we're trying to solve, right? Like we're talking about trying to create space for frequencies. You can think about that while you're recording as well. Right. Um, and maybe solve those problems so that we don't even have to do this. If 

Benedikt: [00:00:11] you're wondering why you should even know about all of this.

That's exactly. This is the self recording band podcast. The show where we help you make exciting records on your own, wherever you are, DIY style, let's go.

Hello and welcome to the. Self recording band podcast. I am your host. Benedick tine, and I'm here with my friend and cohost.com AU and flood. How are you Malcolm? Hello. 

Malcom: [00:00:37] I'm great, man. I am sleepy exhausted, but having fun in the middle of making an album right now with the band and, uh, yeah, just in the thick of it right now.

It's great. How are 

Benedikt: [00:00:48] you, buddy? I'm great as well, but funny enough, I'm sleepy as well for completely different reasons, but, um, it's going to be a fun episode if we're both sleeping, but like, no, uh, I'm fine that I, I slept [00:01:00] well and all is good. Like no, no stress or anything, but, um, I switched up my diet quite a bit.

And I. Consume way less carbs at the moment than I used to. And I haven't consumed like refined sugar in eight weeks or so, except for like two, two exceptions where the craving just got too much. But like, other than that, I was consistent and um, they, for a week now I'm eating a lot more fat and I'm a lot less carbs, not only sugar, but carbs in general, pasta and bread and everything.

And I'm feeling well. And I like, my energy levels are more consistent already, but it's overall, I'm a little sleepier than usual. Like I just need to get used to it. I think. Jake, my constantly like hungry. I eat a ton, but I'm constantly a little hungry. I'm constantly a little tired and I just need to get used to it.

But I'm feeling pretty good actually, despite that. So let's see how that 

Malcom: [00:01:54] goes. My diet is similar to yours, usually not. When I'm living with this band, I tell you, we drink a lot of beer here. [00:02:00] Um, uh, do you do the Bulletproof coffees? 

Benedikt: [00:02:04] Do you ever done those? Um, yeah, no, not really because like I'm, I'm on a vegan diet, so, um, for 10 years or so already, so I don't eat butter or anything, but, um, the, the only, like I can call myself vegan because the only non vegan stuff I eat is the X are ducks from a runner decks that I was talking about other pockets.

Uh, I don't want to waste those. They taste just like chicken eggs, and they are wonderful. So I eat those, but. With the exception of those duck eggs are on duck eggs. I don't eat any animal products. Right. But I do something similar. I put like coconut oil or coconut fat in the coffee or tea. Yeah. And, uh, that works.

So it's not really Bulletproof and it's not as much because then it tastes gross, but a little bit, yeah. I act two beverages just to get enough calories and fat during the day. Totally. Um, so yeah. So how, I didn't know that you were doing that as well. So, I mean, [00:03:00] it's a low carb diet then, or. 

Malcom: [00:03:02] Yeah, low. Like I definitely it's just by the being in a relationship with my fiance, that that's my diet kind of thing.

So like generally we, we really well, but left to my own devices. Not the same.

Benedikt: [00:03:19] It's always, I'm just always experimenting. I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with it. I just wanted to try it. I heard so many people talk about it obviously. And like, um, I want to try fast thing. I want to try, like the, I don't. I'm not going to be on a whole Akido diet, I think, but I want to try it out and see what it does.

Malcom: [00:03:36] And it's good to experiment and see 

Benedikt: [00:03:38] what works for sure. Some things just don't work for certain people, but other Stu and I'd just like to experiment. So I'm doing that a lot. And also I added like cold showers and ice baths and stuff like that, and like all sorts of things. And I, I think my body's just confessed, but 

Malcom: [00:03:53] attack my, my latest.

Success has been giant fruit smoothies, [00:04:00] or flop fruits with these vegetable smoothies with some fruit, I guess in the morning, that's like my breakfast a lot of the days, these times, these days. And that gets me through pretty far. Like I can make it through a late lunch, just off that smoothie and some coffee with, with some.

Like MCT oil and stuff like that to get some fat tummy. Yep. 

Benedikt: [00:04:15] Love it. I've been doing that for years, actually. Like the smoothie breakfast is something I've done always with more vegetables than like not, not as many, not as much fruit, more vegetables, more veggies and fat and nuts and all that. But yeah.

Malcom: [00:04:28] Totally. Yeah, that's an amazing, I don't know how that got under my radar. You can just have like all the healthy stuff at once and it tastes good. Yeah, exactly. 

Benedikt: [00:04:37] Yep. Yep. Anyway, I don't want to bore our listeners with like nutrition stories too late. Yeah, exactly. But I just, I just thought it's funny because we both like a little, a little tired, but let's see how it goes.

So, um, on today's topic, like. We are taught. We have been talking about Gates and compression and the last two episodes, which are sort of basic 

Malcom: [00:04:59] interrupt you. [00:05:00] Sorry. I, I, I have to one more story because last week I talked about how excited I was to record a drum kit, sound symbols and, and not, and just overdub symbols and do shells and stuff like that.

And I. Describe this whole plan using electric symbol pads to do so that told them,

okay, the symbol pads we had anyways. And I'm wondering if this is where I went wrong. If any of our listeners have done this and it worked for you, I'm really curious. I want to pick your brain, but the simple, simple pads we had were way too loud. To to work. Um, the, the noises coming off them told the totally it wasn't gonna fly.

Um, so we ended up just doing a normal turn out. Awesome. That's fine. You gotta adapt. But I wanted to mention it because I talked about how we were doing this thing. 

Benedikt: [00:05:48] Like you couldn't even like dampen them or put foam on them or whatever, to not make things 

Malcom: [00:05:52] you could have, but it was like this combination of like, is it worth disrupting his performance with like this thing that doesn't bounce, like it should.

[00:06:00] Um, and you know, we could've done the air drumming thing, but that really affects the groove, I think. Um, so we just decided like, this is just this revert, like, don't get, uh, we didn't want to just be attached to it because that was our plan. Like, it was like, okay, like if we need to pivot this pivot, um, Yeah.

And then the other thing is that when we did our casts, it was like, it sounds good with the symbols on this. Like it's still a rock and roll drum sound. It's going to be fine. 

Benedikt: [00:06:25] Let's do it. Okay. Yeah. And that that's, I mean, even, even better in a way if it works. So, yeah, I totally forgot to ask about that, but like, there was one other thing, actually, I wanted to ask you about the session because you were telling me before we started recording today.

That you built a cloud and I'm seeing behind you all the acoustic material lying around. So did you build the room just for that session or that they build it 

Malcom: [00:06:49] anyways for them? Yeah. I mean, it's, uh, it's in their jam space, but, uh, the span is just awesome in that I like first, like, just invest in.

Treating it it's going to [00:07:00] end your jam space going to be better after, um, they listened to our episode with the ESCO and, uh, and all that. And yeah, they, they built a crap load of panels. Um, we got installation above the drummer. We got a hole in the wall for running in a snake. You know, they just like, like, well, this will be useful for us in the future.

No problem. Let's do it. Um, and that was essential for sure. It was great. Being able to like record some drums and be like, we need to do more. I can go in there and just get more. Um, yeah. And then same. I've got you. Can't see it Benny, but there's a, I've got like a horseshoe around me. 

Benedikt: [00:07:32] That's great. Awesome.

Yeah, it sounds awesome. I was about to say like, if Malcolm sounds different today, it's because he's in a different room. But, um, I don't know if people would have noticed because it sounds good. 

Malcom: [00:07:42] So, yeah. I'm going to be curious to hear, if you can tell the difference. It's definitely not as dead as my room, but it's surprisingly in here.

Um, 

Benedikt: [00:07:51] how does the room sound though for drums then? Like, do you have any usable 

Malcom: [00:07:55] room sound or. Yes. I, I was able to get my hands on a really [00:08:00] cool, uh, red Ford, you know, those AEA ribbon, mics, the big pill ones. They sound awesome pretty well anytime. Um, and they're so dark that again, not having the symbols on, it was like, this is still gonna work.

I threw it behind a couch, so it was even darker. Um, and, uh, yeah, it's pretty darn cool, man. Um, the room, we only treated half of the room, like the drum side of the room. And, uh, so we got this really cool, like mid rangy attack, kind of bloom on the snare and shit. Uh, yeah, I'm really stoked on it. Great. John tech, come in, Jacob.

Love your buddy. Uh, and yeah, it definitely worked. I'm stoked. It'll be fun to mix. Awesome. Super 

Benedikt: [00:08:37] cool. Now. It's like seven o'clock in the morning for you right now, right? Or eight, almost seven 45 now. 

Malcom: [00:08:43] So is the band 

Benedikt: [00:08:44] even up yet? Like, Oh, hell no. When are you going to start 

Malcom: [00:08:48] the session today? Um, I mean, I, yeah, I've get out like between now and like, normally I'm in the studio by eight, these days when I'm up here.

Cause we've been staying up so late. Um, and then I'll [00:09:00] start editing or whatever. And then pretty much when they show up, they show up between nine and 10. Somebody appears usually. Okay, cool. 

Benedikt: [00:09:08] Yeah, I just, I was just wondering, because like, if you're running late and you recording this episode so early, like.

Malcom: [00:09:14] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, most people listening to this as probably picked up that I'm a morning person by now. Um, and it's hilarious, but the span, we were up to like two 30 the other night, I was like, what is happening to me? 

Benedikt: [00:09:27] Yep. Yep. Yeah. Do you still like, that's the last question then we get into the episode.

I promise. Do you still wake up the same time though? Even if you go to bed very late, because I find that this happens to me more and more. Like sometimes if I stay up really late, for some reason I still get up at like five 30 or six without a clock, just like without the alarm clock, just because my buddies, my body's used to it.

Malcom: [00:09:49] Yeah. I do wake up. But in this case, when we're staying up that late, I would make myself go back to sleep. 

Benedikt: [00:09:53] Yeah, of course. That's easy. . Yeah. Okay. That's interesting. Yeah. I just tend to get [00:10:00] like alert at the same time every day, trained into us 

Malcom: [00:10:03] by now. Yeah. Cool. After a year of doing this podcast. 

Benedikt: [00:10:09] Cool. So, um, Now onto today's episode.

What we're going to talk about is kind of an extension on what would have what we were talking about. Like the last two episodes, we talked about compression and Gates, like basic concepts episodes. Um, and there's one thing we briefly. Discussed and mentioned like in these episodes. And that thing is called site chaining.

We're using the site chain input or the say chain in general of devices like compressors or Gates. And we wanted to do an episode on just that. And don't worry if you've never heard about side chaining or like what that is. That's not something you need to do. During recording necessarily, or like at all, it's more of a mixing thing, but we thought it might be interesting to just do a, give you the complete picture of like compression and Gates and what you can do with [00:11:00] them.

And also to just get a better understanding of like some advanced mixing techniques that are out there, what we do to your tracks and what you can also experiment with yourself when you're mixing yourself or doing rough mixes or whatever. It's just a very cool concept that. Um, yeah, you can do a lot with that.

You can fix a lot of problems with it. You can use it creatively and it's sometimes the solution to things that you just can't fix otherwise. So we thought it's up. A great thing to know about and a fun thing to talk about. So we're going to do that today. Site chaining is the topic. And before we start explaining what it is, why you need it and how to do it, I want to remind you once again, that you can or should absolutely join our Facebook community.

It's the self recording band.com/community, or just search for the self recording band on Facebook. And we always have like podcasts discussion threads in there. You can. Like ask questions about this. If this is too advanced for where you're at right now, or if you want to know more about it, just post in the community, we're trying to help [00:12:00] other people would definitely chime in and help.

And, uh, it's in general, like a cool place to hang out and, uh, yeah. Get your questions answered. Meet peers, just go to the self recording band.com/community. And we're excited to see you in there. Absolutely. So, yeah, side chaining. How do we start this to make this like most, uh, to make this as easy as possible, because it's an advanced thing, but it's, once you get it, it's actually not as complicated, right?

Malcom: [00:12:28] Yeah. Uh, again, I do think it's good that we're talking about it. Cause people probably see like the option in some plugins or whatever in their dog. Um, and it does get talked a lot about, especially in like the EDM pop production world side chain runs rampant and actually it's part of recording in that case.

It's part of making the sounds. Um, so if you're in that realm, you're curious, or you already know what we're talking about, but in the rock realms that any, and I live in it, uh, it also exists in the mixing realm, but essentially how I [00:13:00] think of it is there let's look at, uh, Our gate or, yeah, we can use a previous example.

So if you haven't listened to the compression or gating episode, the last two episodes we've done, I think they're entirely required before starting this one. I would totally do them in that order. Um, but if we think about the gate where we talked about. A threshold being reached and then the gate releases.

Um, so if you had the snare track going here, it comes to my drum samples again, pop, pop, you can set it. So the threshold only hears those loud snare spikes. Right. Um, and at that point, the gate knows to release and let sound through. But what if you didn't want it to be signaled or like controlled by the snare signal?

That's where side tuning comes in is that we can actually decide that we want the signal that the. Threshold of the gate to techs to be listening to an entirely different track. Um, so that could be the vocal or a guitar. So you could [00:14:00] have it so that like, uh, I might only opens up when a guitarist hits a really loud note.

I mean, I'd never done something like that. It kinda seems something that you wouldn't do, but you could, um, essentially I chain is. Two signal paths. There's the path that it listens to. And then there's the path that gets affected. Um, By the threshold of what is being listened to. Did I explain that at, did that make 

Benedikt: [00:14:28] any sense?

I think, I think it does. I mean, it's always hard to tell because we know about this stuff so I can follow your explanation. Of course. I don't know how it's, what it's like for people who've never heard of it, but yeah, that totally makes sense. So, Any processor or plugin that has a side chain input has like those two paths that might come, just describe the signal path and the side chain and the side chain is what the plugin listens and react to.

So you feed it with that, sit with whatever it is that you sent there. So you feed it with the signal through the side chain, the plugin [00:15:00] listens to that and reacts to that, but it applies the processing to the actual signal that's going through the plugin. So. If you put a plugin on a track, it's going to affect that track, but it's not going to react to whatever's on that track.

It's going to react to something else that you sent to the plugin. That that's the, the what basically what it does, what it is. And now I think you've already touched on it. Like there's multiple reasons why you would want to do that. The first is to do like. Uh, corrective stuff to address problems. So you could do that to control problematic frequencies.

You could do that to make a compressor pump or to avoid pumping unwanted pumping, pumping, and that we're going to get into how you actually do this. You can use it to duck a signal. So whenever an what Malcolm just described whenever. Um, a signal hits the plug-in through the side chain. It's gonna duck down the signal that's on the actual tracks.

So it makes [00:16:00] space for that. You can do that. You can, um, yeah, you can do correct. All sorts of things. You can DSS signal, you can do all sorts of things and when it comes to correction, but you can also use it. Creatively. Um, you can use the pumping creatively. That's what EDM producers do all the time. When you have a bass note and it pumps with the kick.

That's exactly what happens. Like you sent the kick drum to the side chain, the compressor, they react to it and lowers the volume on the bass every time the kick drum hits. So that makes the bass pump, but that's a common example. Um, so you can do. Creative things, or you can correct things or you can use it as a utility thing, utility tool, like for, we've been talking about it in the middy episode and also in the gating episode a bit where you could send key spikes, little impulses to the side chain of a gate, and the gate will listen to that, react to it and open every time this little impulse happens.

And every time that pins, it will let the actual [00:17:00] signal through. So you can use those keys bikes to, to get a perfect timing on a noise gate to make it open just perfectly and which will work way better than just having it react to the actual drum track, for example. So it's just, uh, a nice workflow and utility tool in a way also.

So there's different applications of it, but the basic idea is, as we said, just. You have one single path and you have the side chain, which is what the, the plugin or the Harvard device listens to. Now you need to know when you don't use the side chain, a compressor, for example, listens to what's on the track that the compressors like is processing and it, it applies it to that same track, like the side chain at the signal path, all the same.

So there's always like the. This, the signal that the plugin listens quote unquote listens to, but when you use the side chain input, it's separate, that's the difference. And also hardware does that as well. So it's not only [00:18:00] plugins that are hardware devices with a side chain input. So you just, if you plug something in there and send the signal there, the compressor stops listening to the actual signal and starts listening to whatever's in the side chain input.

But applies to the processing still to the actual 

Malcom: [00:18:16] signal. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I think we should keep giving examples of, of doing this because I think it'll help listeners visualize and understand, um, what we're talking about better and why as well. Right. Um, my most common is probably ducking the low end of a bass guitar when the kick hits.

So let's consider that I throw on a multi-band compressor on a pace track. Um, and, uh, multi-band compressor, which we haven't really talked about in depth, but just lets you compress different frequency, ranges, um, independently kind of thing. So you don't have to compress the whole base track. You can just compress the ups if you wanted.

And in that case, it's what I'm doing. I, so I set it so that it'll just dock the subs on that bass guitar. [00:19:00] And then instead of making it listen to the bass guitar though, I side chain in the kick track, for example, and now when that kick hits. It hits the threshold of this multi-band compressor. And on those instances with the kick being hit, it ducks the low end of that bass guitar.

And for me, it's because I want the low end of the kick to take priority in a situation like that. Right. Um, and all of these examples are not. Every single time things we always do by the way, these are specifically done because of what we're hearing. So don't just start doing all this. Um, yeah, but that, that's a really easy and practical thing to think about.

It's like, okay, the speakers are going to want to reproduce one thing, you know, so let's choose if we want the kick or the bass, and it's pulling the bass guitar out of the way and letting that kick through essentially. So it hears a kick. It knows the duck, the low end on the base and wallah it's done that kind 

Benedikt: [00:19:54] of thing.

Yep. You also, if you do it like in a subtle way so that it doesn't pump audibly, you [00:20:00] get a more consistent, low end with that. So it sounds like it would move more, but it actually doesn't because like, if you think about it, you have a bass guitar that has some, I don't know, let's say the cake has the fundamental ed 60 Hertz, for example, and you have a bass guitar there that's always going to have, or most of the times it's going to have some something happening at 60 Hertz.

Now every time the kid comes in, it adds to that already existing low-end. So you get an additional boost at 60 every time they've kicked comes in. Now, if you duck the base in that specific frequency area, then the overall level of 60 Hertz is more consistent because the kid comes in, but the base goes away at the same time and then comes back in.

So you get an overall more consistent, low end. Um, and that's, that's oftentimes pleasing and you get a really solid foundation that way. And. Um, so that, that's a really cool trick that a lot of people use. I like to do that as well. It's a little different to what the D the EDM thing that we just described earlier, because.

What do you usually do? There is you duck the whole base and not just like the low end. [00:21:00] Whoa, 

Malcom: [00:21:01] Whoa, Whoa 

Benedikt: [00:21:02] kind of thing. Here we go. Another sample. 

Malcom: [00:21:06] But like that, that's interesting because, um, it's important to realize that the side chain doesn't have to be audible. Right. So you can mute the kick that controlling that, you know, swelling based thing.

And it just, we are left with this base pad that just swells whenever a kick would have hit. Right. Um, the, the side chain is doesn't have to be in the mix. It could just be there too. Control. Totally, 

Benedikt: [00:21:30] totally. Yes. Another common example would be, or I don't know if it's common, like something I like to do is X.

For example, if I have a ton of hi-hats in or head tracks that I get, that people sent me and I want to get a better balance between the highest and the crashes, for example, which is a common problem. We've talked about like the whole balance within the kid a lot of times. And. It's just so important to get that right.

But it still happens that people play the Hyatt really loud and the crash is not loud enough [00:22:00] or anything like that. And if that happens and I have a dedicated hi-hat mic, for example, also I'll oftentimes mute the hat mic. I pull the fader down all the ways that the actual Hyatt mic is not audible because I got plenty of it in the overheads, but I'll send.

The high head to the side chain of a multi-bank compressor on the overheads, which will duck the very high frequencies where the, where the Hyatt or the frequency range, where the higher disarmament. So every time the high head is playing it, like, um, gets rid of some of the top end of the actual overhead signal, which reduces the level of the perceived level of the Hyatt's in the overhead mix.

Sometimes it doesn't work and it just distorts the high end, but sometimes it works and it's just a little trick to get less siblings and a better balance. Um, in the overhead tracks, I do that oftentimes, so yeah, 

Malcom: [00:22:47] that's a nice corrective corrective way to go. Yeah. Um, something I've had a little bit of luck with, uh, there's like whole plugins coming out based on side chaining because it's become pretty popular and mixing over the last couple of years.

Uh, there's one called [00:23:00] track spacer and it listens suicide chain. And then it pretty much analyzes the IQ of the signal coming in and applies the opposite to whatever you throw it on. So again, using the base and kick drum, it hears a kick drum and takes those same frequencies out of the bass guitar. So it's kind of like automatic mixing in a way, um, really easy to overdo, but like something I've been doing with that on like a really vocal focus, part of a song is I train in the vocal in.

Onto my guitars and it just like carves out a little bit of the mid range. I want the vocals to occupy, um, in real time. And it's like, uh, it's kind of like just creating a little space, really subtle, you know? Um, but it's, instead of boosting the vocals louder, they just get to stay where they are and they create space themselves kind of thing.

So you can have like little auto mixing. Starting points with 

Benedikt: [00:23:56] this stuff. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. This, this whole category of plugins I'm [00:24:00] using this technique. Totally. And there's also, um, a thing that I, I forgot about, but it's like something you've all heard or hear on a daily basis basically, which is ducking.

Um, that's used in like broadcast, for example, or like with voiceover stuff, or if you have, for example, music playing on the radio and then, um, voiceover. Comes in like, uh, yeah, some, some, I don't know what the English term for that is. Like the people talking on the radio. I don't know. Um, voiceovers, but yeah.

W yeah, so that you could have a, you could do it, man. Julie, of course you could just turn the music down and turn the, the voice up, but you could also have a compressor on the music and whenever someone starts talking, it will duck down the, the, the music and the voice will become audible. And when you stop talking, the music will come back up.

So that's a very common thing. Not only on the radio, it's like. I don't know. You could do that. If, if you're, I don't know if you're a DJ and you want to use a microphone and want to say something, you can have that like auto [00:25:00] ducking function, which is side chain compression. So just same principle applies.

You have one signal when it comes in, the other signal will go away. And when you. When the signal stops, the other signal will come, will come back up. So voiceover ducting is pretty, pretty common. And a lot of you will have already heard that 

Malcom: [00:25:16] probably. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Great example. So let's see, we've talked about what it is.

We've talked about why we use it and kind of by talking about how, why, or how we use it. We kind of describe the technical side of it too, but I guess we should just give you a little bit of a visualization of what that looks like. If you pull up. The compressor. You're probably gonna see a button that says side chain or in pro tools.

There's like a little key icon sometimes. Um, and pretty much somewhere there's going to be a place where you can select what the input of the side chain is. Um, so you just got to find that not all plugins have it that's worth noting, not all compressors are capable of it, um, or just plugins in [00:26:00] general.

So be aware of that. Uh, and then, so you just choose what you want the input to be. And then you might have to go still and find another button to tell it, to listen to it. I'm just setting it like I'm thinking with like the fat filter stuff, you can set the CA the side chain in, but it doesn't start listening to it until you actually go and tell it to listen to it on like the band or whatever inside of the plugin.

So that's where it user manuals come in. Exactly. Um, yeah, I've read the user manual. 

Benedikt: [00:26:30] So you start by inserting the plugin on the signal that you want to process. Then as Malcolm described, turn on the side chain or activate the side chain on the plugin, then see if you need to turn on anything else in the plugins itself, and then send a signal to that side chain via your usual sense in the dial.

Usually the same way you would send a signal to a river, for example. Just select the, the side chain inputs sent the signal there, and then you dial in the plugin and you need to know that from them, [00:27:00] from that point on the plugin listens to the side chain and not the process signal. As we, as we set now, everything that we've been mentioning right now was about like side chain inputs and sending signals.

There, there is actually another way to use the settler manipulate the side chain, which we haven't talked about, but just very common. And that is some plugins, especially compressors have. Side chain, IQ, or filters. What that is, is like without having, you can manipulate the side chain without having to send an, uh, an outside signal to it.

So what that does is if you have a compressor, for example, on a S on a drum, let's, let's, let's take, uh, a drum group, the whole drums. You have a compressor on there and you dial it in the way you think it sounds cool. And, but then it starts pumping every time the kid comes in. So you want the, the attack on the snare drum.

You like little, you love the glue. You love the V the overall vibe. But it's just pumping a little bit too much when the kick drum comes in. Now, what you can do is if that compressor has a side chain filter, you can filter out the low end from the side [00:28:00] chain so that the compressor doesn't react to the kick drum as much, it will still apply the processing to the whole signal and the low end will still come through.

So you're not filtering the actual low end on the track. You're filtering the low end in the side chain in the second path. So the compressor is listening to a signal that has less kick drum. Um, and we'll kind of ignore the kick drum in a way, and then apply a more consistent and less pumping sound and compression to the drums.

Another application of this is where the destresser has flipped. For example, built in a couple of other compressors as well. You could also boost a certain frequency range to have the compressor react more to it, to focus on it. So for example, if you boost the Hyatt, the upper mid range or the top end and a compressor side chain, Then the compressor will listen to a signal that has more top Intuit and we'll react to harsh stuff more that way you can compress.

And at the same time, sort of DS a [00:29:00] little bit. So when I pushed that button under, under, under stressor, for example, um, it's wonderful on vocals almost every time, because every time a harsh. Civil and sound happens. Or if the person like sings really loud and like, hi, allow high note that gets a little too much.

The dresser will react to that more and control it a little bit more. And you don't have to DS as much. It's just more controlled. So you can either make the compressor, ignore a certain frequency or focus on it, depending on how you manipulate the side chain. And some compressors have just these basic functions.

Others have like whole  sections where you can really dial in and make the compressor focus on a very small. Frequency range, for example. 

Malcom: [00:29:42] Yeah. Yeah. That can be totally handy. Especially with like gating and stuff like 

Benedikt: [00:29:46] that. Well, like what, what's an, what's an application where you would use the, the side chain filters on a gate.

How would you do that? 

Malcom: [00:29:52] Okay. So say, uh, here's a situation I've done it on, you have a kick drum that doesn't have a hole on it. And for whatever reason, you can't put one in, so you have to [00:30:00] make it just from the outside and you can end up with more bleed in your kick signal that way. Um, and maybe. The the snare or a symbol is pretty loud in it.

So you throw a gate on there, um, and you. Are having the gate open when allowed symbolist head say, now you can go in and EEQ the side chain filter to only listen to the low frequencies. Um, so thinking of, again, the fab filter stuff, there's like just a lower high frequency cutoff, and you can just roll off all the top end and you can actually, Oh, here's a button you can click.

Um, in some plugins there's a listen function. So you can click listen and it'll play what the side chain information is. So you can monitor what it's hearing, which can be really useful. So in this case you would click it and then you could just roll off top end and tell only you're only hearing kick drum, essentially, just that boom.

And then that's what it's going to listen to. And that's how it will open. Um, instead of having all that information, you're just kind of focusing what 

Benedikt: [00:30:55] it listens to. Cool. Yep. Super neat. Little trick with a kick-out Mike, absolutely. [00:31:00] To sort of ignore the bleed and just make the cake, the cake, uh, or the gate on the cake.

Listen to the actual cake. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:31:07] one more that, uh, I would do, especially with hybrid compressors is on vocals. I'll often take out low end on what the side chain is listening to. So still listening to the vocal, but it has taken out some sub frequencies. So it doesn't react to a big bull and just like gain reduced, like to a crazy degree, you know, you can get a smoother compression out of, um, filtering what it's listening to.

So that's a, that's a pretty good. Practical example, and that's actually practical to you recording because obviously this is a podcast about recording more so than, than about mixing. Um, I still think this is useful to know for communication and also think about the problems we're trying to solve.

Right? If you have, uh, like we're talking about trying to create space for frequencies, you can think about that while you're recording as well. Right. Um, and maybe solve those problems so that we don't even have to do this. 

Benedikt: [00:31:57] Absolutely. I think that's one of the most [00:32:00] valuable takeaways you can get from this app from this episode, if you're wondering why you should even know about all of this, that's exactly.

Why, what would you just set Malcolm? Um, even if you don't ever apply any of this yourself, you just learned a ton of like scenarios again that are potentially problematic that you could solve. So we don't need to use all this trickery. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:32:23] Do you. What do you think about bass being played a little behind the kick drum?

Um, 

Benedikt: [00:32:28] depends. Yeah. Depends on the Shondra, but in general, um, yeah, it can be cool sometimes the other way around as well, but like, yeah. I mean, 

Malcom: [00:32:38] so I've got a theory, which I wouldn't even say theory. I think it's just fact. But essentially side chaining, a kick drum and bass guitar. Wasn't a thing when, uh, or at least I'm pretty sure nobody was doing that on Bob Marley, you know?

Um, and it felt good when the bass was behind them. Right. But I think it was just essentially manual side chain essentially in [00:33:00] that the kick drum gets through. And then that base hits, like, they were pretty much just nailing that effect. By playing it that way, um, in that it was creating space for that low end to behave so well.

Um, nowadays I think that sink in them sounds better and using those tools actually like a better, like more full sound. Um, again, it's gonna depend on the genre, like you said, but that that's 

Benedikt: [00:33:23] yeah. In general, in general. I agree. I agree. And also you can be a little late on the base without it sounding really late because the, the kick will.

Take care of the low end, like it's sustains when it hits. And then, um, it will mask whatever that happens on the base, that the attack on the base. So if you're a little late, it won't be audible, but it will create a little more space. So I totally agree that this. This can work very well. And I, but I also think in the, but Molly example, it's partly that, but it's partly, also just the feel.

So I don't know if I would agree with that. It's better to do it with a tool [00:34:00] these days. I think there is something like, I dunno, there's just something about the way they play in the groove and everything. And of course your stuff. Yeah. Yeah. But I agree. I agree that this could be part of the reason why they did it.

Maybe they didn't even know, but it just felt 

Malcom: [00:34:12] better. And that's the reason it was just, yeah, they, these guys sound good when they play together. Yeah. Um, the agreement, another thing to consider with that, I mean, this isn't, this is silly to be talking about, but essentially is that nowadays in rock, especially our basic guitars have way more attack.

So it doesn't sound great when they are like, it creates a flam kind of thing. When you can hear the tactical kick drum and the attack of the bass, obviously out of sync like that, Um, where those Bob Marley ones are just fat, low end. 

Benedikt: [00:34:43] Oh yeah. Yeah. That's absolutely true. Yep. So I think that's plenty, um, to, for you to, to think about and process, um, for now it's a pretty advanced topic, but I hope you, you got an idea of like how it works and why we wanted to talk about [00:35:00] it.

What I would love to hear from you is. If any of you can come up or have already come up with like creative uses of this, or like things you do actually during the, the actual production, because we described it as a mixing tool, more than anything, but maybe you've come up with ways to do this while you're producing stuff.

Maybe you've done something. Um, yeah. Uncommon, maybe on purpose, maybe through accident. I don't know, but I'd love to hear, um, your experience with side chaining. If you have any like, Um, that's always, always interesting to me. And maybe some people are doing this all the time and we just don't even know.

So let us know in the Facebook community, it's the self recording band.com/community. And, uh, if you have cool story to share or a cool trick, you like to do, whether it's in mixing or producing, just let us know. Um, if you're doing electronic music, I'm sure there are a lot of like more possibilities to, to use that during production.

Um, in that case, let us know as well. We always love to hear about new ideas and new [00:36:00] approaches and unique perspectives. And sometimes through not really understanding a concept and just. Trial and error sometimes. Cool. Things happen. So maybe you didn't know what it actually does, but you've used it and it was kind of cool.

So yeah, just let 

Malcom: [00:36:14] us know. Absolutely. Yeah. I hope you enjoyed that. Yes, 

Benedikt: [00:36:17] me too then. Um, yeah. Thank you for listening. See you next week, then take care.


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