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Chapter 14: The Power Of Side-chains

AUDIO FILES (To download all WAV examples at once: 44MB ZIP)

  • Side-chain Triggered Ducking: A common application of ducking can be heard in this example (Ex14.01:WAV/MP3 bp), where the low frequencies of the kick-drum and bass-guitar parts are competing for space in the mix. Ducking the bass part makes the low end better controlled (Ex14.02:WAV/MP3 bp). Ducking can also be used wherever there is an important part which wants to cut through other less important mix elements. In this Mix Rescue, for example, I ducked a number of background parts in response to the kick drum, so that it would remain clear and audible throughout (without ducking Ex14.03:WAV/MP3 bp; with ducking Ex14.04:WAV/MP3 bp). Kick-triggerered ducking is also commonly used in dance styles to create mix-pumping effects, as in the following simple example: in this file the kick-drum and synth levels don't interact (Ex14.05:WAV/MP3 bp), while here the kick-drum is feeding a ducker's side-chain to create level-pumping on the synths (Ex14.06:WAV/MP3 bp).

  • Side-chain Triggered Gating: The thing I use side-chain triggered gating for most often is to rebalance drum recordings. For example, here's an example of a drum overheads track where the cymbals are overpowering the snare-drum sound (Ex14.16:WAV/MP3 bp)-- not an uncommon occurrence in home-studio recordings, where people have a habit of putting the overhead mics right on top of the cymbals! Using the snare close mic to key a gate on the overheads, you can significantly increase the snare level in the overheads balance (Ex14.17:WAV/MP3 bp), which usually improves the overall snare tone. Another useful application of side-chain triggered gating is in matching the rhythmic feel of one track more closedly to that of another. Here, for example, is a rather bland sampled shaker part (Ex14.07:WAV/MP3 bp) which I added during this Mix Rescue project. In order to retain some of the rhythmic feel of the original shaker part (Ex14.08:WAV/MP3 bp), I triggered a gate on the sample channels from the original shaker part, to give this much more musical feel (Ex14.09:WAV/MP3 bp). Here's a similar example, where pedestrian rhythm guitar parts (Ex14.10:WAV/MP3 bp) are given a little more rhythmic lilt by virtue of limited-range gating triggered from the kick drum (Ex14.11:WAV/MP3 bp).

  • Some Advanced Examples: The following two Mix Rescue case studies explain the rationale behind some particularly involved side-chain-triggered processing. In this article I used the lead vocal level to trigger a compressor on the hi-hat parts in a move to combat subjective sibilance levels (before processing Ex14.12:WAV/MP3 bp; after processing Ex14.13:WAV/MP3 bp). In this article I demonstrated how an equalised and polarity-inverted parallel gate channel could be used to clear space for the lead vocal within a crowded arrangement (before processing Ex14.14:WAV/MP3 bp; after processing Ex14.15:WAV/MP3 bp). Note that the cancellation effect in this example is under the control of mixer automation, so it's very mild to start with and only gets stronger as the backing track's texture thickens.


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  • Side-chain Triggering In Practice: I use side-chain triggering all the time in Mix Rescue, but here are a few of the remixes where side-chain dynamics had a larger role to play: article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4.

  • More Information On Gating: There are more specific triggered gating tricks detailed here.

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