5 Ways to Creatively Implement Sidechaining into Your Next Song
Sidechaining has been very specific to electronic music genres and it often is only seen in one way, between the kick and the main synth. This is pretty average in production and it definitely has some purposes in the mixing stage by clearing up some space. However, producers and mixers alike can miss out on some opportunities to really diversify their music.
Sidechaining is a method that came about when electronic music first became a key force in the music industry and this “pumping sound” has helped to increase the energy of some of our favorite songs. The problem is, that it isn’t used to it’s full extent. The reality is that sidechain compression has some great uses that can differentiate one producer or mix engineer from the the next. I’m here to wrap up some creative and practical uses of sidechaining in EDM, along with other genres.
If you don’t know what sidechaining is, here’s the quick and dirty definition. Sidechaining is a method used to ink two separate audio tracks together and telling one compressor to turn down when the other one plays.
1. Bass and Kick
A very popular example is “Gangnam Style.” The bass line is sidechained to the kick and whenever the kick hits, the bass line decreases in volume. Here is a very useful tutorial on this kind of sidechaining.
All of us have heard this example of a kick drums sidechained to synth in music that we hear everyday.
2. Vocals and Melody
Often when producing one can find themselves putting melodic content such as motifs or counter-melodies on top of the main melodic content or vocal. Here is a useful youtube tutorial that features sidechaining between a lead synth and vocals.
One could simply draw volume automation curves for this effect but, it wouldn’t compress the signal the same. If you would like to emphasize the counter melody while the vocals aren’t playing, slight sidechaining could be utilized to fill in the space for a moment to feature that one synth.
3. Hectic Drum Loops
A lot of music in EDM have main drums but often can feature a percussion loop or an alternative basic drum loop to add in some interesting rhythms. These are a great ideas but can really get in the way of main drum parts. A easy fix is to sidechain the loops to the main drum track in order to still emphasize the downbeats and keep the interesting syncopation of the loop after the downbeat. Similarly, many audio engineers in different genres have sidechained cymbals to the main drums make sure the kick and snare still have room once they hit and have the cymbals ring out after the downbeat.
4. Source Audio and FX
Personally this is my favorite use of sidechaining. Many times some of the tracks can be bogged down by the massive amounts of reverb or delay that is sent to a track. A great fix can be to simply sidechain the FX bus to whatever is getting drowned out whether it’s vocals or melodies. Here are one of my favorite tutorials about sidechaining FX.
This way, the FX are under control when the main melody is playing but are back to their normal volume once the melody has stopped. This rule can also apply to reverb too.
5. Sound Design
Sometimes there are places that producer will sidechain a main synth with a silent kick while no drums are playing for the creative aspect. Here is a video showing this technique being used!
This kind of sidechaining can be used with anything, even vocals or light synths playing in the background. Sometimes this can yield great results, especially when the sidechaining isn’t just happening on the downbeat of every beat. Be creative!
Have you ever used any of these uses for sidechaining in your own production? Tell us which!
Kalebh has been producing music for side and solo projects since childhood. He graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelors in Music Production.