• Side-chain compression to pump your track

    More likely that you’ve heard this “pumping” sound already. Turn on your radio, tune in to the billboard top chart. 90% if not more you’ll hear this pumping happening in different degree.

    One of this “pumping” effects usually happens on sustaining sound (Strings, Pad, Bass, Keys, etc.) which ducks on every beat.

    The technique used for this is called “Side-Chain compression“. Here’s the wikipedia explanation of it. 

    Check out the video for the step-by-step instruction, but in short, compressor gets activated only when the “key source” hits. Usually, sustaining sound gets compressed by four on the floor kick.

    When do I use this?

    There a lot of situations you can use this technique, here’s the break down of it.

    • Production Process
      • You want the song to “pump” more, to give it a jumpy and driving sound. Applying this pumping effect make it more bouncy. Great for dance songs.  (Not only EDM dance track, but latin, or even Jazz in some context.)
    • Mixing Process
      • For example, piano has a very wide range of frequency. Often times, when piano player hits a chord, it battles with bass, kick, toms, guitar low strings and all other instruments. In result, you can’t hear the instruments clear enough and sounds all muddy and messy. You can try to EQ those and place the instruments in different spaces, but often times the problematic frequency moves around and if you tackle all those with static EQ, you are changing the sound of the instruments completely. Using this pumping effect, you can keep the EQ-ing to the minimum and have the volume of instruments go down only when needed.

    Here’s the list of common and popular instrument combinations.

    • Bass compressed, keyed by Kick.
      • Bass and kick live in the same frequency. By compressing bass when kick hits, you can hear the kick more without making it louder.
    • Synth Pad/strings compressed, keyed by Kick
      • Same as above, the masking caused by pads/strings will be cleared by this.
    • Background music compressed, keyed by spoken words.
      • You can hear this on radio all the time, as soon as the DJ starts talking, the music volume goes down. This is the typical use of side-chain known as “ducking”

    There are no rules, or limitations. Try compressing and use different element as “key”. You never know the out come, and that’s the exciting part about this.

    If you find something cool, please share in the comment below.

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