Sidechain Compression – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Audio Mixing and Mastering Glossary

What is Sidechain Compression?

Sidechain compression is a technique used in audio production to control the level of one audio signal based on the level of another. In simple terms, it allows you to use the amplitude of one sound to control the volume of another. This can be particularly useful in mixing and mastering to create a more dynamic and balanced sound.

How Does Sidechain Compression Work?

When sidechain compression is applied, the audio signal that is being used to control the compression (known as the sidechain signal) is used to trigger the compressor on the main audio signal. This means that whenever the sidechain signal reaches a certain level, the compressor will reduce the volume of the main signal. This can help to create a more controlled and balanced mix by allowing certain elements of the audio to stand out while others are pushed back in the mix.

When Should Sidechain Compression Be Used?

Sidechain compression can be used in a variety of situations in audio production. It is commonly used in dance music to create the “pumping” effect that is often heard in electronic music. It can also be used to help vocals stand out in a mix by ducking the volume of the instrumental when the vocals are present. Sidechain compression can also be used in mastering to help create a more cohesive and balanced sound.

What Are the Benefits of Sidechain Compression?

One of the main benefits of sidechain compression is that it allows you to create a more dynamic and balanced mix by controlling the volume of certain elements in relation to others. This can help to create a more professional and polished sound. Sidechain compression can also help to create more space in a mix by allowing certain elements to stand out while others are pushed back. Additionally, sidechain compression can help to create a more cohesive and controlled sound by allowing you to shape the dynamics of your mix.

How to Set Up Sidechain Compression in a DAW?

Setting up sidechain compression in a digital audio workstation (DAW) is a relatively simple process. First, you will need to insert a compressor on the track that you want to apply sidechain compression to. Next, you will need to select the sidechain input on the compressor and choose the track that you want to use as the sidechain signal. Finally, you will need to adjust the threshold, ratio, attack, and release settings on the compressor to achieve the desired effect.

What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Sidechain Compression?

One common mistake when using sidechain compression is overdoing it. It can be tempting to use sidechain compression on every track in your mix, but this can lead to a muddy and unnatural sound. It is important to use sidechain compression sparingly and only when it is necessary to achieve the desired effect. Another common mistake is not properly setting the attack and release times on the compressor. It is important to adjust these settings to ensure that the compression is smooth and transparent. Additionally, it is important to listen carefully to the mix and make adjustments as needed to achieve the best results.