#5thAvenueBlogs | Side Chain Compression [Blog]
Toronto, ON – One of the most important sonic relationships in hip-hop music is the one between the kick drum and the bass. It can make or break a track. While there are many tools and techniques at your disposal, I’m going to focus in on one technique that provides space and flexibility so you can shape your bottom end how you like it.
Keeping your low frequencies powerful and spaced without sounding muddy is the key to a good instrumental foundation. Both the kick and bass sit in the same fundamental frequency range and they both very well can be playing on the same beats. You always want to have separation in your sounds, and this is where sidechaining the kick and the bass will help (Side Chain Compression).
So how do we do it? First go to your kick track and create a send on an internal bus. Next, on your bass track open up a compressor that allows for a key input. Change the key input on the compressor to the send from the kick track.
Now, the kick drum is triggering the compressor on the bass track and not the bass itself. The goal is to adjust your threshold and attack times so that the bass doesn’t wash out the kick. Seeing as the kick is a quick transient, you generally want a fast attack and release time. If your release is too slow, you’ll quiet the bass when it doesn’t need it. You don’t want to take away from the bass, you’re simply providing a bit of headroom for the kick to keep punching through.
This technique will greatly help the relationship between the two low-end instruments, however it is not exclusive to kick and bass. I’ve used it when mixing dubstep to help the relationship between a kick and a low-toned oscillator. You can always be creative with techniques, but always remember to step back and make sure what you are doing is the effect you want to achieve.
As a side note of interest, side chaining is a process that started in the analog world and was also one of the first types of de-essers. A compressor would be inserted into the vocal chain, and an EQ would be side chained in the compressor. The EQ would be focused on whatever sibilant frequency was undesirable and the compressor would only compress those frequencies. Studio magic!