Compression is used in every track or live performance to ensure that your track will be balanced by controlling the volume variations, ensuring that loud peaks are tamed and softer sections are brought forward. In other words, you modulate the dynamic of a vocal track. Once the incoming signal passes the threshold, the signal volume is reduced so it never goes above and clipping.
Compressors come equipped with various parameters that dictate how compression is applied, shaping the character of a recording. These parameters include threshold, ratio, attack, release, and gain reduction. The threshold sets the level at which compression begins, while the ratio determines the degree of compression applied once the threshold is crossed. Attack and release control the speed at which compression engages and disengages, influencing the transient response and sustain. Gain reduction simply represents the amount by which the signal’s volume is reduced.
The effect can be seen as ‘squashing the signal’. You basically reduce the volume of the loudest parts of the recording, and you can raise the overall volume to get a louder mix.
There are many types of compression techniques in the music industry. Some of the other techniques are
1. Standard Compression
2. Multiband Compression
3. Sidechain Compression
4. Parallel Compression
Today we’ll talk about the Sidechain compression and how it can be applied on vocals.
What is Sidechain Compression?
Sidechain compression is a powerful tool for developing clarity in mixes. When you engage the sidechain, the compressor is triggered by a secondary sound source, instead of its own audio channel. This acts as a ducking mechanism. An incoming signal tells the compressor to duck the volume of the recording, leading to having more space for the audio to be heard.
In order to set up the sidechain compression, you’ll need a compression with sidechain function, like the stock compressors which you can find in majority DAWs like Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton or FL Studio.
How to create room for the vocals with Sidechain?
- Create a Bus for the Vocal Track:
- Initiate a bus on your vocal track and insert a compressor.
- Configure Sidechain Input:
- Select the aux bus as the sidechain input for the compressor. This choice will determine when the compressor engages.
- Adjust Aux Bus Volume:
- Increase the volume on the aux bus to audibly perceive the sidechain’s impact.
- Set Ratio and Threshold:
- Begin with a ratio of 2:1 and fine-tune the threshold until you observe 1-2dB of gain reduction.
- Optimize Attack Settings:
- Adjust the attack knob for a fast response, eliminating clicking artifacts. A fast attack time is essential for effective sidechain compression.
- Fine-Tune Release Time:
- Opt for a fast release time, starting around 30ms, and refine it to suit your preferences. This ensures subtlety in the compression.
- Adjust Aux Bus Volume (Again):
- Return to your audio track and modify the aux bus volume to achieve the desired amount of sidechain compression.
- Fine-Tune for Intensity:
- For a more pronounced effect, aim for 3 to 5dB of gain reduction.
Using sidechain compression on vocals isn’t just a bunch of technical stuff – it’s practically an art form. You’re basically creating space, giving a shout-out to the dynamics, and making sure each bit in your mix gets its own special sonic spot. When you get the hang of how sidechain compression works, it’s like opening the door to a world of creative magic. Your music suddenly comes alive, hitting those clear and impactful vibes you never knew it could.
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