Sidechaining is often used in mixing and production to duck or dip an element to make room for another. Here we’ll look at how to sidechain guitars without losing their attack.
If you’re into Music Production you’re probably already aware of the sidechaining technique. It can be used in many different applications in a production. The name is synonymous with modern Dance music genres. Extreme musical effects are possible using sidechaining and it’s become more heavily used in recent years.
In a Dance track you will have heard the swelling effect on the music when the Kick is triggering sidechain compression on the other musical elements. Daft Punk made that particular sound global on their Discovery album. You can hear the effect in action when the main Kick drum enters on ‘One More Time’.
For a visual picture of what sidechaining looks like see the pics below.
How to Sidechain Guitars without losing their Attack
The sidechaining approach mentioned above can have quite a pronounced audible effect. The compression or ducking plugin pushes down the level of the sidechained instrument. In Dance tracks this is usually every 1/4 note when the kick drum hits. This means we sacrifice the start of each note so that the Kick can punch though the mix.
However, there are times when we might want to make space for a Kick drum in a production without losing the sound of the start of every note. Maybe we have a musical phrase or idea that doesn’t make sense when you lose the start of the note to ducking.
Luckily there are methods of working around this. Cableguys produce a great plugin called Volumeshaper which is perfect for this scenario. You can also achieve a similar effect with plugins such as LFO tool. We will look here at how to sidechain guitars without losing their attack using Volumeshaper.
The guitar part I wanted to apply this effect to was a Power Chord part underneath the Chorus of a Nu- Disco tune.
Step 1 – Volumeshaper
To start with, add the Volumeshaper plugin to your guitar channel. When it loads in the default state, nothing is applied to the audio, so it should sound the same as before. (fig 1 below)
Step 2 – Create a Low Band
Next you want to create a low band. You do this by grabbing the left slider at the bottom left of the plugin in the frequency section. Once you’ve created or opened this band you need to drag it all the way to the right so that it takes up the whole frequency spectrum. (fig 2 below)
Step 3 – Add a Sidechain Curve
Next, with the Green Low Band selected you want to choose and click on one of the ducking curves so that the audio now starts to sound fully side chained. I chose one of the medium curves (fig 3 below)
Step 4 – Lower the Crossover
To finish we now want to lower the Low Band crossover point carefully while using our ears. The point here is that as we gradually lower the band, the sidechaining effect will become less and less audible. This is because our ears naturally gravitate first to the frequency range of human speech (about 2kHz).
There will come a point where in the mix, it actually sounds like the front end of the guitar note is no longer side chained. This should happen around 1 kHz to 800 Hz. The bass part of the guitar channel is still sidechaining but the higher frequencies are not ducking. In my track this happened at about 1kHz. (fig 4 below)
If you’ve done this correctly the orange Mid Band is passing through with the original default line unaffected while the green Low Band is now heavily side chained. You can adjust the mix of either band if you want to get even more detailed.
Sidechaining is one of the most important tools and sounds in modern music production. However sometimes we want a subtler effect so that we don’t lose the start of a note or phrase. With Volumeshaper it is possible to sidechain or duck different frequency bands of our audio and apply different sidechaining amounts to each. In this way, you are able to punch out the bass frequencies while leaving the higher frequencies intact.
For more on mixing guitars check out this post.
Let me know how you get on with this technique and any questions in the comments below.
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