Side-chaining techniques have been around for decades. Despite their long-standing hold among music professionals, they’re still misused and misunderstood by inexperienced producers and engineers alike.
Bass Ducking is simply a side-chaining term referred to ducking your bass sound under your kick drum, so they don’t conflict with each other in a mix. Often, they’ll occupy too much of the same frequency range, resulting in a major loudness spike in that area. This can cause muddiness, swallow up your mix, and make it extremely hard to get the proper amount of loudness out of your track.
Take a listen to our two examples:
Kick / Bass relationship without the use of Bass ducking:
Kick / Bass relationship with the use of Bass Ducking:
The effect is a subtle one, but it gives the kick drum more room to breathe.
A lot of bass sounds used in modern Electronic music contain a wide range of frequencies (lows, mids, and highs). If you split that sound up into multiple frequency bands, you can focus solely on ducking the frequencies that conflict with your kick drum while others remain unaffected. This brings you additional processing benefits as well.
Step 1 – Set up your Instrument Rack
Drop an Instrument Rack onto a track and load in a virtual instrument for the bass sound of your choice. Then, duplicate it directly within the Instrument Rack.
Step 2 – Split your bass sound into high and low frequency bands.
Add a low pass EQ to one of your bass synths. Roll off everything above 300 Hz.
Add a high pass EQ to your remaining bass synth. Roll off everything below 300 Hz.
Step 3 – Add a Compressor to your low band and setup side-chain routing.
Expand and activate the side-chain portion of your Compressor. Choose your kick track via your Audio From drop down menu.
To get the proper amount of ducking, we’ll need to solo out our low band and kick drum so we can gauge their relationship.
Drop your Compressor Threshold and you should start to hear your bass “duck” under your kick. Lowering the Threshold results in more of the signal being reduced. Play with the Attack and Release settings until you get a healthy dynamic between the two. The Ratio will determine amount of ducking applied to signals above Threshold. Increase the Ratio for lots of reduction and vice-verse.
With Bass Ducking (bypassing high band):
Without Bass Ducking (bypassing high band):
Again, the effect was subtle in this case but it’ll have a major impact on getting the most out of our mix down the road. By splitting our bass synth into multiple bands, we were able to duck the particular frequencies that conflicted with our kick drum while leaving others unaffected.
Using Side chain Compression for pumping and ducking effects is a popular practice in modern electronic music. Get familiar with it!
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