Using Sidechain Compression on Bass

Sidechain compression is an important production technique used in many genres to add space in a mix, create dynamic changes or extreme pulsing effects. In dance music, it is often used with the bassline and kick drum.

In this video, producer and educator Christopher Petti familiarizes you with sidechain compression techniques, allowing you to make smoother, louder, and more spacious mixes. You’ll learn about creating trigger sources and destinations, routing audio signal between devices, and adjusting various compression parameters to suit the needs of the track. Sign up for Splice and download the full Ableton Live project below to follow along with the video and gain a better understanding of how to apply these sidechain compression techniques to your own projects.

Utilizing sidechain compression techniques regularly is one the most useful methods for creating clearer and more impactful mixes that seem to swell and breathe dynamically. This lesson will equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to experiment with sidechain compression more on your own and find creative uses for it in your own tracks.

Key Sidechain Compression Terms:

  • Threshold – When the input signal reaches this level, the compressor becomes active.
  • Ratio – Determines the strength of the compression that will be applied to the input signal once it crosses the Threshold.
  • Attack – Controls the speed of compressor activation once the signal goes above the Threshhold. Measured in milliseconds.
  • Release – Controls the speed of compressor deactivation once the signal falls below the Threshhold. Also measured in milliseconds.
  • Dry/Wet – Many compressor modules feature a dry/wet knob. This is useful for acheiving what’s known as Parallel Compression, which is the process of carefully blending the unaffected dry signal with the (often heavily) compressed signal to add punch and define transients.
  • Input Gain – It may be necessary to boost the compressor’s incoming signal, especially when setting up for Sidechain Compression.