A very important component to modern, loud electronic music is the sidechain pump.
A popular tool for these things until recent years was a compressor, used to duck the rest of the mix when a kick/snare hits its threshold. Unfortunately, this does not provide much control, and pollutes the rest of the mix in order to achieve a relatively simple thing. In recent years, a more powerful and simpler method to achieve the sidechain pump has begun to popularize itself, as well as a paradigm change, instead of compression, we’re Ducking. The new paradigm is such that the mix, apart from the most prominent components (i.e kicksnare), is grouped into a single effects send, into a VCA or limiter that controls the entire mix’s output. These are then controlled by a pure, clean envelope that can be tuned precisely to the user’s desires, achieving full control and cleaning up the process of achieving the pump effect. The envelope is retriggered by a MIDI clip or a noise signal whenever ducking is desired.
In more recent times, as this method gained traction, more powerful tools to clean up the ducking process and provide sample-accurate, declicked precision, cleaning up kicksnare transients, have come to be used by artists. An example is Gatekeeper, which you probably know of, among others. The desired effect is that the mix gets ducked cleanly and precisely under the kicksnare components’ transient content, without producing clicks that pollute the rest of the mix.
My methodology with this practice is to split the ducking process into two or three channels, which I call Hard Duck, Soft Duck and Short Duck.
Into the Hard Duck channel I funnel my bass instruments, this channel would have an exponential negative ducking envelope that silences the bass instruments completely until the kick/snare’s aggressive mid/lowend are silent.
Into Soft Duck I usually channel the rest of the track, where I can have less agressive ducking with a linear/logarithmic negative curve, sometimes I don’t even silence the signal completely as it would be too agressive.
Short Duck is used for instruments that are in the mid/mid-highs and up, where I want 0 ducking, but I still want to clean them off kick and snare transients so as to not produce clipping. This is usually a very short exponential negative envelope.
I found that the skewed sine envelope is good for producing ducking. For the purpose of simplifying the ducking process in the ER-301 I don’t have, I’ve created the attached package. Ducks 0.5 features Soft Duck with a more linear curve and Hard Duck with a more exponential ducking curve. The intended use-case is to put these at the end of any chain and feed it the kick/snare gate signals to create clean musical ducking.
- Feed your signal into the Trig/Gate inputs. This could be an analog Gx input or a global chain output.
- Set the Duration parameter, depending on your context you might want longer or shorter ducking.
- Set the Strength parameter, where 1 silences the signal completely when ducked.
- Listen to the ducks!
What are your opinions & workflows for sidechain pumps? Do you use that effect in your music?
Ducks.pkg (3.3 KB)
Future versions will have better envelopes & better handling of gate/trig signals.