If you read SonicScoop, chances are you already know a thing or two about compressors. You’re probably already familiar with basic controls like your threshold, which allows you to set the point at which a compressor “kicks in”, and your ratio, which allows you to adjust the amount of compression you’ll get.
Early on into their training, most new engineers will also understand the concepts behind controls like attack, release and knee, which essentially adjust how swiftly your compressor reacts to signals that approach the threshold. (Even though it can take a while, sometimes years, to hear these variables well and to develop good instincts about tweaking them.)
But one of the last things that new engineers tend to explore when it comes to compression is sidechaining. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this is the process of using the output of one track to control the action of a compressor on a completely different track.
There was a time, decades ago, when many compressors lacked this function. But by the early 2000s, companies like dbx, Alesis and FMR had started to offer sidechain inputs on even their most affordable units. And today, a good DAW will allow you to add a sidechain input to almost any compressor, regardless of how simple its layout might be.
Sidechaining is a technique that can be used like a scalpel or a paintbrush, a hammer or a piece of fine-grain sandpaper. Today we’ll explore a few of its most common and potent applications.