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This is a 3 part series on Side-Chain compression.
Follow the “Next and Previous buttons” below to read the next part!

The video above goes into more detail of how to set up side-chain compression, and going over each of the headlines talked about.

In this series of side-chain compression, the following topics are covered:

  • 808’s + Beefy Kicks
  • Dance Kicks + Pads
  • Dance Kicks + Hi-Hats
  • Hip-Hop Kicks + Percussion Loops
  • Side-chaining while creating loops!
  • Making Vocals stand out against other instruments!

Side-chain compression is quite an interesting tool and effect. If you create dance music, you probably already know how the powerful of side-chaining is, but for those that don’t, side-chaining is very powerful :).

Within the dance music scene, side-chain compression is used for a pumping effect, which sounds like the volume is going in and out constantly. This pump sound adds big impact to your beats.

But is this pumping in dance music all that side chaining can be used for? Most definitely not. Side chaining has many places in your beatmaking, and mixing. It can be used to create separation and clarity within a mix.

So what is Side-Chaining?

If you don’t know what side-chaining is, try this out.

Load up a VST and hold down a note. Turn the volume down, then back up to normal volume a couple times. This creates that pumping/ducking sound.

Now, instead of manually turning down and up this volume, which can be a lot of work, you can use another sound to duck the volume of a sound! Other known as side-chain compression.

For example, let’s say you have two instruments fighting against each other, and EQ just isn’t cutting it. If you use one sound to push down the other sound’s volume, it can create that separation. This may help your mix to sound more natural, as you’re not EQing things you may not need to EQ!

Here’s how you set it up in FL Studio — (The easiest way to learn would be to watch the video :)):

First, put your sounds onto separate mixer inserts. This allows each sound to be mixed/routed differently:

  1. Select all your tracks to make them green.
  2. Head to the Mixer.
  3. Right click on an insert/track go Link selected channels -> Starting from this track

Set Up Side-chain FL Studio

Next, route the kick drum to your instrument. Right click, on the arrow of the instrument, and click Sidechain to this track (This allows us to have a side-chain input on the last step):

Set Up Sidechain FL Studio - Route Audio

This is something I had troubles wrapping my head around in the beginning. When side-chaining, what track do you put the side-chain compressor on? On the kick drum, or the instrument?

Well it depends what you want to duck in volume. In our case, we want the Pad/instrument to go down in volume when ever the kick plays. Since we’ve just routed the kick to the instrument in that last image, that’s sending the audio of the kick drum to the instrument, but since the volume knob is turned down, we can’t hear it. However, we can still use the sound for side-chaining.

So saying that, open up a Fruity Limiter (or any compressor that allows side-chaining), on your instrument track. Make sure to click on the instrument track before choosing the Fruity Limiter:

Set Up Side-chain FL Studio - Fruity Limiter - Side-chain Compressor

Finally, we now connect the dots. Since we routed the the kick drum to the pad with the “Sidechain to this track”, and the knob appeared (just like the sends in the image above, see how the volume knob is all the way left), this now allows us to choose a side-chain input.

On your Fruity Limiter, select COMP for compressor:

Fruity Limiter - Sidechain Set Up

Right click the three dashes (side-chain), and simply choose your kickdrum! (You can also left click + hold, and move the mouse up to go to #1):

Set Up Sidechain FL Studio - Fruity Limiter - Sidechain Input

Now to see if it works! Set a ratio of 4:1 to start off. Lower your threshold quite low, just so you can hear if it’s working or not, then adjust to taste!

Also note the yellow box. This is what is going to take time to learn with a compressor; fine-tuning the attack and release of your side-chain compression to get the pump in sync!

Set Up Sidechain FL Studio - Fruity Limiter - Sidechain Fine-Tune

Where to Use Side-chain Compression?

As mentioned, side-chaining isn’t just for dance music. It’s a universal tool that can be used in lots of areas toward audio in general.

Since this is a 3 part series tutorial, let’s go over a few areas that were covered in the part 1 video:

808’s/Basslines and Kick Drums

If you have a low-end hitting kick drum, and an 808, you may hear the horrible WOBBLE sound of the two bass notes clashing; side chaining can help here a lot! However, before jumping into side-chaining, you should decide at the beginning of your mix if the kick is going to take the low end, or the 808 (usually the 808 will take the low-end because 808’s hit quite low).

Once you decide, you could high pass the lows out of the sound that isn’t taking the low-end. This alone creates a cleaner low end. However, EQing out your kick drum this way can make it sound weak when it’s played by itself. You could clone your kick, but that creates more work by having to EQ two kicks separately. One kick when the kick is playing with the 808, and one without the 808 so you still have a beefy kick!

Depending on how low the kick drum is hitting, and if there is noticeable clash, you could do both. I’d automate my EQ just slightly when the 808 plays, to keep clean bass, then automate it back to regular so the kick is nice and beefy when played without the 808.

So to the point — You can use a kick drum to duck the 808’s volume only when the kick hits. This keeps the normal sound of the kick drum, and hides a lot of that clashing sound!

Pads and Kick-Drums

This is probably the most popular use of side-chaining in dance kind of music.

When first learning about side-chaining, you may find it hard to dial in the right numbers on the attack and release so your pad (or what ever instrument) is in sync with your beat. If your release is too long, the sound doesn’t come up fast enough. Too short, and it’s not in that sweet spot to keep the head nod going ;).

This creates a very uplifting feel to your beat. If you don’t think this is of value to you as a producer, you should at least know how to set this up so you can be creative in other ways with side-chain compression.

Hi-Hats and Kick-Drums

Identical to the Pad and Kick-Drum, using the kick drum to side-chain the hi-hats also creates a pleasing bounce sound to your hat loops.

Side-chaining is not a must, but when comparing the two versions of hi-hats in the video (side-chained vs. not side-chained), the hats without side-chain sounded robotic, flat, and repetitive. Now with side-chain, the hats were given bounce, and flowed better with the drum loop!

Next Topics of Side-Chain Compression

In the next post, we talk about using side-chain compression on your Hip-Hop Drums to push down your percussion loops.

There’s two ways this can benefit us:

  • Capture a middle of a sound + blends the percussion loop into the drums smoother
  • Allows more focus to the drums, and makes them seem like they are hitting harder

Click the next post button to read and watch Hip-Hop Drum Loops with Sidechain.

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8 Responses on “Sidechain Compression in FL Studio (Part 1 of 3)”

  1. Derrick says:

    This is amazing information. Very powerfull. Instantly enhanced my content. It was just what i what I was looking for! I will continue my study’s of your teachings… keep up the great work man! I appreciate the knowledge.

    1. GratuiTous says:

      Hey no worries Derrick, you can stay up to date with Beatstruggles by signing up to the newsletter if you’d like!

  2. BCook38 says:

    Exactly what I needed. Thanks

    1. GratuiTous says:

      Awesome feedback BCook – Glad the tutorial helped!

  3. Bryanpenap says:

    this is really awesome! thank 😀

    1. GratuiTous says:

      No prob Bryan. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. SHD says:

    Def Bookmarked GratuiTous

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