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In music production, knowing how to sidechain can elevate your tracks to a professional level. Sidechaining is a technique that allows one audio signal, often a bass track or synth track, to be dynamically affected by another audio signal. This is commonly used for achieving a pumping effect in dance music, where the bass track ducks out of the way when the kick drum hits.

Understanding the Basics of Sidechain Compression

Sidechain compression is a subset of dynamic processing tools. The primary function is to reduce the volume of one audio track when another audio track is playing. This method efficiently manages clashing low-end frequencies and ensures your mix remains clear and punchy.

Key Terms:

  • Sidechain Input: The secondary audio signal used to trigger the compressor.
  • Compression Ratio: Determines the degree of volume reduction.
  • Threshold: The level above which compression occurs.
  • Attack Time: The time it takes for the compressor to start working.
  • Release Time: The time it takes for the compressor to stop affecting the signal.
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Setting Up Sidechain Compression in Different DAWs

Different Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) have various procedures for setting up sidechain compression. Here, we’ll explore specific steps for FL Studio and Ableton Live.

FL Studio

  1. Load Your Plugins: Add a compressor plugin to your bass track.
  2. Sidechain Input: Click on the drop-down menu and select your kick drum track as the sidechain input.
  3. Adjust Compressor Settings: Fine-tune the compression parameters such as ratio, attack time, and release time to get the desired ducking effect.
  4. Check in Mixer: Ensure that the audio signal of your kick drum triggers the compressor on your bass track.
How To SIDECHAIN Correctly in FL Studio 21 (Best Way)

Ableton Live

  1. Insert Compressor: On your bass track, insert an Ableton Glue Compressor under Audio.
  2. Enable Sidechain: Click on the sidechain option and select your kick drum track as the sidechain source.
  3. Adjust Compressor Parameters: Set the threshold, ratio, attack, and release times to fine-tune the dynamic ducking.
  4. Monitor the Signal: Use the visual meter to monitor the effect and adjust settings as needed.

Advanced Sidechaining Techniques

Advanced sidechain techniques can involve using multiple compressors on a single channel to achieve different effects. Here are some concepts:

  • Multiband Sidechain Compression: Allows you to apply sidechaining to specific frequency ranges.
  • Sidechain Reverb: Uses sidechain compression to duck the reverb when the main signal is playing, making your tracks sound cleaner.
  • Dynamic EQ: Combines sidechaining with EQ to dynamically adjust the frequency spectrum.
music producer in studio

Common Sidechaining Applications

Sidechaining is versatile and can be applied in various contexts:

  1. Kick and Bass: Common in dance music to avoid frequency clashes.
  2. Vocals and Music Bed: Ensures the vocal track sits on top of the mix.
  3. Synth and Drum Tracks: Adds rhythmic interest and dynamic control.
  4. Reverb Ducking: Employing sidechain reverb for cleaner mix resolutions.

Examples of Sidechain Compression in modern tracks often involve using sidechain compression on the bass synth to give prominence to the kick drum.


Understanding how to sidechain and applying these techniques across different DAWs can drastically improve the clarity and impact of your music. From the basics of sidechain compression to advanced techniques, mastering this skill enables you to balance your audio tracks effectively.

TopicKey Points
Introduction to SidechainingTechnique for dynamic audio effect, common in dance music, creates a pumping effect by making bass duck when kick hits.
Basics of Sidechain CompressionReduces volume of one track when another plays, manages clashing frequencies, and ensures clear, punchy mixes.
Key TermsSidechain Input: Triggers compressor.
Compression Ratio: Degree of reduction.
Threshold: Level for compression.
Attack Time: Start time.
Release Time: Stop time.
FL Studio Setup1. Add compressor to bass track.
2. Select kick drum as sidechain input.
3. Adjust ratio, attack, release.
4. Ensure kick triggers bass compression.
Ableton Live Setup1. Insert Glue Compressor on bass track.
2. Enable sidechain and select kick drum.
3. Adjust threshold, ratio, attack, release.
4. Monitor and adjust.
Advanced TechniquesMultiband Compression: Specific frequency ranges.
Sidechain Reverb: Cleaner sound by ducking reverb.
Dynamic EQ: Adjusts frequency spectrum dynamically.
Common ApplicationsKick and Bass: Avoids clashes.
Vocals and Music Bed: Enhances vocals.
Synth and Drum Tracks: Adds rhythmic interest.
Reverb Ducking: Cleaner mixes.
ConclusionImproves clarity and impact, balance audio tracks effectively with basic and advanced techniques.


What is sidechaining in music production?

Sidechaining is a technique where one audio signal dynamically influences another. It’s commonly used in dance music to create a pumping effect by making the bass duck out when the kick drum hits, ensuring a clearer and punchier mix.

What are the key parameters to adjust in sidechain compression?

Key parameters include the compression ratio, threshold, attack time, and release time. The ratio controls the degree of volume reduction, the threshold sets the level above which compression occurs, and attack and release times determine how quickly the compression starts and stops.

How do you set up sidechain compression in FL Studio?

In FL Studio, add a compressor plugin to your bass track, select your kick drum as the sidechain input, adjust the compression settings (ratio, attack, release), and ensure the kick drum triggers the compressor on the bass track in the mixer.

What is multiband sidechain compression?

Multiband sidechain compression allows you to apply sidechain effects to specific frequency ranges. This technique is useful for managing different elements of a mix independently, ensuring that only certain frequencies are affected by the sidechaining process.

How does sidechain reverb work?

Sidechain reverb uses sidechain compression to duck the reverb when the main signal is playing. This results in a cleaner mix, as the reverb tail doesn’t interfere with the primary audio signal, making the mix sound more professional and polished.