How To Sidechain KICK and 808? – Complete Guide

How To Sidechain KICK and 808? - Complete Guide | integraudio.com

This article will discuss how to sidechain kick and 808 or any bass track.

Sidechaining is an approach in music production wherein the occurrence of a particular instrument or percussion hit triggers an effect in another element in the arrangement. It’s commonly used to maintain headroom for an element when another element in the same frequency range is fighting with it.

For example, kick and 808 lies in the same low-frequency range of 60-120 Hz, or at least their fundamental frequencies do. So when they are played together, either of them gets masked. The masking problem between elements in the same frequency range is the most prominent in the low end because low frequencies take up maximum headroom.

That is why managing the low end of your mixes is extremely important, as the low end can make or break a song, especially on big speakers. So your arrangement’s 808 or the bassline must be distinct from the kick. In most popular songs today, the kick is more prominent than the bass or the 808, so it’s given more importance.

Even if they are considered equally important, the kick is transient-heavy and doesn’t have much sustain compared to the 808. So it’s important that when a kick hit occurs, the 808/bass ducks down. We can achieve this by automating the volume 808/bass or using a compressor triggered only when the kick hits.

How to sidechain KICK and 808?

You can sidechain the kick to the 808 by applying a compressor on the 808 and routing the kick track, as a sidechain signal, to the compressor or the 808 mixer channel so that the compressor only acts when the kick hits. For that, you will need a compressor with sidechain capability.

Let’s understand how you can do that in FL Studio. Of course, the procedure is the same for any other DAW. However, if you’re in FL Studio, the first step is to route your 808 and kick tracks to separate mixer channels. The tracks are automatically routed to the mixer in many DAWs like Logic Pro and Pro Tools. But if that’s not the case with your DAW, make sure the tracks are routed in the mixer.

In FL Studio, you can open the waveform in the sampler and set up the mixer channel number on “TRACK” by clicking on it and scrolling up. For example, the value “5” in “TRACK” means that the audio is routed to the fifth mixer channel.

You can also type in the value of the mixer by right-clicking on “TRACK” and selecting “Type in value…” and then typing in the value.

 

Next, go to the mixer, select the channel to which you have routed the kick track, and right-click on the arrow at the bottom of the channel to which you have routed the 808. After that, click on either “Sidechain to this track” or “Sidechain to this track only.” 

For users of other DAWs, there’s a similar workflow in every DAW in which you can set a mixer track as a sidechained signal in another mixer channel or element. The sidechained signal will be routed to the sidechain target but won’t become its output. This is how the sidechained channel will appear in FL Studio. 

Next, load up a compressor on the 808 with a side-chain function. The Logic Pro Compressor, FabFilter’s Pro C2, and FL Studio’s Fruity Limiter support sidechaining. So once you load up Fruity Limiter, click on the “COMP” tab, and insert the “1” in the “sidechain” bar if the kick is the only or the first element sidechained to it. If the kick is the second element, you sidechained to it, scroll up to “2”, and so on. 

After you have correctly set up the sidechain on your DAW, you can start setting up the compressor and its parameters like threshold, ratio, attack, release, etc., as per your taste. 

Please be careful while setting up the compressor, as many compressors like the Pro C2 have an “auto-gain” function that manually adds makeup gain to the compressed signal. If the compressed signal gets the same gain after getting compressed, the entire purpose of sidechaining gets defeated. So you want to disable any automatic gain functions on the compressor. 

Doing that will ensure that the bass or the 808 is compressed every time the kick sample or sound is triggered. So now, let’s look at the recommended compressor settings. 

Recommended Compressor Settings

The most important thing is that the attack has to be fast, so the compressor on the 808 acts rapidly and immediately when the kick hits. Hence, keeping the attack time between 0 and 8 msec is a good idea. If your plugin allows, you can set a lookahead of up to 5 milliseconds to ensure rapid response of the compressor. 

Next, let’s discuss release time, which is how long the compressor stops acting after the input audio signal drops below the threshold. So a medium release time between 40 and 120 milliseconds is good. You don’t want the compressor to stop acting abruptly, and you don’t want it to keep compressing even after the kick signal is triggered. 

High ratios will lead to aggressive compression, and low ratios will lead to mild compression. Hence, a ratio between 3:1 and 5:1 should be optimal. However, ducking the 808 too much may kill its envelope, so be careful about setting a high ratio.

Lastly, the threshold depends on how loud the 808 is. For a typical 808 with peak touching at about -12 dB, between -15 and -18 dB should be a good place. However, that also depends on your taste and the sound you’re going for. Here’s a summary of all recommended settings. 

Parameter
Recommended setting
Attack time
0-8 msec
Release time
40-120 msec
Ratio
3:1 – 5:1
Threshold
Depends on the loudness of the 808

Conclusion

Sidechaining the kick to the 808 is necessary in almost every case and is important because low frequencies take up the highest headroom, travel the farthest, and are the hardest to manage; hence fighting low-frequency elements will completely muddy up your mix and create undesirable results. Otherwise, sidechaining may not be necessary and can be used as an effect. 

Alternatively, you can use plugins like Kickstart and LFO Tool to duck down 808 on time intervals in which the kick occurs. Or you can do volume or lowcut filter’s cutoff frequency automation of the 808 signal. You can also set up an LFO on these parameters. Lastly, you can also sidechain the kick to an envelope shaper plugin applied on the 808.

Usually, in EDM genres, the side-chaining between kick and bass is quite aggressive, and that also creates some great movements. On the other hand, in acoustic-heavy genres, sidechaining may be optional. However, you can do many creative and interesting things with the effect. Hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.

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