This article delivers some tips to use the sidechainers modules in a modern "club mix" perspective. It shows how to use the modular mixer to listen to the recorded mix without disconnecting anything in your setup.
The aim is to let you build your default Scope project with all the sidechain routings included, so you never have to make them again.
This article will also lay down the basics for more advanced technics such as using the multitimbral midi sidechainers modules.
1. Setting up the sidechain source
There is a problem if you use the kick of your song: when the kick is muted, during a break for example, there will be no sidechain during those breaks.
So it is a much better idea to use an audio channel of your sequencer and dedicate it to sidechain signals. For this, simply use the same kick as in your song, and repeat it during the whole song duration, and Output this audio channel to a separate asio output (generally, the last asio outputs of your project).
This will allow editing the kick of your song as you wish, and still have side chain signals during breaks or when the kick is muted.
Moreover, this sidechain track can be sent to any other audio channel that needs sidechaining.
On the picture below, you can see the sidechain track sent to Asio Output 6 and to a pad sound from a vsti. This track is not "heard" in the mix, but is used only to provide a permanent signal to the sidechainer, as well as any other channel of the asio mixer or scope mixer, independantly from the kick breaks and silences that may exist in your song.
TIP: by using the Modular Mixer's Sidechainer "xx4", you can build a midi track with notes that will trigger envelopes, and will allow to be "tempo-based" without further effort.
Now, in Scope, connect the asio source module corresponding to the kick to the Sidechainer.
It is better to use the SC inputs of the sidechainer, but it is also possible to route this sidechain signal to a normal channel of the mixer. In that case, don’t forget to mute the mixer channel in order to not hear it.
2. Permanent sidechain routing
When using sidechain, there are two objectives that must be in mind:
- create volume modulations on some sounds to add groove
- make the kick “fly over” the mix, keeping punch and clarity that would otherwise be inexistent.
To achieve this, you will use 2 or 3 asio channels inside scope.
- Asio main mix: will be sidechained
- Asio kick: is the regular kick of my song.
- Asio Snare: optional, but allows to apply the sidechain to the snare separately, achieving a compression on the snare that bring a completely “funky house” character to the sound.
That's all you need to achieve sidechaining in a 2011 standard.
This is a picture of the sidechainer in such setup:
- 1st channel is the main mix "kickless" and has sidechain modulation.
- Channel 2 is my Kick, without any sidechain.
- Channel 3 is my snare with a strong and fast sidechain, that acts just like a compressor in this case.
Additional channels can be used for all that needs scope effects, or sound that you want to have “flying over the mix”: Scope adds clarity and sounds are better defined, so it is always interesting to take one important sound of your song and send it to scope for a better mixing.
In general, only a voice or a guitar will be outputed to scope, this depends if you want to stay "compact" or expand the number of dsp channels in use. But if you send a extra channel to scope, it will not be in the main mix that is sidechained, so you will need to activate sidechaining also on that channel. My own technic however, in most of the cases, is to send the dry sound of that channel to the main mix, and use an extra channel only for the effects. SO the effects are not sidechained. It all depends on how the result sounds, so you may need to try various combination before knowing what is the best for your song.
Notice that, for the snare (channel 3) I use modulation source 2 which is the Kick with a different attack/release settings. This allowed me to achieve fast compression of the snare, making it Decay much faster than usual: that way, I keep the snare attack, and the reverb is better heard (the reverb of the snare is an asio reverb that goes to the main mix, and which has the "normal" sidechain (channel 1 of sidechainer).
Of course, this doesn’t forbid to use sidechain inside you Audio sequencer, but it will add to the sidechain compression of the whole mix, achieving the “guetta effect” with much better results.
All amounts and offsets are important to achieve the sound you need, from a very present sidechain, to a fast compression such as on the snare of channel 3.
The final offset is more like a "gain" parameter, but can have an effect on the way a compression comes out. It is to be used in cunjunction with the channel "amount" parameter.
Here is another setting for a fatter and longer kick: the amount of channel 1 is much less, because the kick already has the necessary enegy in it.
- Once you have found the right sidechain amount, save a preset !! indeed, why reinvent the wheel each time. Start with your favorite settings using a preset, and then adapt it slightly for each song.also, save a project in your song's folder. Additionally, some people will also save a default project at this point.
- sidechaining is good to create modulations, and sometimes it is good to make this sidechain effect modulated: for example, during a break or bridge, you may want to make the sidechaining more apparent, and then it comes back to normal when the music starts again. A nice trick is to modulate the Asio group volume and record its automation inside your audio sequencer. The volume of this group (asio output 6 in our example) acts just like the input of a compressor, making the sidechain signal more powerful, which has a direct effect on the sidechain modulation created in scope. It has the same effect as the "amount" parameter of each modulator, but it can be easier to manage sequencer automation rather than assigning a midi CC to Scope. But remember that, by using the asio volume, you will act on all channels that have sidechain in them. It is however the best technic for those moment where there is no kick or snare in the song.
- I like to set up the basic "sound" of the sidechaining by using the bass only. When it wobbles enough, i add the other tracks such as pads and drums, and see what it does, and correct the sidechain by little amounts (by using the "Amount" parameter on the channel in question, eventhough other parameters such as a different attack and release can also have nice effects).
For recording, we are going to record the 3 separate tracks, all in one take. For this, I use the rec channel of the Master Bus, as well as individual connections from the 10 SL.
If you use master effects in Mix5, then it is of course possible to also record the master output of Mix 5 (if you do it through the Rec channel, it is better to use the output "Master Fx 3" to have the signal that goes out of the last insert, instead of the master which may have a gain that you don't want (for example, if it is late at night at you have a -12dB on the master, then it is better to record the signal with no gain modification, hence the need to record the signal from the Master Fx, before the master gain.
Now you have all your tracks inside your Audio sequencer.
Recording the stereo mix is optional, but can be useful to remember the sound of a session later on.
I usually don't save the individual connections that go to asio dest 2 and 3. I prefer to save a default project without them, to make it clearer at the begining of a project, when recording is not yet needed.
- You would record the master output of Mix 5 only if you want to have a single track of your mix, especially if you use mastering effects on the master bus.
- If you want to record effects that are loaded in the MAster Bus (Aux delays and Verbs), then it is a much better idea to record them as individual tracks also. It is much better to have scope effects recorded as audio track in order to work on the volume automations or equalizations afterwards. Moreover, if you intend to deliver the resulting stems to a third party remixer or studio, it will be very appreciated that you have all your effects on seperate audio tracks.
Of course, in Cubase, you will create 3 audio tracks with the necessary asio inputs. And it is also a good idea to set-up those tracks in advance in your default Audio Sequencer project. On the picture below, the resulting tracks in Cubase. As you can see, there are several moment where the kick is absent, but thanks to our "sidechain audio track" that we have created, all the mix is still "sidechained" during those breaks and bridges, allowing to keep the groove on the bass, pads and other sounds that need to be modulated with sidechain.
4. Listening to the final mix
At this point, you can "solo" the 3 tracks you have just recorded. But if you press "play", they will go to the default asio outputs, asio 1 L/R, which contains sidechain (channel 1 of the sidechainer). So this is not good because it adds sidechain to our mix that we want to hear completely "dry" of any effect.
So, you must also send the 3 tracks to 1 group/output of your Audio sequencer, and send this group to a separate asio output, so it is heard in scope independantly from any sidechain or effect used in the mix. You can send it to a channel of your mixer channels, or to an unused bus of your Master Bus. Myself, I send this “recorded mix” to bus 5 of Mix5, because i never use this bus in my workflow.
Here, the 3 tracks are grouped into Asio output 7, and Asio 7 is routed to Mix 5 5th bus (Master B).
Now, one of the big advantage of such routing is that you don't have to desactivate sidechaining on the original channels of your mix.
Moreover, if you have mixed using master effects in Mix 5 Master inserts, then you don't need to desactivate them neither, because the 3 tracks just recorded are "dry", ie , without mastering effect.
By using the new switch on Mix 5 (or by soloing channels if you still have the older Mix 5) , it is easy to compare your original mix with the recorded tracks, and see if both sound the same.
In any case, if modifications have to be made, you just have to play your mix again, and this is done in a second because all your sidechains and volumes have remained untouched while you were listening to the 3 recorded tracks.
5. Beyond basics
A good club mix is a balance between what goes through the main mix-sidechain, and what is not!
There is no rule as to which type of instrument must or must not be sidechained, but the sidechainers modules makes it fast and easy to decide what is sidechained and what remains "dry".
What can be said is that the pumping is wrong when it blurs a melody or line rather than adding something to it.
Generally, all the drums, except kick and snare, will go to the same sidechain, to make it act on charleys and open hats or cymbals. But it is possible to pout some drums out for a better clarity (and more contrast on the final mix).
The bass of course, and some pads, and even some leads, but not all. Some motives will need to be "out of the sidechain" to add something to the mix, like if that instrument was on a different "layer" or "altitude" in the mix.
By routing everything by default to the main mix (sidechained/pumped) it is much easier to decide what is good to sidechain and what is not.
Because each new vsti or loop line that you add is already sidechained, and you will route it to a non sidechained channel in case it does not sound right.
That way, you do not need to decide "after" writing the phrase or loop, because you have done so at the moment of creation.
And you don't need to go through menus or to load compressors, because you have all in a single compact device.
In Scope, you will generally end up with 4 to 6 channels which can be divided that way:
1 - Main Mix (sidechain ON)
2 - Kick
3 - Snare (Sidechain on in CG or Exp. mode)
4 - Non-Sidechained Group, where you route all sounds that are not sidechained.
5 -(optional) different sidechain when the original is too strong or weak on some sounds.
6 - (optional) individual sound that need specific scope aux effects such as delay.
More channels depends on the number of individual channels like channel "5" or "6" above.
By following this tutorial you can have a default project that is permanentlyincluding sidechain connections and settings.
- Mix, kick and (optionally) snare will always go to channels 1 to 3.
- Sidechain signal will always go to the SC source of any other input of the sidechainers that you choose, making it easier to make a sidechain audio track for all your songs in your audio sequencer.
- Listening to whatever is recorded like that is easy and doesn't need desactivating the sidechains, making them available as soon as you want to re-listen the original mix.
- This setup will always be available when starting Scope if you save it as the default project.
- Remember to also record a default project for your audio sequencer, if this setup required that you adapt your default project in your audio sequencer.
- Easily compare the original mix with the recorded 3 tracks by using solos or the master switch on your Master Bus, and quickly go back to "recording mode" if changes have to be made.
- This video shows how it sounds on 2 tracks (bass/pad/drums + kick) and uses "midi envelopes" instead of audio signals.
- Make sure you also read the section about the new Midi Multitibral sidechainers in this article.
This is a project including all the above thinking and connections (click to enlarge).If you send groups to Scope, it will take 4 to 6 tracks to make a great sounding mix, leaving more channels for hardware inputs (which have sidechain too, that is too say, live modulations before recording)..
Check also the "COmpact 12" mixer for an example with multitimbral sidechainers, in the modular mixer's "Project" gallery.
Now, have fun, and be the next hyped french touch DJ now that you have the sound ;-)
- Definitive Sidechaining technics
- Using the Modulation Mod's Inputs
- Core vs not Core ?
- Control more than 119 parameters
- How to use the RS pad ?
- Using MF12-S in Modular Mixer
- Mastering Modular Mixer SideChainers
- Group Channels
- Crossfading effects in MB7
- Connections Tutorial
- Sidechaining in Modular Mixer
- Types of Channels
- DSP Management
- Stems - Toolbar and Channels
- List of components