How to make your kick fit without ducking

With modern electronic music typically boasting a full, dense sound, it's always good to make the main elements of a track stand out - and the kick drum is no exception.

Many producers will use the kick as a sidechain trigger to temporarily reduce (duck) the volume of synths, bass or effects, creating extra headroom for the kick to stand out. However, if you're after the extra separation that ducking brings without the clichéd sound, using a sidechain enabled dynamic EQ can give more transparent results. This analyses the frequency content of the trigger signal before removing those frequencies from the effected signal dynamically using EQ. Let's run through how this all works using Wavesfactory's TrackSpacer on a simple dance mix.

Download the accompanying .wav files for this tutorial.

Get more sidechaining advice in the Autumn edition of Future Music (FM310).

Step 1: Using a sidechain enabled EQ to create room for other mix elements can give a cleaner sound compared to sidechain triggered compression. We add Wavesfactory's TrackSpacer to the bass channel in a dance mix before enabling the plug-in's sidechain input.

Step 2: We set up a 0dB send from our kick drum to TrackSpacer. The frequency content of the kick appears in the frequency analyser. We adjust the attack/release of the dynamic EQ by bringing up TrackSpacer's extra controls - we want a fast attack and release of 20ms.

Step 3: TrackSpacer has high and low-pass filters to control which frequencies will be removed from the target sound; we set the high-pass filter to 400Hz. Finally, we push the processing amount up to 50% to increase the amount of separation between kick and bass.

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