Using Ghost Triggers for side-chaining

This tutorial explains how to configure a compressor and its side-chain for triggering using what we refer to as 'ghost triggers'. This is a great technique for managing kicks and basses within a mix.


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In modern mixes you are often faced with high track counts and this can be problematic when trying to use side-chain triggering as there are so many sounds that need to be compressed via the external side-chain that congestion soon takes over. In most of today’s genres multiple instances of parallel compression are used and in some instances a single kick drum sequence is used as the source trigger for all the compressors being used. This can be really helpful in keeping everything nicely synced together but what happens if you want some variety for the source triggers? Using multiple ghost source triggers is not uncommon in today’s epic mix projects. Quite often variations of the drum beat are used across multiple compressors as triggers and this affords us powerful sound design possibilities.

Parallel compression – New York compression

Most of my mix projects use parallel compression and for many sounds, not just the vocals which is the traditional sound of choice for parallel processing. To perform parallel processing you make a copy of the sound you want to process and process the copy and mix the original dry sound with the processed sound. Basically, you end up with two channels of audio: one processed and one unprocessed. The second method that can be used for parallel processing involves using the send feature of the DAW and sending the dry unprocessed sound to an effect channel. On the effect channel all manner of processes can be used and because the effects channel and dry channel play together you end up with parallel processing.

Ghost trigger

Ghost triggering is a term we use to describe the use of a trigger that is not heard. With ghost triggering the channel’s output routing is disabled in the DAW so it cannot be heard at the master stereo outs. Using ghost triggers is quite common nowadays as more and more producers are using them to shape a whole host of sounds.

Side-chain filtering

The part of the circuitry that monitors the input level is known as the side-chain, and it controls that part of the circuitry that adjusts the gain of the main signal path. Side-chains have both internal and external filtering. You can use filtering to specify which frequencies you want to filter from the circuit. A good example of this is to hi pass filter kick drums at 100 Hz. This means that anything below 100 Hz is ignored when activating the compressor. This is a great way to avoid clutter in kick compression.

You can take the parallel compression process a step further and use the side-chain filtering on the compressor to turn it into a frequency conscious trigger. In other words we can actually select a frequency range of the kick drum to trigger the compressor.

In the video I show you how to set up your DAW project for parallel processing explaining each and every step. Ghost triggering is next with a detailed tutorial on how to use parallel processing for compression. The compressor’s side-chain and its filtering are explored thoroughly with before and after audio examples.

Plugin used in this video:

FabFilter Pro C2

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Parallel Side-chaining Settings and Configuration
  • Low End Triggering Techniques
  • S/C Filtering
  • Parallel and Summing
  • Layering and Summing/Cancelling
  • Tips and Tricks