Side-chaining Vocals against the Mix

How to create space for vocals in a busy mix by using side-chaining!

Dynamic Processors


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Thanks to advances in technology we have more powerful computers with acres of space and processing power and running huge track count projects is not a problem anymore. However, this presents a different set of problems for the mix engineer – that of congestion. Too many tracks can easily congest a mix and eat up the valuable headroom but there is an ever bigger problem with high track count mixes and it is that of volume. Each and every sound ends up fighting for space and something somewhere gets compromised and it is usually the vocals. Vocals are dynamic by nature and therefore have to be processed such that the quiet parts are also heard above all the other sounds in the mix. You can compress all day if you want and still not get your vocal lines to cut through a busy mix. I know I’ve been there many times. But don’t lose hope. We have a great Old School technique for getting your vocal lines to tower over your mixes.

Side-chaining

The process we use is side-chaining a compressor on the mix with the vocals acting as the trigger. In effect, the vocals act as the side-chain trigger and whenever the vocals play the entire mix attenuates by a given value. However, we rarely, if ever, want to attenuate an entire mix….so what do we do? We use a dynamic equaliser that can have a single band strategically placed that is ducked when the vocals play. In other words, we can now duck the exact frequencies that are shared by the vocals and the mix. Let’s say that the vocals are prominent at 4 kHz. We create a band node on the dynamic eq at 4 kHz and have the vocals duck only that frequency when played. This now means that every time the vocals are playing only those shared frequencies are ducked and nothing else.

In the video I show you how to side-chain the vocals in your song against the mix and the sub groups using the Waves F6 Dynamic Equaliser. I explain each and every step and show you advanced filtering techniques to get the highest possible clarity in your vocal takes.

Plugin used in this video:

Waves F6 Dynamic Equaliser

Topics covered in the video are:

  • Side-chaining – how to set it up and how it works
  • S/C Filtering – what values to choose and how ti affect the mix
  • Vocals and frequencies – how to nail those vocal frequencies
  • Master bus frequencies and how they relate to the vocal frequencies
  • Dynamic equalisation – how it works and how to use it
  • Split band versus full band and the pros and cons of each
  • Scanning frequencies to detect where to place bell and shelf nodes