Tip 11 – Sidechaining your Reverb / Delay


So, you probably use a form of delay or reverb in every single track right? It’s a great way to give a sound some movement, make it more interesting, smooth out the sounds a bit (I mean, that’s why your vocals sound so good in the bathroom), or push it towards the back of the mix a little. It’s very easy to overdo it on these effects though, cluttering the mix, making it sound less clean. An easy solution is to turn back the reverb or delay you’re using, and you’re absolutely right. But in some instances you might be looking for that big delay or reverb that’s there when wanted, but gone when it needs to be gone. Well, luckily for you, this is possible through sidechaining your reverb or delay with the original audio signal. All you have to do is put your effect on a separate ‘send channel’, turn the mix control of your effect to ‘100% wet’, put a sidechain compressor after your effect and you’re done.

Sidechaining the effects on your vocals

Most of the times, when you are using vocals in your track, they are the main attention grabber. Your song is mixed around the vocals, so they sit on top of your mix. This way they are clear, and the lyrics are easy to hear for everyone. Unless of course, for the creative effect, you want an unclear vocal. In general though, for most pop or dance tracks, a clean vocal is the way to go. Delay and reverb can make your vocal a lot more interesting though. Unfortunately, they can also get in the way of the clarity. Now what happens when you put your delay and reverb and a separate ‘send channel’ and sidechain them with the signal of the dry vocals; is that it pushes away the wet sound when the dry sound starts to play. In case of delay; with the right settings, you can make it so that the delay only plays in between, and at the end of your sentences. Meaning as soon as the vocals start; It’ll sound as clean as possible. In terms of reverb, a great addition is automating either the reverb itself or the sidechain compressor. Used in a creative way; this way you can create a sort of rising effect, sucking you right in the vocal performance.

Sidechaining the effects on your synths

Now in dance music and related genres especially, the main synth lead is often a very important part of the song. Big lead sounds, with a big reverb decay. One particular example that comes to mind it the classic supersaw sound, heard in the trance anthems from yesteryear to today’s EDM dancefloor shaking hits. Though what happens when you put a regular reverb on top of your supersaw sound (or any top lead really) is that you lose some of its sharpness and clarity. Especially if you’re looking for big reverb effect, the main sound gets swamped in an undefined puddle of reverb hell. This is also a problem you can fixed with using a separate send channel for your reverb signal. This way you can get a really defined main lead when it’s playing, yet also a massive reverb signal when your lead stops playing. Even better is that by compressing and EQ’ing your reverb signal separately, even before you apply the sidechain compression, you can really place the reverb sound in your mixes perfectly. This results in more flexibility in your mixing routine, and ultimately better sounding mixes.

Free Sidechain Compressors

In that case you’re looking for a free Sidechain compressor, to help you get going, check out some of the following compressor:

Variety of Sound – Density – Great allround compressor with a sidechaining option.

MCompressor – Part of the Melda Free Bundle, features sidechaining too!

De la Mancha SixtyFive – Another great freeware compressor that includes sidechain compression.

TDR Kotelnikov – Wideband dynamics processor that features sidechaining

That’s it for this time. Hope this production tip helps you with your tracks. Happy producing!
And if you need any help, you know where to find me! ?

Michael de Kooker