How to Sidechain in FL Studio (3 Ways)
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to sidechain in FL Studio. Sidechaining is a signal processing technique where we use the amplitude (volume) of one signal waveform to control some parameter of another signal. In electronic music like trance, house, and techno, we usually do it with the kick and the bass.
The kick signal is used to control the presence of the bass in the mix so the two are not competing against each other in the bass regime of the frequency spectrum (40 Hz to 250 Hz). The bass volume “ducks” under the kick when the kick is triggered, and this effect makes the low end of the kick more present.
Sidechaining in FL Studio can be done a few ways depending on what you want your end result to sound like and how much control you want over the sound. This article will outline three different ways to get it done. Get a look at this handy infographic for a quick run down.
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Sidechain Compression in FL Studio Using Fruity Limiter
With the first technique, we’ll use Fruity Limiter to sidechain a kick to a bass saw synth. This uses the compressor setting in the Fruity Limiter plugin to compress the bass signal when the kick is triggered. I set a basic pattern for the kick and a few simple chords for the Swagger Bass synth I made in Sytrus and overlapped them in the Playlist. Here’s what it sounds like without sidechain compresison applied:
The heavy presence of the bass synth in the 60 Hz to 125 Hz range is drowning out the kick, which should one of the most prominent instruments in the track. I added spectrum analyzers to each Mixer track to visually show what’s going on here.
We can see in the spectrum analyzers above that the Swagger Bass and Kick are interfering with each other between about 60 Hz and 125 Hz. This is what’s causing the kick to sound weak. Let’s fix it.
Step 1: Add Fruity Limiter
We first need to add a Fruity Limiter to the bass Mixer track (or whatever track you want to duck under the kick).
Now, we need to make the signal link from the kick track to the bass synth track. Click the kick’s Mixer track, and while it’s still selected, right-click on the small upward-facing arrow on the bass mixer track. A menu pops up. Select the “Sidechain to this track” option.
Step 2: Fruity Limiter Compressor Settings
Next we need to tweak a few parameters in the Fruity Limiter on the bass Mixer track. Open up your Fruity Limiter on the bass track, and change it from LIMIT to COMP mode. In the SIDECHAIN box, either mouse wheel up or click and drag it until it says “1”. Drop the compressor THRES amount, and increase the RATIO.
You can see the kick signal is now working to compress the bass signal when it’s being triggered in the Playlist. Here’s what it sounds like with sidechain compression applied:
Sounds way better, doesn’t it? The kick is plowing through the mix now and the bass synth is pumping back as the compressor’s effect wears off.
Step 3: More Settings
If you followed this to the tee so far, you might not get the same sounding result as me. That’s because while you weren’t looking, I changed a few of the other compressor settings, namely the REL (release) and CURVE settings.
The REL release setting is controlling how long it takes for the kicks compression effect on the bass to wear off. A higher setting means it will last longer. A lower setting means it will not last very long. We have to make sure it’s not too low, or we’ll cause distortion. This is no bueno, unless you are intentionally doing it for another effect.
I increased the release time in our example so that the time spent compressing the bass synth is about equal to the time spent not compressing the bass synth. It’s totally subjective, but it sounds better to me this way. Use your ears to make the right call on these settings.
I also changed the CURVE setting to 8. This setting alters the tension of the attack and release curves. What’s that mean? Well at 1, your attack and release will be immediate. And at 8, your attack and release will be more sustained. With this setting, you can shift the curve left and right when used with different ATT and REL settings. It can take some experimentation to get a feel for. Next up: Fruity Peak Controller. Stay tuned.
How to Sidechain in FL Studio Using Fruity Peak Controller
This ducking method is similar in the way the kick signal is being used to instantaneously lower the presence of the bass synth in the mix. But this method does not use compression or a compressor to achieve that. With this method, we’re controlling the bass synth’s volume through a Fruity Balance volume knob in the Mixer with the kicks signal.
Step 1: Add a Fruity Peak Controller
First, open the Mixer and add a Fruity Peak Controller to the kick Mixer track. Doing this adds a new internal controller that changes things based on the kick’s volume to FL Studio’s internal controllers list.
Step 2: Add and Link Fruity Balance
Next, navigate over to the bass synth’s Mixer track and add a Fruity Balance. Now we need to link the volume knob to the kick’s Peak Controller. Open Fruity Balance and right-click the volume knob. Select the “Link to controller” option in the drop down menu. Under internal controller in the new window, select “Peak ctrl – Peak” to make the link, and click “Accept”
Step 3: Kick Peak Controller Settings
Now we need to play around with the kick’s Peak Controller settings. First, head over to the kick’s Peak Controller, and crank the TENSION up. Then, reverse the direction that the Fruity Balance volume knob is moving by turning the VOL knob to the left, and move the BASE (baseline level) up to where the bass synth volume should be when the kick is not being triggered. It will take a little fine tuning of these parameters to achieve that pumping bass sound.
We can see that the new peak controller curve looks very similar to the compression curve from the first technique. Here’s what it sounds like:
Much better. OK, now on to Level 3: Automation Clips.
How to Sidechain in FL Studio Using Automation Clips
Technically speaking, this technique isn’t sidechaining at all. And that’s because we’re going to use an automation clip to control the Fruity Balance volume knob on the bass synth completely independent of the kick signal. For that reason, this method is probably the most versatile and allows for the most flexibility and control over the sound.
Step 1: Add and Create a Fruity Balance Volume Automation Clip
Just like before, navigate over to the bass synth’s Mixer track and add a Fruity Balance. Now we need to link the volume knob to an automation clip. Open Fruity Balance and right-click the volume knob. Select the “Create automation clip” option in the drop down menu. You should see a new automation clip appear in your playlist.
Step 2: Shape the Automation Clip
We want to achieve that same ducking effect as before. The shape of the automation clip will closely resemble the compression curve and peak controller curve in the previous methods.
If you use patterns for your drums, you can help visualize how the curve should look. Make copies of some of your kick audio clips in the Playlist where they’re being triggered. Make sure to mute your kick pattern track temporarily (little green button). This will visually show you when the kick begins, peaks, and ends. You’ll have a better idea of where your curve should begin to rise back up. We’re basically creating a hole in the frequency spectrum for the kick to fill in. Same effect, different approach. Here’s what this one sounds like:
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