Today I’m going to be showing you how to sidechain in FL Studio 20. Sidechain compression is a common advanced mixing technique that creates more rhythm, energy, and excitement in a track. I have three great methods to share that both beginners and advanced producers can start using today!
At a Glance: 3 Ways To Sidechain In FL Studio
- Fruity Limiter: Classic sidechain compression
- Gross Beat: Fast and simple
- Volume Automation: Extremely flexible
Before We Start: What Is Sidechain Compression?
‘Sidechain’ or ‘Sidechain Compression’ is a type of compression where the effect is based on the level of another instrument.
The most common method is kick and bass, meaning every time the kick hits, the compressor will process the bass, making it duck and leave headroom. So why should I use a sidechain in FL Studio?
Every element in a mix competes for a limited amount of space. For example, sub-basses and kick drums usually fight for the same frequency spectrum.
The result? They step on each other’s toes.
Sidechain helps shorter elements cut through the mix. These sounds are the first to get buried because sounds like sub-basses, synth pads, and vocals always feel louder to the listener.
Remember, you can sidechain anything. Here are some typical use-cases for sidechaining in FL Studio:
- Sidechain your lead synth to have your vocals cut through the mix
- Sidechain your bass to leave room for the kick
- Create a pumping effect used in EDM tracks
What Genres Use Sidechain Compression?
Sidechaining can be used in every music genre, but by far, it is most associated with EDM and House. These genres rely on hard-hitting kicks and pumping bass sounds. If you want to hear an example of sidechaining, go and listen to Daft Punk´s banger ‘One More Time’.
You’ll hear the kick entering the mix at 00:45. Listen to the pulsating effect it has on the bass. That is sidechain compression.
Before we dive into the sidechain tutorial in FL Studio, What element of the track do you want to duck (sidechain)?
Sidechaining in FL Studio using Fruity Limiter
The first method I’m going to teach you is the most typical way of sidechaining in FL Studio. Why? Because we’re going to use a compressor plugin, and more specifically the plugin ‘Fruity Limiter’. This option will give you the most control over your compression.
Step 1: Load The Plugin Fruity Limiter
The first step is to select the track in the mixer that you want to be ducked. For me, that would be the bass track. Load the Fruity Limiter plugin into the bass track.
Step 2: Link The Kick To The Bass
Once you have loaded the Fruity Limiter into the bass track, you need to link the kick track. This is a simple process and all you need to do is select the kick track and right-click on the small arrow at the bottom of the channel strip.
This will open up a window with a couple of options. From there select the option ‘Sidechain to this track’. The two tracks are linked together when you see a grey cable between them.
Step 3: Add The Sidechain
When everything is linked together, it’s time to add the sidechain in the Fruity Limiter. Open up your Fruity Limiter and change it from LIMIT to COMP mode. Next, on the sidechain input, select the kick-track.
Now we have routed the kick to the bass.
Step 4: Basic Settings
Now it’s time to dial in the settings of the Fruity Limiter so we get the pumping effect that we’re looking for. Note that the exact settings will differ depending on what tracks you’ve linked together and what sound you’re looking for.
Sidechaining in FL Studio using Gross Beat
Using Gross Beat is probably the easiest way to sidechain in FL Studio. It will add a simple sidechain pattern on your selected track.
Step 1: Load The Plugin
Select the track that you want to ‘duck’ and add the plugin Gross Beat into one of the effect slots. You can find it under ‘Misc’.
Step 2: Sidechain Setup
Gross Beat’s user interface is divided into two sections: Time manipulation and Volume manipulation. You can ignore the time manipulation for the purpose of sidechaining. Select the ‘Sidechain’ preset in the bottom-left corner.
Step 3: Settings
In the envelope, drag the points around to change settings. If you want to reset the points back to default you can right-click them.
To the left, you also have controls for attack (ATT), release (REL), and tension (TNS):
Attack defines how fast the compressor will kick in.
Release determines how long the sidechain effect takes to relax after the signal has reached the threshold.
Tension is how hard (slope) the sidechain will hit the signal.
The volume knob is pretty much a Dry/Wet-parameter which you can use to alter how much sidechaining you want to use.
Sidechaining in FL Studio using Automation
You can also use volume automation in FL Studio. Technically it’s not sidechaining since we don’t compress the sound, but the result is still a pumping effect. This option gives you tons of flexibility and customization options.
Step 1: Route Your Instrument To A Free Mixer Track
The first step is to select the track that you want to apply sidechaining to and route it to a free channel on the FL Studio mixer.
Hit the plugin option and click on ‘Route to free mixer track’
Step 2: Add Fruity Balance
After routing, it’s time to add Fruity Balance to the track. Click on a new slot and select Fruity Balance under the ‘Gain’.
Step 3: Automate The Volume Knob To The Kick
Highlight an area that contains the kick-sample and open up the mixer, and select Fruity Balance.
Right-click on the volume knob and select ‘Create automation clip’.
Shape the automation clip to the way the kick looks and drag it over the bass track.
Copy and paste the automation clip so it matches the kick pattern.
And there you have it! Hopefully, you’ve learned how to sidechain in FL Studio. Sidechain compression is a powerful tool when mixing, and is also widely used to create the pumping effect used in EDM.
Using Gross Beat is the fastest and simplest method for applying a sidechain in FL Studio.
If you want more control, I recommend using the Fruity Limiter. Using a compressor allows you to dial in more granular settings.
Last but not least you have volume automation. This method of sidechaining gives you a lot of flexibility since you can move the automation clips wherever you want.