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Unlocking the Power of Sidechain Compression in EDM Production: A Comprehensive Guide
Master the art of sidechain compression in EDM with our comprehensive guide! Learn about its theory, practical application in Logic Pro, and how it can elevate your bass tracks.

If you're a budding music producer, particularly in the realm of electronic dance music (EDM), this blog post will be your comprehensive guide to mastering sidechain compression on bass tracks. Sidechain compression plays a pivotal role in carving out unique, pulsating soundscapes that define EDM's distinctive style. Injecting this technique into your music production workflow can elevate your tracks from merely good to extraordinary.

This educational piece will not only explain the theory behind sidechain compression but also guide you step-by-step through the process on the digital audio workstation (DAW), Logic Pro. And, rest assured, these principles can be applied across various DAWs, expanding your creative freedom.

Understanding Sidechain Compression on Bass Tracks in EDM

Sidechain compression, also known as "ducking," is a technique where the level of one sound is reduced based on the level of another sound. In EDM, it is often used to reduce the level of the bass whenever the kick drum hits, allowing the kick to punch through the mix. It creates a rhythmic pumping effect that you've likely heard in countless EDM tracks.

The kick drum is central to this technique because of its prominent role within EDM. When the kick drum hits, it triggers the compressor on the bass track, reducing its level and creating that desired pulsating effect. However, to accomplish this, you need a DAW that supports sidechain compression. Fortunately, most popular DAWs including Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, and FL studio, support this indispensable technique.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Sidechain Compression

Now let's dive into the practical aspect. First, add a compressor to the bass track in Logic Pro. Once you've done that, find the sidechain settings - they're commonly located in the top right of the compressor plugin window. There, you should see an option to select the desired sidechain input, in this case, the kick drum track.

Those new to sidechain compression might ask: "What's the difference between sidechain off and sidechain on?" The answer is simple: with sidechain on, your compressor will react to the kick drum, whereas with sidechain off, it will only react to the bass. The effects of this difference are profound, as they allow you to control the bass and the kick drum's relationship.

Next, adjust the attack and release settings to sculpt your desired sound. The attack dictates how quickly the compressor reacts after the kick drum hits. The release setting controls how long it takes for the compression to stop after the kick drum's signal falls below the threshold. Longer release times will result in a smoother, more pulsating bass sound, whereas a shorter release can potentially cause distortion if not handled correctly.

Getting the right balance could be tricky, so it's wise to start with a moderate setting and adjust according to taste. Capture the breadth of your waves without causing digital distortion or clipping. A recommended setting is a quick attack time (around 1-10 ms) and a moderate to long release time (around 60-100 ms), but remember, these settings are not written in stone and should be tweaked according to your musical vision.

Application of the Technique Across Different Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Both the theory and practice of sidechain compression in Logic Pro apply to other DAWs. Every DAW will have slightly different ways to engage and adjust sidechain compression, but the fundamental premise is the same – using the level of one track (the kick drum, in this case) to control the level of another (the bass).

Whether you're working in Ableton Live, Pro Tools, FL Studio, or any other DAW, don’t be shy about exploring and trying the sidechain compression technique. The best education often comes from trial, error, and personal experimentation.


We've now covered the what, why, and how of sidechain compression in EDM production—the concept, significance, and practical application in DAWs, with a specific focus on Logic Pro.

Let's underline the essence once more: Sidechain compression allows the kick drum to poke through the mix by reducing the bass level whenever the kick drum hits. This results in that rhythmic, pumping effect characteristic of EDM. The exact settings on your compressor – attack, release, sidechain input – can all be adjusted to taste, guiding your tracks towards the sound you envision.

Ultimately, the importance of experimentation and personal preference cannot be overstated. The guidelines are there to serve as a starting point, but the music is yours to shape as you please. We encourage you to dive deep into your production journey, ask questions, seek answers, and request more topics to help us guide you better. Happy producing!

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Rylan Talerico
October 24, 2023
Before founding Crate, Rylan Talerico was signed to Warner Records as a recording artist, producer, and songwriter. These days, Rylan enjoys spending time with his family and working on Crate building tools to empower musicians to be more creative and connected.
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