Dynamic EQ Sidechaining: All You Need to Know

Dynamic EQ Sidechaining: All You Need to Know Dynamic EQ Sidechaining: All You Need to Know

Sidechain compression can help you quickly create sound space in your mix. However, it's somewhat limited in that a typical compressor triggers the entirety of the frequency spectrum. Fortunately, you can use sidechain tools like a dynamic EQ for enhanced control over the mix.

Below, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of dynamic EQ sidechaining so that you can use this technique in your next session. Let's take a closer look!

What is a Dynamic EQ?

As a music producer or audio engineer, you're likely familiar with the typical EQ or equalizer . These devices allow you to adjust individual frequencies across the audio spectrum, lowering or raising the amplitude of certain points or "bands" as you see fit. A typical EQ is static, meaning that once you set the frequency bands, they remain in place.

By contrast, a dynamic EQ is reactive. You can set it so that a frequency band is only affected in response to conflicting frequencies. This way, the EQ is only put into action when needed, preserving the integrity of the original signal during the points of the song where the EQ automation is unnecessary.

Sidechain Compression vs. Sidechaining EQ: What's the Difference?

Sidechain compression should be used when you want to compress the entirety of the track, keeping the settings static throughout the duration of the song. Sidechaining EQ equates to using the sidechain feature of a dynamic EQ. As the name suggests, dynamic EQs can shift in response to external sources - i.e. the settings are not static.

The EQ provides precise control over which frequencies are compressed, whereas a general compressor compresses everything past a set threshold. A dynamic EQ becomes active in response to a set trigger, with precise EQ bands set by the audio engineer.

6 Ways to Use Dynamic EQ Sidechaining

Here are six mixing scenarios in which you might want to utilize sidechaining EQ:

Make Space for Competing Frequencies

One of the most common reasons audio engineers employ any sort of sidechaining is to balance out the relationship between the kick drum and bass. The bass and kick drum tend to occupy similar low end frequencies that can easily get muddy and mask each other without appropriate processing. You can set a single band to compress the bass whenever the kick hits, creating needed space for the competing frequencies.

Helping Vocals Gel with the Mix

Using a dynamic EQ to compress the instrumental to make space for the main vocals can help you instantly boost the clarity of the vocal, placing it forward in your mix. This technique can make for a cohesive listening experience since the instrumental will automatically be triggered by the unique, dynamic nature of the side-chained vocal parts.

Creating a Tight Drum Mix

It's not uncommon to see many compressors used in a single drum mix, since keeping the individual parts glued together is critical for building a hard-hitting mix. However, it's not uncommon for drum parts to overlap with each other in terms of frequencies which is where sidechaining EQ comes in - the sidechain sees potential frequency conflicts and can adjust accordingly, triggering helpful ducking wherever you need it.

Precise De-essing

A generalized de-esser can definitely help you cut down on sibilance in your vocals, but it cannot match the flexibility of a dynamic EQ. Instead of using a deesser to compress a generally higher frequency range, the dynamic sidechaining EQ can be catered to specifically compress the "P"s, "T"s, "S"s, and any other forms of sibilance in your input signal. This way, the compressor's threshold will only kick in when needed, keeping problematic frequencies out without over-processing the full mix.

Adjusting Guitars, Synths, or Leads

Guitars, synths, and lead instruments often compete with the main vocal, as all tend to occupy the middle of the frequency spectrum. Sidechaining these instruments with a dynamic EQ can help the vocal come forward in the mix and gel the individual tracks together.

Creative Exploration

Sidechain compression can also be exaggerated for creative effect. Artists like Kaytranada are known for incorporating intense ducking into their soundscapes to enhance the groove as shown in this track example:

Top Dynamic EQ Options to Consider

Are you ready to try your hand at sidechaining EQ? Here are a couple of popular dynamic EQ options to consider:

FabFilter Pro Q

The FabFilter Pro Q series is well-loved across the industry for good reason which makes the Pro Q 3 one of the most popular dynamic EQs available. Notably, this EQ offers up to 24 bands for full control over your tracks.

Waves F6

If you're looking for a flexible, dynamic EQ at a great price, the Waves F6 is an excellent, affordable option. With 6 adjustable bands, you can sculpt your sound to your liking.

Tokyo Dawn NOVA

If you're looking for a free dynamic EQ option, the Tokyo Dawn NOVA is your best bet. It might not have the best user interface, but it gets the job done and you can't beat the price.

Dynamic Sidechaining EQ FAQ

Are you ready to put dynamic sidechaining to good use? Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to help you incorporate this technique into your sessions:

Should sidechain go before or after EQ?

If you're using an EQ to edit a sound, it should come before sidechain compression . Alternatively, you can also sidechain a dynamic EQ to compress a specific range of frequencies.

What is the purpose of sidechaining?

Sidechaining creates space in the mix to prevent similar frequencies from clashing and overlapping in the mix. For instance, sidechaining EQ can be used to reduce overlapping frequencies in a bass part in response to a kick which may share some of the same lower frequencies.

What does sidechaining sound like?

Sidechain compression sounds as though the affected track is "ducking" or reducing in volume or power in response to another track. This technique is commonly heard across electronic music genres, often creating needed space between the kick drum and bass.

What should I be sidechaining?

What you choose to sidechain depends heavily on the situation and the needs of a particular song. We provided a couple of sample scenarios above for your convenience, but essentially use this form of compression whenever you have two or more elements occupying the same frequency range.

Sidechaining a dynamic EQ rather than using pure sidechain compression can give you enhanced control over the space in your mix. The next time you're struggling with shaping the sound of your mix, try your hand with a dynamic EQ to unmask your selected sounds.

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