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Space is the Place

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Everyone talks about the low end. As educated readers, I've got to assume you have heard about or at least thought about attempting the tried and true method of side chain compression in order to duck bass instruments during busy and sonically muddy song sections. 

The traditional way of side chain compressing is to compress the bass with the kick acting as a side chain input. This will duck the bass track as a whole whenever the kick is active.

A more focused way of doing so is to lowpass filter the kick before sending its signal to the compressor's side chain in order to only drop the bass when the low end of the kick is present. This does away with unwanted compressor reaction due to any higher frequency content in the side signal. 

Beyond this, you can take things a step further by muting and sending the bass instrument track to two new send tracks, high and low pass filter each (de-correlate), and only side chain compress the low pass channel. This allows for the upper harmonics of the bass instrument to remain un-ducked while the lower frequencies pump to make room for the kick. 

My recommendation, however, is to save a lot of time and complicated routing and purchase Wavesfactory Trackspacer.

Overview

Essentially, the Trackspacer acts as all three of the above described side chain set-ups combined into a easy to use plug-in. The plug-in itself is a single dynamic band reject filter which allows the user to to select a frequency band of the insert track to duck according to the frequency and amplitude of a side chain signal.

This means—in its most proper usage—the low end of the bass would be ducked when the kick hits with the bass' high end being affected as little or as much as the user dictates. In traditional side chain compression (and even filtered side chain compression as described above) the upper end (harmonics) of the bass would be ducked as much as the lower end in terms of ratio which is not necessarily desired. 

Even in the instance of the de-correlated bass, the upper harmonics will end up sounding somewhat unnatural as they will not be effected at all. This plug in addresses all of these issues in a simple insert.

The main interface sports a visualizer and three main knobs. The visualizer shows a frequency response of both the insert signal—signal being affected—and the side chain signal after filtering. 

The left knob is a side chain high pass filter while the right knob is a side chain low pass filter. The center knob controls to what extent the insert signal is ducked in response to the amplitude of the filtered side chain.

The main interface.  The blue line is the incoming audio.  The white line is the side chain input.

By clicking the small blue circle in the lower right of the visualizer, some advanced options can be accessed. The most useful of these are the attack and release parameters which control how quickly the insert signal is ducked and then allowed back to full amplitude. 

The attack can be near instantaneous with a response of 0.01 ms and the release limits out at a seemingly excessive 700 ms, giving the user more than enough time to space out their bass.

The pan knob and L/R-M/S options are ones I do not find myself using very often, but are unique and handy to have when the situation calls. 

In L/R mode the pan knob will control how much the left and right channels are compressed. In M/S mode, the pan knob selects between reducing mid or side input frequencies.

The advanced parameters.

Bass is the Place

Below, you can hear an example of the Trackspacer in action. I have a sustained and overdriven bass note playing against an 808 kick. They both contain most of their frequency energy in the lower octaves, so something creative needs to be done to give them some seperation.

The initial sound.

Trackspacer set to 60% reduction with the LPF set to 300 hz.

Immediately, you can hear far more definition in the kick. The bass range of the kick has become much more distinct where as with the initial example much of it was swallowed by the bass note. 

Furthermore, in the second example, although there is some pumping in the mid-range harmonics of the bass, it is far less distinct than would be gained through traditional side chaining and much more natural sounding and less time consuming to achieve than with the de-correlation method.

Wormholes

The Trackspacer does not only come in handy in the low end or need to be used solely as a single band ducker. Suppose you’ve a recorded drum track where the attack of the hi-hats is overpowering. The obtuse answer to this would be to go for an envelope effect which would work, but a bit to well in that it would also cut the attack of the kick and anything else on the same recording.

By creating a dummy hi-hat track to use as the side chain input and inserting Trackspacer on the recording, we can create a sort of dynamic envelope effect which only acts on the upper frequencies.

To do this, I have recorded a kick and hi-hat pattern, doubled it, high pass filtered it to (mostly) only let through the hi-hat and set it to no output.

I've then inserted Trackspacer on the original track, set the side chain to the muted track and played around with the parameters until I have managed to cut the harshness of the hat without effecting the kick.

The look.

The sound.

The sound with Trackspacer.

Taking things a step further, I decided to slice up the dummy track and mute a few of the hi-hats to create accents where there will be no side chain input and Trackspacer will not respond. 

In a few simple steps I have changed the dynamic and frequency characteristics of the original track; the results of which would take numerous steps and channels to achieve with a traditional side chain compressor set up.

The look.

The accented sound.

Conclusion

As you can see and hear, Trackspacer is an extremely easy to use plug-in and can be used in a number of different ways to not only solve problems, but create new and interesting sonics one may not have envisioned previously. 

Due to its simple nature and unique parameters the creative aspects of it can not be overstated easily. I use it to duck unrelated elements or play with extreme attack and release settings during production to add spontaneous and improvised feels to countless track elements in unexpected ways. 

Its ease of use as simply a kick/bass ducker makes it more than worth while and its creative and unthought of usability makes it a plug in I can't recommend enough.

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