Using Expansion - Side-chaining Tricks

Advanced tutorial on how to use Side-chaining with Expansion to create new textures.

Dynamic Processors


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There are two basic forms of Expansion we use in music production – Upward and Downward Expansion, and the best way to explain them is to compare them to existing processes like a gate and a compressor. Whereas compressors narrow the dynamic range of a signal expansion does the exact opposite and extends the dynamic range. A downward compressor will reduce the audio signal above the threshold whereas an upward compressor will boost the audio signal below the threshold. Both narrow the dynamic range of the audio signal.

Downward expanders reduce the level of an audio signal below the threshold, making quiet sounds quieter. This extends the dynamic range of the audio signal.

Upward expanders boost the level of an audio signal above the threshold, making loud sounds even louder. This extends the dynamic range of the audio signal.

Now that we know how expansion works let us look at how similar a downward expander is to a noise gate.
Whereas a gate (with its range control set to maximum) will completely silence any signal that falls below the threshold, the expander applies gain reduction the audio signal below the threshold, in effect, like a compressor in reverse.

I have created a number of video tutorials on how to use expansion to extend the dynamic range of vocals or over compressed material.

BUT, an expander can be far more than a dynamic extension tool. If you use it’s side-chain feature you enter the world of sound design and advanced production processes.

In this video I show you how we can use a kick drum and a pad sound and create a wide variety of sonic textures.

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Side-chain Expansion
  • Gates – Features
  • Threshold and Range
  • Attack, Hold, Rel and Knee
  • Ratio
  • Side-chain Filtering
  • Upward – Downward