Reason Tips vol. 1: Sidechain Compression

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural to flip your rack around and play with your cables!

Hi Ninjas! Producer Dojo is known for the amazing Ableton resources and instruction provided by ill.Gates, but the team of Senseis that teach at the Dojo are experienced using many different DAWs. Trap Jesus has been using Reason since version 2.5 and has followed it’s evolution to it’s current version 10 and loves to share his passion for this powerful DAW with his students and collaborators. This is the first installment of a series of Reason tips and tricks that Trap Jesus will be writing for the Producer Dojo blog, and in this initial episode we will cover the best way to Sidechain Compress using Reason’s native tools.

The simplest way to side chain compress in Reason (6.5 and later) is using the Parallel Out channels.

Hit Tab while looking at the Rack window, which will turn around so you can see the cables behind the devices. You can now see that every mix channel has stereo pairs of both Parallel Pre Out ports and Dynamics Sidechain In ports (see image below). Take the parallel out from one channel (e.g. kick) and route it into the dynamics input of another (e.g. sub) by simply clicking and holding on the first port and dragging the cursor to the other port. 

It works in reverse too, going from the ins to the outs. You can also split the stereo pair from one signal to compress two separate tracks.

You’ll note the blue ‘KEY’ light becomes activated on the back of the channel whose dynamics ports you used.

Now go to the mixer window, find the channel you want to compress (the sub in this model) and turn on the built in SSL compressor. You’ll see a similar blue ‘KEY’ button is lit up here too, and the sidechain can be switched on and off by pressing the ‘KEY’ button on the compressor.

Now your side chain is set up and ready! This may feel like a lot but once you are familiar this process takes seconds.

Compressor Settings:

For most side chain compression applications, such as compressing a sub bass with a kick signal or compressing a percussion or instrument bus with a drum bus signal, I recommend using the following settings:

Turn on the ‘peak’ button on the compressor to apply the fastest possible attack. This allows the initial transient of the kick, that first loud drum peak, to cut thru the mix right away by compressing the sub.

This type of compression is meant to be seamless and transparent, making room for the drum while the drum sound is happening then allowing the compressed sound to rise back to full volume quickly with no noticeable lag. With this in mind I usually use the fastest release setting on the knob (100ms, turned fully counter clockwise).

For a very noticeable pumping effect, like you will often hear in house music and electro tracks, slower release settings are preferable. Experiment until you find a release time that works with the groove of the song in this case.

Either way I aim for about 3 lights worth of of gain reduction, using most of the yellow lights and maybe avoiding the red.

Now let’s review…

Parallel Out Sidechain:

TAB to flip Rack around

Drag cable from Parallel out to Dynamics in

Turn on SSL compressor in mixer

Compressor Settings:

Attack: Peak (fastest)

Release: 100ms (fastest)

Gain Reduction: ~3 lights

Thank you for reading and always remember,

Trap Jesus Loves You!