Been a while eh? Here’s another one anyway.
Client: “How was the kick drum level in the mix?”
Kick drum wise, it’s actually a little hard to say. I mean, it’s absolutely fine level-wise from a certain point of view. With what seemed to be very heavy sidechaining holding absolutely everything rigidly in place though, it’s a little different. It’s kind of too loud when it plays, but not when it doesn’t. I appreciate that might sound a bit silly, but bear with me…
FWIW this is something I’ve spent the last few years talking (ok, moaning) about – I’ve come to call it sidechainitis for ease of reference. After a lot of thought/talking to people/writing, it struck me that this kind of sidechaining is practically identical to heavy limiting. If you’re limiting a track hard, the kick plays and pushes everything else out of the way. Kick stops, everything else comes up again. So, for that period where the kick is playing, it’s effectively relatively XdB louder than it was without limiting. The other stuff in the mix goes down by XdB, the kick dominates. This is, to a very large degree, exactly the same as you get with sidechaining.
The differences are 1) you don’t get an absolute peak ceiling as with limiting, and 2) that sidechaining tends to be somewhat cleaner, due in part to the reduction of intermodulation distortion (simply, different signals under the same dynamic processing). So people think it’s all good. It doesn’t distort, right? Great! But from my perspective, it’s not actually all that different to if they’d hammered their track with limiting. Everything is still very much tied together, held in place; the cake is still baked.
I’ve written and thought A TON about this over the years, and this ^ might be the best I’ve ever expressed it.
As far as this track goes, it’s fine. But quite possibly, you’re hearing what I’m talking about (‘it’s loud when it plays but not when it’s not’) and that’s the very reason you’re asking the question. So just be aware that you are walking a very fine line with this practice. You’re painting the mix into a corner. When your kick is too loud in some future track, it is very, very difficult to unpick it when everything is tied together like that.
This is where you tell me you didn’t sidechain anything.