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Best way to bounce tracks with sidechain plugins (3 ways described)


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I thought I'd post this for a discussion and for easier referencing in the future. :)

There are several ways to bounce tracks and buses (tracks are easier!) with side-chained plugins. I think this one that @Will_Kaydo told me about is the easiest (see embedded video at bottom):

  1. Bounce tracks with SC plugins using Source Category set to Buses -
    It requires that the track you want to bounce ("original track") is routed to an intermediary bus (say, "Synths"), before going to Master, and you select your "Synths" bus as a Source Category instead. If you would do this while the original track goes straight to Master, you will get the sidechain source audio mixed in (assuming it's an audible track).

A couple of other ways I've done it in the past:

2. Bounce tracks with SC plugins using Source Category set to Tracks - This is how I've done it for years, with sidechained plugins according to the Cakewalk manual. In the Bounce to Tracks dialogue, select both the original track and the sidechain source, and set Source Category to Tracks. It works, but the downside is that you get two new tracks, which is slow and also a slight nuisance to have to delete.

3. Bounce buses with SC plugins using Source Category set to Entire mix and a silent sidechain source - Create a copy of your source (say, a kick drum track), set the Output to None (this will generate warnings at project load, though), or turn down the fader and set send level to pre-fader. Use Entire Mix as Source Category. The pros are that you can bounce it without it being audible and you can easily create pumping/ducking effects even when your kick is muted. But the downside is the increased project complexity. It was a few years since I did it this way, and nowadays plugins like the LFOtool are a way easier.

Hm, did I get all things right? Please chime in if you have thoughts or improvements. :)

Will's great video:


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@Jim Fogle I think he is referring to the way he had done this in the past by bringing light to the pros and cons to those. He pretty much does say the video is only pro. It's literally the only way to do this in the DAW at the moment. 

You can also pretty much leave the compressor on the Bus. I just prefer the direct approach to this. 

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Thanks @Jim Fogle!

All methods listed above are currently still valid in Cakewalk, they differ due to different pre-requisites and needs, like if your sidechain plugin is inserted on a track or a bus. But method #1 (Will's method) is my new favorite, as it's quick and only generates a bounce of the original track (of course with the sidechain plugin effect printed), but it skips bouncing an unnecessary copy of the sidechain source track, as method #2 does. :)

Sidechaining tracks from kickdrum tracks isn't probably as common as it used to be, since doing the same with a VST ducking plugin instead is a lot faster and simpler. And with such plugins it's easier to freeze audio tracks and VST instruments without considering any dependencies to other tracks. But if one needs to feed the sidechain input with something more irregular than a kick drum, then "real" sidechaining is still the way to go. :)

Edited by GreenLight
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