Ducking is the term we give to the process that entails one sound or event being used to attenuate (lower in gain/volume) of another sound. The common processor used for ducking is a compressor.
Ducking has been around since the advent of broadcasting. Traditionally ducking is used to manage the volume between the broadcaster and the background music. I am sure you have heard this effect before. Every time the broadcaster speaks the background music lowers in volume.
In today's world of ever evolving cheap technologies we can handle mixes with high track counts. But there is a price to pay and it is called 'congestion'. When you have so many sounds fighting for space in the mix it can become a nightmare managing the gains of all the various channels. Automation is a solution but it is very time consuming and laborious so we turn to an industry technique that uses one sound to attenuate another - ducking.
The process is quite simple and something I am sure you have come across when it comes to managing the kick and bass in a mix. Quite often the bass and kick will be fighting each other for space, so we use one to duck the other. Every time the kick plays the bass is ducked slightly. This allows the kick and bass to sit together in the same space.
Effects also suffer from congestion and when you have so many instances of reverbs, delays etc you can imagine how quickly the headroom will get eaten up and how dull and mushy your mixes will sound. However, the biggest problem with running multiple effects on vocals is that of loss of clarity. When a vocal is sung we want to hear all the elements in the vocals. Reverb has the uncanny effect of dulling vocals if used excessively or poorly. The trick we use is to duck the reverb when the vocals start and allow the reverb to gently bleed in over time.
Let me guide you through this wonderful process and by the end of the video you will be a master ducker!
Topics covered in this video are:
Understanding Threshold and Range
Tips and Tricks