In electronic music, a "pumping" effect is often produced to accentuate the sound of the kick drum. To do this, usually a synthesizer's volume will be compressed when the kick drum is triggered. Basically, an increasing kick volume causes a synth's volume to decrease correspondingly.

Now, the question: Does anyone know of a way to reproduce this effect in a small band setting (electric guitars/bass guitar/drums)? The idea would be that, when the kick drum attacks, a specific guitar's volume decreases, for instance. Ideally this would work without having to route anything through a laptop.

  • Both of the answers from Tekkerue and cyco130 look correct - accepted Tekk's since they answered first. – Daniel Neel Jan 2 '16 at 8:59

Any compressor unit that has a sidechain input should work fine for this.

Essentially, the kick drum mic is routed to the side chain input of the guitar's compressor. If you are using a mixer you should be able to do this while also routing your kick to the main PA speakers as well (either via an aux send or a direct line output). The kick drum would then cause the compressor to engage on the guitar causing the guitar to decrease in volume when the kick drum is played.


It is sometimes done with kick and bass guitar in rock mixes and it's called "ducking the bass". Basically you need a compressor with a side chain input and you set it so that the bass volume decreases when there is a kick hit.

This Sound on Sound article has some information on the technique (under the "Ducking the Bass" heading).

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