PreSonus Blog

“Pump” Your Pads and Power Chords

I’ve written about how to get that cool “pumped” drum sound using the Compressor’s internal sidechain—but I’ve never written about how to obtain the traditional, sidechain-based pumping sound that works with any sustained audio. Apologies! Let’s remedy that oversight.

If you’re not familiar with this effect, a waveform is worth a thousand words. Here, the drum track’s kick is pumping the Mai Tai synth part, which would otherwise be sustaining (like it does at the end).

Pump It (Eurosphere Mix)

The Routing

Fig. 1 shows the routing. The Drum Mix track’s signal goes through a pre-fader send to a Bus. To isolate the kick sound going through the Bus, the Pro EQ cuts off the highs, and boosts the bass. The kick signal from the Bus goes through a pre-fader send to the sidechain of a Compressor in the synth track. The Compressor does the pumping.

Figure 1: Signal flow for pumping a synth pad or power chord with the kick from a mixed drum loop.

The Bus EQ

Fig. 2 shows the EQ settings. Yes, I know it’s horribly distorted. But it doesn’t matter, because we don’t hear it. We just want a big honkin’ blob of kick energy to bombard the compressor’s sidechain…which this does.

Figure 2: Only two stages are highlighted, because that’s all we need

The Compressor

Fig. 3 shows the settings used in the audio example, but these are quite critical. You’ll likely need to tweak them for your specific musical scenario.

Figure 3: Compressor settings.
  • Lower Threshold = deeper pumping
  • Higher Ratio = more aggressive pumping
  • Higher Release = longer recovery from the pump
  • Higher Knee value = slightly less abrupt pumping
  • Auto and Adaptive = leave them off—we don’t want a natural compression sound
  • Mix = the secret weapon! Go from a hint of pumping at low percentages, to extreme pumpological action at 100%. And remember: this parameter is automatable. Just sayin.’
  • Pre-fader send to the Compressor’s Sidechain = tweak this for the most consistent results.

Frankly, I never get tired of this effect. I hope you enjoy it!

For more tips on how to get the most out of Studio One, check out the series of Studio One eBooks that cover tips & tricks, creative mixing, recording/mixing vocals, dynamics processors, and recording/mixing guitar. Remember, eBook owners can download the latest “point” updates for free from their PreSonus account (or Sweetwater account, if purchased from there), just like software. Owners are also eligible for new editions at a reduced price.