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This week, we’re examining at some of the new functionality in the Roland Aira Modular FX line, especially combining the new Compressor and Enveloper virtual modules to create a very common electronic dance music effect, the Sidechain Compressor. Prior to the NAMM Convention in Anaheim in January, Roland announced a new update to their Aira Modular Customizer app, a program that can be used to add functionality to the Roland Aira Modular FX modules through a virtual modular environment. We’ve looked at this app before, building an FM Kick Drum, an internal Oscillator and a Drum Machine, but thanks to the update, we can go even deeper.

Compression is generally used to reduce the dynamic range of a sound, often squashing loud sounds so that they aren’t quite as abrasive, leaving room to raise the volume of the entire track, effectively making quiet sounds seem louder and loud sounds quieter. By changing certain parameters of a compressor, the dynamic range of a sound can be changed over time, which led to experimentation using external audio sources to control the loudness of a sound, a technique now known as Sidechain Compression.

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Sidechain Compression has become a common element in electronic music, especially dance music featuring steady, quarter note Kick Drum patterns. To exaggerate the impact of the Kick Drums, producers began using Compression effects to reduce the dynamics of other sounds in the mix, most often synths and bass sounds, “ducking” those sounds whenever the Kick Drum would sound. This left a space for the Kick Drum to hit, as well as giving the listener the effect of other sounds pumping back to full volume as the sound of the Kick decays. In fact, this same basic concept is used by video editors to duck background sounds underneath a narrating voice, as can be heard in the video above.

Thankfully, both of the necessary elements to achieve Sidechain Compression are available in the additional 16 virtual modules that Roland has included in it’s new update, bringing the total to 31 virtual devices. By routing these different virtual modules together in creative ways, we can expand the functions of the Roland Aira FX line. In this case, we are routing an Enveloper (an Envelope Follower/Generator) through a Compressor, but there are so many possibilities, even in the limited space offered by the virtual environment.

What do you think of the Aira Modular FX series? Let us know in the comments!

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Roland Aira Sidechain Compression

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