If you want more detailed control over the elements in your project you want to side-chain, it might be worth considering a volume shaper if you’ve always previous opted for a compressor. Cableguys’ Volume Shaper actually works in multi-band, so you could use this to duck the volume of only the low, mid or high frequency. Side-chaining to your kick drum, you could even apply the Volume Shaper to the full frequency range, but make it softer for the mid and high bands, and stronger for the low end. Alternatively, try using an Autofilter to act as a frequency dependent side-chain, sweeping hi-pass or low-pass on elements when the kick sounds, for more creative results.
Master M/S Processing
A highly effective technique for mastering the stereo image of your productions, Mid/Side EQ’s can help redefine the low end in your mixes as well as boost the stereo image. Make sure you keep any low-frequency elements centered using a Side EQ and sweep away the low frequency, whilst boosting some high frequency on the Sides of a signal can help boost the perceived width, increasing depth on lead elements. The application of M/S processing can actually be much simpler in some cases, Voxengo’s MSED plugin simply offers Mid or Side gain, trying using the Side gain on a synth lead to increase the width, whilst applying a small Mid gain to a bass could help remedy any lack of warmth.
Crunch The Tops
Overly bright hi-hats can sometimes add a digital and more clinical feel to a mix, if this is case in your project try running them through a distortion plugin or bit crusher. Either group your hi-hats together and route them to a buss, which you could then route to another buss to group with other drum and percussion elements. Or alternatively, if you have a distortion plugin capable of multi-band processing, apply the processing to the top end only.
Watch the Mids
Be careful not to cram your project with too many dominant mid frequency elements. You should apply the same considered technique you would normally with your low frequency sounds in a project – with these we’re well aware to low cut everything bar the kick, sub and/or bass. Try applying this approach to your mid elements, either using an EQ on elements to make space or think about using sounds that don’t crowd the mids. The frequency range roughly around 1-4k is generally a good area to avoid, this should be mostly reserved for vocal or lead synth elements. Or if you do have sounds that dominate the mids, use them sparingly in an arrangement to make space for your standout sounds.
To achieve a more analogue feel in your mixes, without splashing the cash on hardware or even software (the UAD platform is not cheap!), research some quality freeware to add that much sought after ‘analog vibe’. Two awesome, and free, tape simulators come in the form of CD Soundmaster R2R and Acustica Nebula 3. Try these out on your buss groups and master outputs to add some old school vibe to your mixes. With these sorts of plugins, a good approach is little and often. Applying in small amounts to many sounds within a mix can really help that sonic quality, rather than only sticking on the master output and driving into the red heavily.