ShaperBox VolumeShaper: Sidechain and Pumping Effects


Thales Matos


Want to use Shaperbox VolumeShaper to create customizable sidechain patterns and pumping effects? Keep reading this in-depth tutorial.

It's like sidechaining kick and bass, but you can create more interesting patterns. You'll find audio examples in the video above.

Yes, you could create that effect with volume automation... 

pumping effect by drawing volume automation

But Shaperbox makes it effortless.

And you can try it for FREE. Click here to download it.

About VolumeShaper (runs in Shaperbox)

VolumeShaper is a module of the plugin Shaperbox, by Cableguys. You can get it individually or in a bundle with the other Shaperbox effects.

volumeshaper runs in shaperbox by cableguys

I use this plugin in almost every project because it has a friendly interface and it's a time-saver.

Besides, it has excellent presets to experiment with different patterns and get inspired.

about shaperbox by cableguys

How to use VolumeShaper

To get started with VolumeShaper, load it on an Audio or MIDI track and pick one of the basic preset shapes.

volumeshaper basic pattern presets

They're the fastest way to familiarize yourself with Volumeshaper. Already in the first row, you'll find the traditional sidechain shapes.

Maybe you want to separate your kick and bass, so there you go.

How to use VolumeShaper to Sidechain Kick and Bass

VolumeShaper allows you to take your kick and bass separation a step further. Here's how:

Load VolumeShaper on your kick track and select one of the trimming presets.

Fine-tune the lines to match your kick's decay.

Shaperbox kick and bass sidechain - trimming kick decay

Then copy and paste this plugin on your bass track and right-click to flip this shape vertically.

volumeshaper flip vertical

Now VolumeShaper will affect both kick and bass in opposite directions.

Shaperbox ducking bass according to kick decay

It shapes the kick's duration and ducks the bass accordingly.

Notice how it starts decreasing the volume before the kick hits. That feature ensures it catches the bass transient.

volumeshaper catching the bass transient

So it lets the kick transient shine by itself in the mix.

That's a good reason to use VolumeShaper for sidechaining instead of compressors.

Don't get me wrong. There are workarounds with compressors. But this is the easiest way to achieve a clean sidechain.

Multiband Sidechain with VolumeShaper

You can even use the top Menu to split bands, so the sidechain only affects the low end.

volumeshaper multiband mode

That way, you'll preserve your bass' mid-range transient if that's your intention.

That's beneficial because sidechaining the whole sound can sound too dramatic sometimes.

Multiband processing usually affects the phase relationship a bit.

But in all my tests, there are no noticeable sound artifacts with Shaperbox. Especially when you listen in context.

Besides sidechaining, this plugin is a beast for generating different rhythm patterns.

Creating rhythm patterns with VolumeShaper

To create rhythm patterns, set the LFO length at higher values. For instance, a whole bar or up to 4 bars.

shaperbox rhythm patterns - 4 bars length

For sidechaining purposes, the most common rate is a quarter note. But for rhythmic patterns, longer duration allows for more intricate rhythms.

When you load a new instance of Volumeshaper, pick one of the rhythm presets to get started.

Next, tweak them, or use the drawing tools on the top to make your own rhythm patterns.

volumeshaper drawing tools

This is the most fun part.

And there's a nice tooltip at the bottom, which helps you understand how each tool works.

The "S curves pen" is my favorite. You can draw a rhythm pattern in a matter of seconds.

Try the other tools if it doesn't fit the song or inspire you to create something new.

  • Move the points around with the Main tool.
  • Hold Control, then click to create an edgy point.
  • Double-click to create a rounder point.
  • Right-click the nodes to switch from "curved" to a "soft peak" to a "sharp peak."
  • If you make a mistake, don't worry. VolumeShaper has Undo and Redo features.

Rhythm patterns that don't sync with the song's tempo

Change the LFO Mode to Hertz if you want to create rhythm patterns that are not in sync with your song's BPM.

volumeshaper LFO mode beat, hertz, pitch

I find this helpful in creating morphing pads.

But for rhythmic patterns, the Beat Mode is the way to go.

The LFO Smooth feature

If the effect is too much for your taste, use the LFO smooth feature to turn those sharp edges into round shapes.

volumeshaper by cableguys LFO smooth

This will make the effect less noticeable.

The Dry/Wet Mix

Still too aggressive? Reduce the Mix fader to blend some of the dry signal.

The top Mix affects each band individually, in Multiband mode.

But the bottom Mix is global for all the effect modules inside Shaperbox.

VolumeShaper has its own Compressor

Besides all the previous features, VolumeShaper comes with a Compressor.

volumeshaper compressor

It's off by default, but you can turn it on and expand the settings tab by clicking on the arrow icon.

VolumeShaper MIDI Switch

Another convenient feature is the MIDI Switch.

shaperbox midi switch

You can use MIDI commands to alternate patterns.

Say you want to toggle between various rhythms throughout your song.

So save them in the MIDI slots.

Turn the MIDI switch ON.

Then toggle the patterns by sending a MIDI note to Shaperbox. C# in this example.

It's good practice to use a separate track to control ShaperBox.

insert midi track to control shaperbox midi switch

It ensures that C# doesn't affect other plugins and accidentally generates a sound on a synth.

Here's the step-by-step:

change the track output to shaperbox
  • Create the MIDI triggering track with no effects.
  • Change the Output to Shaperbox.
  • Then place MIDI notes in the spots you want VolumeShaper to switch patterns.
using midi notes to toggle patterns in volumeshaper

Saving MIDI Switch presets

Keep in mind the MIDI Switch presets only stay in this instance of Shaperbox.

The next time you load the plugin somewhere else, they won't be available.

Unless you actually save them as Presets on the Menu at the bottom.

That takes us to the next cool feature, the Preset Cloud.

Shaperbox Preset Cloud

Click the folder icon at the bottom. You'll find a preset library with many user-made presets stored in the cloud.

shaperbox volumeshaper preset cloud

You can even filter by the type of preset and modules they use.

For example, filter the "Ducking" presets that:

  • Include the "VolumeShaper module" and;
  • Exclude all the other Shaperbox effects.

There are many presets to choose from, which can be very helpful if you're feeling uninspired.

VolumeShaper MIDI Triggering: how to deal with latency

If the curves in VolumeShaper are not in sync with your DAW, you may be experiencing latency.

To fix that, try using MIDI triggers. It's another feature — not to be confused with the MIDI switch.

shaperbox volumeshaper midi trigger on 1-shot mode

Here's how to use it:

Turn MIDI Trigger ON and select the "One-Shot Mode."

That means every MIDI note will trigger this pattern once. As soon as it completes, it will stop.

It won't loop the pattern endlessly like a regular LFO.

MIDI Trigger vs. MIDI Switch

There won't be any conflict if you have the MIDI trigger and MIDI Switch turned ON simultaneously. You can use both features at once.

To avoid conflicts, the only note that will trigger the LFO is C.

All the other MIDI notes will switch patterns.

In the example above, when I pressed C# or D, it changed the pattern. When I pressed C, it triggered the LFO.

Triggering the sidechain early

This section matters if you're using VolumeShaper to make room for drums in the mix.

You'll want to align the MIDI-triggering notes with your kick or snare.

Place them slightly early. So they trigger the sidechain pattern before the kick or snare transient.

volumeshaper triggering the sidechain early

That technique gives the drums more room to hit harder and cut through the mix.

Now it's your turn to try VolumeShaper

If you liked Shaperbox by Cableguys as much as I do, try it for free.

Even better: combine those stunning rhythm patterns with excellent basslines in your productions. Make sure to also read this.

I'll show you the 7 steps to writing amazing MIDI basslines.

And here's the hub for music production guides and resources.


Thales Matos

September 6, 2022


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