How do I 'gradiated' ducking and 'reverse' ducking?

Not sure how to describe this, but I want to do two things:

  1. ‘Gradiated’ ducking
    The louder Track A gets, the quieter Track B gets

  2. ‘Reverse’ ducking
    The louder Track A gets, the louder Track B gets

The only way I can find to do this is quite longwinded. I create a track of noise and perform a series of very small ducks, changing the threshold each time, which gives me a ‘gradiated’’ duck. Next I do exactly the same thing again, using the noise track to duck my other track, which reverses the volume. It’s crude, imprecise and long-winded. And I would have imagined there’d be a simple way to do this?

No, but the manual way to do this is the Envelope Tool. You can draw on the screen right where you want the volume to go and when.

You don’t have to do surgical word-by-word construction of the background music.

And just because I get the distinct “walk in in the middle of the movie” feeling. This isn’t for a voice podcast, is it? What are you building? It’s not unusual for us to come up with a completely different way to do something when we find out what the actual show or goal is.


"gradiated reverse ducking" sounds like a description of an envelope follower : it continually follows the envelope of one track & applies it to another track , (not just kicking-in at a threshold, as ducking does).
Envelope-follower, applied to constant white-noise [0-01 time resolution, follow peaks].gif

Perfect!!! Thank you Trebor, that is precisely what I wanted and it will save me a lot of time! :slight_smile:

Well I’m producing a little music, and for me this seems like a pretty essential function: the ability to adjust the volume of some tracks based on other tracks. Primarily I use it:

  1. In the final mixdown, to bring certain instruments into focus, by ‘ducking’ other instruments (eg you can give much more prominence to a kick drum this way).

  2. To blend two sounds together into one, to create vocal effects, or to add noise to a recording. (Adding noise is standard practice across the board in all professional audio production, even YouTube does it. Though that’s a whole other issue which would be going off-topic.)

Obviously I know Audacity is not really a music production tool, but I happen to be using it at the moment and I like to know how to do these basic tasks. I do consider envelope following to be a basic, essential function and I really think it should be a default Audacity effect.

Interesting comment. Why do you say that? (My use of Audacity is almost entirely as a music production tool)

Well please don’t take what I said the wrong way. I think Audacity is a wonderful app and, as I said, I am using it to do a little music production. But it’s not exactly a DAW and there is only so much you can do with it when making music. There’s no sequencing, or lists of samples, MIDI programming, or synths - you can only work with recordings (not the way I make music, personally). Building intricate drum patterns and loops is virtually impossible. There’s no real-time processing so you can’t adjust the EQ of a track while playing it (something I consider essential for making music). You don’t have controls on each track to adjust its reverb, stereo width, ADSR, etc. So Audacity is competent, but it’s no DAW.

Um, Audacity does do that - do you have an old version? See Real-time preview of effects. It is true you can’t apply effects while recording.


No it’s definitely not a DAW, it’s a multi-track audio editor (“sample editor” / “wave editor” ).
Protools, Reaper and Ardour are DAWs, and last time I looked they did not do sample editing.
It’s about using the right tool for the job.

Sonar and Logic are DAWs that have a sample editor bundled in.

Audacity isn’t a MIDI sequencer either. Many DAWs have MIDI sequencing bundled in, but it’s not necessary for a MIDI sequencer to be a DAW, and not necessary for a DAW to have MIDI sequencing.

On Linux I use MuseScore for MIDI sequencing and score writing, Ardour as my DAW, QSynth as my primary SoundFont player, LinuxSampler for sampling, Xjadeo for synchronised video playback, Hydrogen drum machine, an assortment of synths and effects, and Audacity for sample editing.
Apart from Audacity, all the rest can be sychronised with sample accuracy via Jack Sound System (no so necessary for Audacity as I use that primarily “off-line”).

As Gale wrote, there is now “real-time preview”, which we are gradually extending to an increasing number of effects.
Note that for some types of effect, real-time processing is not possible - for example, peak level normalization. For some other effects, real-time processing isn’t very appropriate, for example compression with long lookahead, or very slow effects such as some convolution effects.

I agree that there are things that could be developed in Audacity that would make it much better for music production, such as real-time preview for Equalization and compression (short lookahead). These will come eventually, but especially as this is primarily a volunteer project without a big budget (it’s free), these things take time.

Your welcome to make suggestions of what you think would make Audacity better. We have a forum board specifically for that:

Some years ago I was looking for a way to do this on ProTools. I didn’t find a way.

Because Audacity isn’t a DAW, it can pack it’s secret weapon: “Nyquist scripting language” (
Nyquist is not very suitable for a DAW because it cannot do “real time”, but it’s very well suited for inclusion in a wave editor (Audacity). The “envelope follower” that Trebor directed you to is written in Nyquist. I don’t know of any DAW where I have access to such a flexible approach to audio processing as Nyquist allows in Audacity - that’s one of the reasons that I consider Audacity an essential tool in my music production work (not “all” of my music work, but a lot of it).

Even now though, you can use a plugin Equalizer, such as VST or LADSPA, to apply playback EQ in real time.


Yes, but we really should include an Equalization effect with real-time preview, and I’m sure we will in not too long.

Thanks for the replies.

Thank you, though I believe the article confirms what I said: Audacity only allows real-time Phaser, SC4 and Wahwah - not EQ. So if you want EQ, you have to go and find some third party plugin and hope you get lucky.

Now obviously I have done that, and I am happily using Audacity, and like it very much. It is a fantastic program and very helpful for many uses. I am indebted to its developers, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. So I’m not trying to be negative here.

But my point was that Audacity currently lacks what I consider an essential music production feature, so even though it has many powerful and excellent features, I was just not thinking of it as a serious music production tool. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that is how I feel, based on the way I make music. Let me give an illustration to express my feelings…

An illustration to explain the importance of EQ

Let’s suppose you had a photo editing application which had sliders you could drag to adjust the photos’ brightness and contrast. But imagine that the program didn’t show you in real time how your changes would affect the photo - you just had to guess where the sliders should be positioned, then hit “Preview”, then the photo would vanish for a few moments and re-appear with the changes made, then after a few seconds, it would disappear again, leaving you with nothing to look at, and you had to “remember” which version was better - before or after! Would anyone consider that a serious photo editing tool? Probably not.

So if I’m trying to do serious photo editing, working with many photos, then I absolutely need the application to show me a live preview of how bright it is while I drag the “brightness” slider. If a photo is even just a tiny bit too light or too dark, the whole photo looks wrong, and I’ve done a second-rate job of retouching it.

The same is true of audio. Putting a piece of music together may involve making hundreds of careful adjustments to the EQ of all the tracks and all the sections of the song. If an audio track is not perfectly and precisely EQ’d, it sounds awful. So I need the application to give me a live preview of how it sounds while I’m dragging the curve around, so I can hear what I’m doing.

Let me be clear: I don’t require an EQ preview to be “instant” - I can handle having to wait a brief moment - what really matters to me is that the sound is uninterrupted: that I can hear my selection playing looped constantly, and that I make changes just by moving my mouse up and down - instead of having to click on a “Preview” button, then clicking “Stop” then clicking “Preview” again to hear it again, and so on. The periods of silence between hearing adjustments totally kills the ability to perceive subtle differences. I want to be able to press a button to toggle the changes on and off, to hear an uninterrupted comparison of before and after.

Please don’t think I’m just moaning about Audacity here. No, I am hopeful and confident that Audacity will continue to improve, and all such issues will be ironed out, but as it stands now, in my humble opinion, the EQ control is not up to scratch for serious music production.

For me, EQ, is at the top of the list of importance. In fact, other than reverb and stereo positioning, I can’t think of any function more critical to producing music. Give me those three functions alone and I can produce decent music - they are the bread and butter of music production. (Perhaps others would disagree, but that is just the way I work personally.)

Yes thank you. The reason I have not taken this to the suggestions forum long ago is that I presume this has already been discussed/requested a million times. Indeed, a quick search of the forums gives me the impression that there is always someone asking for live EQ, but they are usually directed down the third party route. I don’t like to start unnecessary threads, but perhaps I will post a suggestion there shortly?

The next version of Audacity (2.1.3) has real-time preview for the “Bass and Treble” effect, which is a step toward real-time preview for Equalization. I’m hopeful that we will have real-time preview for an Equalization effect in 2.1.4.

Well I have just made a request thread for both real-time EQ-ing, and also non-destructive EQ-ing. So any more talk about such things should go there.

That is great! Thank you, Steve :slight_smile: