Sidechaining is a great skill to learn if you use Ableton Live or any other DAW. It can help speed up your workflow by applying the audio signal from one track to another. It’s easy to do in Ableton Live 11 using sidechain compression.
My name is Donovan, and I’m an avid home studio enthusiast with over two decades of experience in the music business. I have been working with Ableton Live for a few years and know how to handle numerous features of this solid DAW.
This post will show you how to sidechain in Ableton Live. I’ll walk you through all the steps of setting up sidechaining on your audio project so you can better mix, produce, or DJ anything you are working on.
Let’s dig in.
How to Sidechain in Ableton Live: Step-by-Step Guide
Whether you are starting a brand new Ableton Project or already working with an existing one, the process for sidechaining is essentially the same. In my experience, sidechaining is one skill that can really help improve your mixing and production abilities.
Follow these steps to sidechain compression in Ableton Live 11:
1. Open a new or existing Ableton Live project.
2. Click on the Triangle button on the left side of the project window to display the Collections browser.
2. Click on Audio Effects in the Categories dropdown menu.
3. Click on Dynamics.
4. Select the Glue Compressor from the Dynamics drop-down menu.
5. Now, you’ll want to load the Glue Compressor onto whatever track you want to sidechain. The exact track you choose depends on your project. Click on the audio or other track you want the sidechain on to highlight it.
6. Drag the Glue Compressor into the open drop window section at the bottom of the project window that says “Drop an Instrument or Sample Here.”
7. You’ll see the Glue Compressor device appear in the window after you drag it. Press the Sidechain Toggle Button on the upper left of the device control. It looks like a triangle or arrow. This will display the sidechain controls.
8. Enable the Sidechain by clicking on the Sidechain button. This will activate the compressor sidechain, and the button will be highlighted indicating this.
9. Now you need to choose which input you want the sidechain to work with. This is a critical step, as it will decide which track input will activate the compressor you installed as a sidechain.
The button below Audio From will say No Input until you choose a track input. Click the drop-down arrow here and select which track you want sidechained. I went with my Reverb track in the example below, but you can select whichever track you want.
10. Make any adjustments to EQ or other settings within the compressor window to adjust how the compressor works within a side-chained track. Typically, you’ll want to make adjustments to the gain or threshold to match the volume levels you need.
That’s basically all there is to it. You can sidechain multiple tracks in a single project, or apply the same sidechaining settings to different tracks without changing things up too much. Just remember to have that Sidechain button engaged, or it won’t occur.
Pro Tip: Learning how to sidechain effectively is an essential producer and mixing skill that can help your projects out in many ways. It can help track elements stand out effectively in the mix and make your tracks shine how you want them to.
When to Use Sidechaining in Ableton Live?
One of the most common ways to use sidechaining in Ableton Live is to help two similar sounds or frequency ranges stand apart in a mix. A good example of this is bass and kick drum tracks, and this is where I use sidechaining all the time.
You set up the sidechain compression to cut the bass slightly whenever the kick drum hits. This helps the kick and bass get a bit of separation in the mix rather than bleed together and get mixed up.
There are other practical uses of sidechaining as well, but the kick and bass are a good place to start exploring what this production tactic can add to your Ableton Projects.
Ableton Live makes it very easy to sidechain, and you just need to drag the compressor onto whatever track you want to sidechain, turn on the sidechain button, and select an input source. You can adjust various settings from there to dial in your mix.
There are a ton of features and functions in Ableton Live, and knowing the basics, such as sidechaining, will get you started with creating amazing audio projects. Getting hands-on experience is also the best way to improve.
What is your favorite way to use sidechaining in an Ableton Live project? Let me know in the comments below.