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How to sidechain in Ableton Live – our simple step-by-step guide

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Last Updated on May 2, 2024
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Sidechaining is a handy technique often used by producers to create a rhythmic effect within a song. Luckily, Sidechaining in Ableton is a simple process and can be easily achieved by following the steps outlined in this guide.

Sidechaining is a compression technique that allows for one sound to react to another by lowering in volume or ‘Ducking’ when the source sound plays. Sidechaining is often used for bass and kick sounds, as they’re operating at similar frequencies. A compressor will be put on the bass track, which will be side-chained to the kick. This will lower the bass volume every time the kick sounds to leave room for the kick to breathe. The example used in this guide involves bass and kick tracks. However, sidechaining can be used on any sound.

Sidechaining could be just the tool you need if you’re learning how to produce your own music. It’s a simple process that can be achieved in six easy steps and involves the same process for both Mac and Windows.

Quick Answer

Go to Audio Effects > Dynamics > Compressor > choose Compressor > select down-pointing arrow > press ‘Sidechain’ > select a channel from the ‘Audio From’ menu.

How to Sidechain in Ableton Live

Before you start, you’ll have to prepare the two sounds you will be using. In the examples below we have used kick and bass, but any sound can be used to achieve this outcome.



Insert a compressor

Insert a compressor into the sound you want to affect. In our example, we’re inserting the compressor into the bass track.

To insert a compressor, go to Audio Effects > Dynamics > Compressor, then choose your compressor and drag it onto the chosen track. It should then appear at the bottom of the screen.




Open the sidechain section

By clicking the down-pointing arrow at the top of the compressor box, you will open the rest of the box which includes the sidechain option.



Activate sidechaining

Activate sidechaining by pressing the sidechain button found in the top left of the compressor box.



Select the channel menu

Under the ‘Audio From’ section in the compressor box, select the drop-down menu that is labeled ‘No input’.



Pick a channel

From the channel menu chose the channel with the correct output signal, in our case it’s ‘Kick’.




Adjust compressor settings

Finally, adjust the compressor settings found in the compressor box. Changing features like ‘Attack’ or ‘Release’ will affect how quickly the compressor responds to the source track.

Listen back to the sound you’ve created and change the settings accordingly.


Why should you sidechain?

Sidechaining is not a necessary feature in producing. However, it can be an extremely useful tool in certain instances. These include making space in your project, unmasking competing sounds, or adding a creative element to your sound.

Wrapping up

Using a compression sidechain when producing in Ableton could be the tool that takes your music to the next level. It’s a simple process that involves six easy steps. By sidechaining you can create an interesting rhythmic effect that allows for one sound to ‘Duck’ out of the way from another. Follow the guide above to get started.

Eve is a writer and copy editor at PC Guide, who focuses on a broad range of topics but main interest lies in the development of AI technology.