Ableton Tutorial: 4 Sidechian Routing Methods [Native/3rd Party]

In this video tutorial I show four different methods of SideChain Routing I have learned over the years and talk about where & why you might use one over the other.

Each of the following sidechain routing methods have their own benefits and drawbacks. Which you should use depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

I am going to show you two methods of sidechian routing for Ableton Live’s compressors, and two methods for routing any third party plugs that can accept external audio trigger sources. The latter will work for anything that can accept an external trigger (source), not just compressors, i.e. dynamic EQs, saturators, filters.

I’m going to focus on routing and routing alone; this is not a tutorial on the best settings, like attack, release, ratio, etc, for sidechaining.

Watch the Video Tutorial

*full written tutorial below

Method 1 : Live’s Compressors – Direct

This is the easiest and quickest way to achieve sidechaining in Live.

Simply drop on of Live’s compressors on the track you want to effect and choose the source from the sidechain drop down menu. For this and all of the examples I am going to use a bass loop and a 4 x 4 kick loop respectively. This is to keep things simple.

I use this style of sidechain every time I start a track, simply because of how quickly it can garner the desired results.


Basic / Easy SideChain Routing in Ableton Live

Method 2 : Live’s Compressors – Ghost

There are a number of upsides to this method. Like using a different kick to trigger the sidechain, be it longer or shorter. Also if you want to keep the sidechain pumping effect on a pad, lead, or bass even when the kick isn’t happening this is the best way to do it.

This requires a second step and a third channel.

Instead of direct routing to the kick channel, you duplicate the kick channel and rename it “ghost”. Deactivate the ghost channel’s audio output, and route the compressor on the bass channel to the ghost channel.

However, if you add any break beats, fills, builds, or any other changes to the kick’s pattern you need to remember to duplicate the new patterns to the ghost channel. Especially if you are using the sidechain for ducking bass to make room for the kick.


Ghost SideChain with Live’s Compressors & FX

Method 3 : 3rd Party Compressors – Ghost Direct

This method is similar to the ghost method for Live’s compressor. You need to duplicate the kick channel and feed the duplicate’s audio into the channel containing the 3rd party compressor using the “audio out” in the I/O panel. Next, you need to choose the compressor from the second drop down menu , because there might be more than one device that can accept external sources. Also, you need to leave the audio channel activated, unlike Live’s ghosting method. Don’t worry, the new routing will prevent the ghost kick from being audible.

This method has the same draw back as Live’s ghost method. In that, you need to remember to copy any future changes in the drum pattern and paste them in the ghost channel.


Ghost Third Party SideChain Basic Routing

Method 4 : 3rd Party Compressors – Ghost Dynamic

This might be the best method if you aren’t just looking for the straight pumping effect. This also is best for working with third party compressors and such.

You will again need three channels. One for the kick, bass and an empty one “ghost”, which will remain empty.

Leave the audio on for the ghost channel. Go to the “audio in” drop down menu, in the I/O panel, and choose the kick track.  This will send the kick’s audio into the empty channel, but don’t worry, the track’s kick will still get sent to the master channel as well.

Then, for the “audio out” drop down menu choose the bass track, which should have a third party device on it that can receive external audio trigger sources. This will activate the second “audio out” drop down, where you can choose that third party device.

Now you have your sidechain set up.


Dynamic Third Party SideChain Routing


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Author: Joshua Casper

Joshua Casper is an Artist, Musician, and Blogger.

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