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Side chain effects processing can be used to create useful and interesting effects, but it is often perceived as difficult to set up. Let's take a look at couple of classic side chain effects and see how easy they are to set up in Ableton Live. So side chain processing uses the signal from one track to trigger or modulate an effect on another track. In this first example, on the synth pad track, I've got a sustained synth sound. Let's hear what that sounds like. (Music playing.) Okay. And I will flip quickly over to the MIDI Editor on that clip, so that you can see that I've got a whole note drawn in on this track.
Here's the virtual instrument, and what I want to do is I want to add an effect after that that will actually cut off the sound. So I am going to go up and grab a gate and drop that on the track after the Pad. Now what a gate normally does is attenuate a signal that falls below a certain threshold. In this case, I'm actually going to use a signal from another track to set the level that I want to come through, and then when that other signal is not present, the gate will actually shut down and close off any sound coming through the track.
So what I'm going to do is open up the Sidechain button here, so that I can see the side chain parameters. I'll turn that on, and then I'm going to actually tell it to look over at a drum track that I have got on the first channel. So what I need to do is have a signal that's present on that channel that then can trigger over here. So I am going to this first clip, and if I go over the MIDI Editor, I can see that there's currently no notes on that track. So I am going to choose something like the kick or snare that's got a really nice attack, so that I have a note that will then be sent through the side chain over to the synth pad track to trigger the gate.
So I going into Draw mode, which is Command+B, or you can click the little button up here--that would be Ctrl+B on a PC-- and I am going to click it and every other note to start off with. Now what I want to have happen is every time this kick hits and it sends a signal through the side chain over to the synth pad track, the gate will open and let the synth sound through.
But every time that the note is not present--every other 32nd note--that gate will swing shut, and it should stop the sound coming out the synth pad track. So let's go back to this other clip, into Device view. So I have got the Side chain on, I have get it set to Beat Bugs, and let's here what this is going to do. So I am going to trigger both clips here. (Music playing.) So we can hear it pulsating in time with those kick hits. Now if you want, we don't actually need to hear the kick sound.
I can actually disable that track. The signal is still can go through the side chain, and I'll still be able to hear this trigger, that pulsating effect on the synth pad. (Music playing.) So some things you might want to consider here in the gate plug-in: You want to make sure your threshold is below the sound of the signal that's coming through. In this case, it's already set there. And then you can also use your attack, hold, and release times to determine how much of the sustain that you're getting on that synth pad track, or how staccato that sound is.
So first of all, I'd probably dial the attack time pretty fast, because I want the gate to react as quickly as possible to that kick note that's coming through the side chain. (Music playing.) So you can hear we are getting a much clearer attack now. The next thing I'll do is I'll go down the hold parameter. Each time the kick note comes through, the gate swings open, and the sound is allowed to come through. When the kick note stops, the gate is supposed to close, but the hold parameter will actually hold that open for a user-defined amount of time.
In this case, we can use that to determine how much decay that we actually want to hear. So let me play the track, and let's listen to what that's sounds like. (Music playing.) So you can hear that getting more staccato or more sustained, or legato. In this case, just to review, the gate is used to open and let sound through each time a note comes through. Now, in another case, we may want to actually compress a sound, or reduce the level of a sound, each time a note comes through.
So let's take a look at what's happening on the second clip and on this brass track. So in this case, I've got a brass sound, and let's hear what this clip sounds like. (Music playing.) So we can hear that that's a sustaining sound. Now over on the kick track, I've got a kick that's hitting on the beat: 1, 2, 3, and 4, like a classic electronic kick. And what I want to have happen is I want the sound to dip each time the kick comes through, so that we get that really strong pulsating kick that you expect to hear in electronic music.
So what I've done here on the brass track is after the virtual instrument here, which I have got minimized--I will minimize that again--I have got a compressor. And again, the compressor does have side chain processing. So I'll click and I will open that up. I am going to enable the plug as well. I've got side chain enabled, and I've got it set to accept signal coming in from Beat Bugs track. So this is a little bit different. Each time the kick hits, it's now going to push down the volume on the brass track.
Let's hear what that sounds like. (Music playing.) So now you hear the sound kind of pulsating off the beat. And if I turn back on the kick, we can hear the kick come through nice and strong. (Music playing.) And again, I am going to use the attack time to set how quickly the compressor pushes down the sound and lets that kick come through. So in this case, I have got it dialed all the way down.
And the release time I can use to set the sustain, or how long that kick is going to actually compress this other sound. So let's see how that sounds. (Music playing.) So you can hear that if I actually set that release time even longer, you start to get a very, very interesting effect. So side chain processing can be used in so many ways that its only limitation is our own imagination. So experiment with the technique, and have fun.
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