Side-Chaining Tricks in Ableton Live 9

Hi guyz. Its me. PuzzleVortex.

This week, i’ve been experimenting with some super-secret side-chaining tricks in Ableton Live 9.  

Currently, I’m using my side-chaining techniques to create ‘inverse gating’ on my pads, ‘stutter effects’ on vocals, and to add ‘percussive filter effects’ to my basslines.

Below, I discuss the following topics:

  1. Side-Chaining Basics
  2. Pumping Basslines with Side-Chain Compression
  3. Side-Chain Filtering Effects
  4. Rhythmic Side-Chain Gating
  5. Experimental Side-Chaining

Side-Chaining Basics

‘Side-chaining’ is a technique where you use the envelope of a track to ‘trigger’ an effect, like compression, gating, or filtering on another track.

Side-Chaining can create effects like:

  • reducing the volume (ducking) of a bassline each time the kick hits
  • triggering a filter sweep (auto-wah effect) on pads in a rhythmic pattern
  • breaking up a synth pad into rhythmic parts with gating

How to Setup a Side-Chain in Ableton Live 9

Side-chains are very simple to setup in Ableton Live 9 with their native plugins.


The native plugins which allow you to setup a side-chain input include: the compressor, gate, and filters.

How to set up a sidechain: First, open the side-chain menu, by clicking the ‘arrow’ button on the top left. Next, choose the ‘trigger track‘ from the drop-down menu.

  • (NOTE) You should MUTE the the side-chain trigger track, if you don’t want to hear its output.

How to Create Pumping Basslines with Side-Chain Compression

Side-chain compression is an effect which is often used to create “pumping basslines” in electronic music.

Side-chain compression can also help to separate the kick and the bass, by removing some low-end frequencies in your mix.

This makes the kick more clear and audible.

How to Trigger Filter Sweeps with a Side-Chain

Side-chaining can also be used to trigger filter sweeps in a rhythmic pattern.  

It create an auto-wah effect which sounds good on pads, basslines, and percussion.

To add a sidechain: First, click the arrow in the top left. (see left image)

Next, choose a trigger track, from the drop-down menu.

Side-chains can be used to trigger all types of filters, including high, low, peak, and bandpass filters.

Inverse Side-Chain Gating on Pads to Thicken Drum Sounds

Inverse Side-Chain Gating can be used to open up a gate at the same time as a trigger track.

This is a great way to fatten a kick or drum sound.

It allows the pad to come through the gate at exactly at the same time as a drum sound, which gives it a full, rich, sound.

The vid below discusses side-chain gating:

Shaping a Bassline with Side-Chain Compression and Gating

A bassline sounds the best when it’s attack is the loudest, right when the kick hits. 

Side-chain compression or gating can also be used to sculpt a bassline’s attack.

This be used to fix mistakes a bass player makes, by accentuating the attack directly on the beat.

Experimental Side-Chaining Effects

Side-chaining can also create more experimental effects like: an 808 sub kick with gating, vocal stutter effects with gating, and rhythmic gating effects on pads.

  1.  Adding an 808 Sub Kick using a Gate

You can use inverse side-chain gating, to add an 808 sub which is triggered along with a kick drum.

An 808 sub can be created by adding a gate to a sine wave patch, triggered by the kick drum.

Try changing the pitch of the sine wave, to create a ‘tuned 808 sub kick’.

2. Side Chain Gating to Create Vocal Stutter Effects 

I’ve also been experimenting with ‘vocal stutter effects’ created by side-chain gating.

Vocal stutter effects can be done by creating a percussion track which triggers your gate. The vid below explains in more detail:

3. Use Beat Repeat to vary the rhythms of your Side-Chain Trigger Track

Try adding the beat repeat plugin to your trigger track. This can alter the rhythm of your ‘trigger input’ to create cool rhythmic gating, compression, or filter effects.

4. Separate the Bass and Kick With Side-Chain Compression

One way to help your kick cut through your mix, is to add some side-chain compression to your bassline.

Adding some volume reduction with side-chain compression will remove some of the low frequencies each time the kick hits.

This lets the kick be very audible in your mix.

You have any super-secret, side-chain tricks i should add? Tell me @puzzlevortex