Compressor side-chaining in Ableton Live Using Envelopes

sidechain_compressor_envelope.pngIf you read the Ableton forums for a while, a common topic is the discussion about why the default compressors do not handle side-chaining. This is especially problematic on the MacOSX side, as there are few free side-chain compressors, and the ones existing are not designed for Ableton channel routing.

Anyway, there’s actually — what I think — a better way to accomplish compressor side chaining. Before we go into it, just to be clear, compressor side-chaining is that effect you hear on dance records, the pulsating effect where the kick is driving down the volume of (mostly) any other tracks. My wife thinks it’s nauseating, actually.

Going back to Live, what I did was to just draw the same effect using volume envelopes. The picture shows how it looks like. Then if you want to replicate this effect across multiple tracks, you select it in the view, copy the envelope to the clipboard, select the other track, switch to the volume envelope view, select the area you want to replace the envelope with, and paste the envelope back from the clipboard.

The benefits with this approach are: you could define exactly the tracks that have the pumping effect, not all need it, you could draw various envelopes with very different characteristics, slower, faster, leave out parts that don’t need pumping in the middle of the loop, and so on. Also, compressors could introduce side effects, some distortion, and colorization of sound. With this you have full control, if you want grittiness, just use a distortion plug-in and this way control the effect, as well.

It took me about a minute to draw this specific envelope, and then it takes seconds to copy it to any other track.

Leave a Reply