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Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

New side-chain features in Ableton Live 7 plugins

Posted on | October 10, 2007 | 5 Comments

live_compressor_side_chaning.pngAnother new feature in Ableton Live 7.0 is so called side-chaining of plugins, the new compressor, gate and auto-filter has side-chaining options now available. This is nothing new, Logic has had this for a while, same with other DAWs. There have been ad hoc solutions with third party compressors to get the same effect in Live, but it’s good it’s built into some of the basic plugins now.

So what is side chaining? Basically you tell the plug-in that it should use another audio source and by the audio source changes the plug-in parameters will change. The classical example is compressor side-chaining. It’s been around for a while, but bands like Daft Punk finessed it into now the classical pump effect, and producers such as Eric Prydz seems to use it nearly everywhere. John Holden is another producer who has used compressor side-chaining in delightful unexpected configurations.

As for Live, the setup is easy, all you need to do is to remember to open up another view with a tag button, and you get the settings (see image). You define the extern source, and if you want to put in the side-chaining before or after the effect. Then it’s a matter of keying in various values to get the effect, from subtle to very pumping. A typical side chain source is a kick drum track, resulting in a classical pulsating dance floor sound.

Similarly, the gate has a similar control. In this case it’s the opposite, when the other eternal source triggers, it will open up the gate for this channel, leading to classical uses such as making sure that the kick and bass lines are together.

The auto-filter chaining works so that sweeps will trigger based on the external source. So all three have specific uses.

I tried them out, loaded in a couple of loops from a remix of Genietronix Skyflower that I’ve been trying to finally push out through the door, and hey, it sounded really interesting! So I need to make yet another remix, this time using the new side-chaining effects. So I’m all for it, even if it means that there will be even more and more side-chaining material out there, leading to a state where it’s cliche.

I think moderation is in order for side-chaining. It’s a good effect, useful for the dance floor, but too much sugar and cream destroys cakes. I’ve been in club events where the DJ played five-six or so side-chain tracks, and I swear I could not hear a difference, just this pumping low sound wave pulsating through the crowd for an hour. Maybe if you are in a different state, it makes sense, but for a listener it’s boring. Moderate use, for example not across all the tracks, makes sense.

My wife also claims she gets nauseated when she hears heavily side-chained compressor productions — which is also something I find fascinating, music that makes someone feel physically ill.

Anyway, as for Live 7.0 features, this is a big plus, or a ‘finally-there’ feature, depending on how you look at it. I’m not sure if third party plug-in vendors could hook into the side-chaining channels, maybe it’s available, so we need to wait and see if third party plug-ins will also have use of side-chaining.


5 Responses to “New side-chain features in Ableton Live 7 plugins”

  1. Dave
    October 10th, 2007 @ 9:23 PM

    Ahh. The ‘Justice’ effect.

  2. Loopy
    October 10th, 2007 @ 11:37 PM

    (about) three years ago when progressive trance came more popular in EDM scene, Markus Schulz mastered the long basses with sidechain compression.

    Another commonly usen way to use sidechain is to make pads more pumping.

    But, many forgets that you can do wonders with sidechain with tracks that aren’t just long notes. Check Cressida productions for instance how to make interesting, not dull, pumping basslines.

  3. Oliver Chesler
    October 11th, 2007 @ 9:08 AM

    Another good use it to have the lead or pads duck when your vocal gets hotter. Its all about making space.

  4. John
    October 12th, 2007 @ 12:08 AM

    Kent how does the side chain compressor compare to some of the freeware ones, and to some expensive ones out there?

    Either way its a plus- I’m glad to see it.

  5. Kent Sandvik
    October 12th, 2007 @ 12:27 AM

    The only other side-chain compressor I’ve used from time to time is the Logic compressors. I can’t say that the Live is worse or better. It’s very similar in nature. The new compressor UI in Live 7.0 is *very* nice, I like it. Also, unlike Logic, you could take any track and route it into the side-chaining — in Logic you need to use a bus for it.

    Anyway, still experimenting with the compressor side chaining in Live 7.0 — I must confess, side chaining compressors are sneaking in here and there in my new productions, mostly to have subtle effects here and there, it makes the production more organic and living in my ears, compared with a massive wall of sound.

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