Every producer has heard the word “Sidechain” before; “Ohh there is a lot of Sidechain on this track!” for example. What does it mean? People automatically assume it stands for Compression, and they are not wrong since it is the most common use. But you can use sidechains in many ways, not only for compression. In this article I am going to show you how you two cool ways to use sidechains!
First things first: Creating a Ghost Sidechain Track
This is optional. But trust me, take the time to create a sidechain track. It will make your life so much easier when it comes to complex sidechaining. So learn how to do it now rather than later…
Create a new audio track and call it “sidechain”. It is what we call a “ghost” track, which means you never actually hear the track. In order to do so, simply mute the track by turning it off.
Drag your drum loop on to your new sidechain track and that’s it! Your “ghost” sidechain is ready to go!
If you don’t use a drum loop, just resample the audio from your kick (or whatever audio you want to triggering your effects) and drag it to the sidechain track.
AutoFilter: Crazy Wobble
For this trick we are going to use Ableton’s Autofilter and use the Sidechain function to automate our crazy synth wobble! Instead of automating everything manually, Ableton’s Autofilter has a Sidechain section where you can use any other audio signal to trigger it! We are going to use the kick of our drums to trigger the AutoFilter.
I have exported the drums, hi-hats and lead synth from one of my previous tracks to demonstrate.
Here is how the track sounds with and without our sidechained Autofilter:
First off, drag Ableton Live’s AutoFilter onto your instrument track. We will be doing this on our Lead Synth.
I like to place my AutoFilter before my Compressor
Click on the small triangle to open the Sidechain section:
Turn “Sidechain” on and select your Ghost Sidechain track we have just created.
Advice: If you haven’t made a ghost sidechain track you can select any track present in your project (even individual Drum Rack Samples such as the kick or the snare.)
We want to create a “wobble”. For those of you who don’t know how to obtain the famous Dubstep Wobble, it is actually a LowPass filter that opens and closes at a certain speed. Most producers will automate the cut off frequency to create rhythm. Or just use the LFO option to have a more constant rhythm. But we are going to use our Sidechain to trigger the cut off frequency of our low pass filter. Sounds complicated but it is very simple!
Let’s listen to our synth and select a good cut off frequency. Lower the “Filter Cutoff” between 300 and 1000Hz. Raise up the filter Q to give it a little boost before the cutoff.
You can also drag the little yellow circle to set your cutoff and Q.
Here is how it sounds:
Ok so far we can’t hear any wobble going on…It just sounds like a simple EQ. Here is where the magic happens! A lot of tweaking and listening is going to happen from now on, so as I always say, trust your ears and find the settings that fit your taste…
To help you hear all the subtle differences while finding the right settings, crank the Envelope knob all the way up to 127.
Already you will start hearing the sidechain kick in!
From here you can modify your frequency cutoff and Q to find a better setting. You can also raise the gain in the Sidechain to obtain a more “Extreme” effect.
I haven’t modified my frequency or Q because I like the sound of the low Cutoff.
Let’s set our Attack and Release knobs, here is a small explanation to help you understand what is happening:
Attack: When the sidechain triggers your Autofilter, this knob allows you to control how fast the filter is going to open. Either a quick rise to the high frequency or a slow sweep…
Release: When the sidechain is done triggering your Autofilter, this knob allows you to control how fast the filter is going to go back to its original cutoff.
This really depends on your song and sound you want to obtain. So take the time to try different settings. Here are mine and how it sounds:
I have lowered the release and raised the attack just a bit.
You can really hear how the short wobble fits the kick and snare of the sidechain perfectly! As I have mentioned before, trust your ears and set everything how you like it.
Extra Tips: You can add some extra movement and wobble by playing with the LFO section. You can obtain some pretty radical wobbling going on! Here is an example.
I kept the “Amount” knob low so the LFO will only affect the low frequencies. You can’t even hear the LFO when the Sidechain triggers the AutoFilter. But you can go really crazy by boosting everything!
Here is another technique you can do with the autofilter. When you apply it to a very Aggressive Saw wav synth you can obtain a nice “Woowoooo” type effect.
I added an extra track with an aggressive saw synth, here is how it sounds so far with no filter:
I have added the same Autofilter as before but instead of using a LowPass filter, I set it to a BandPass filter. Here is how it sounds without and with the filter:
I just copied and pasted the filter from before to my new track and clicked on the BandPass setting
I have tweaked the parameters the same way as before, just trusting my ears and trying to find the best setting possible.
Here is what I modified:
- I turned off the LFO (it was just going too crazy for me)
- Lowered the Gain of the sidechain (to soften the effect and obtain that “wow”)
- Raised the release and attack a bit (Again to obtain more of a “wow” type effect)
Here is how it sounds:
I use this technique in almost all of my Hip-hop tracks! You can also Sidechain Ableton’s Gate effect to obtain an 808 Sub Kick! For those who don’t know the term, it means your kick and Sub bass are rolling together! Typical in hip hop. You can find samples of 808 kicks but you have to create a separate track for your kick, tune it and play it… This technique will avoid that painful headache.
I added a Sub bass track to fit the song, here is how it sounds before we start sidechaining it:
Ok, add Ableton’s Gate effect to your bass track.
Click on the small triangle (same as the Autofilter) to open the Sidechain section.
Select your Ghost Sidechain track or your individual kick drum in the Audio From section
What is going to happen? We want the Gate to open (let the bass through) when our kick hits. If you have an individual kick track (or if you are using a Drum Rack you can select the audio from your Kick) you can start lowering the threshold until you get the desired effect.
In this case, I am using a loop with the Kick and Snare together. I don’t want the snare to trigger my Gate, so we need to EQ it a little bit.
Turn on the EQ section and select the Low Pass filter, this will isolate the kick from your loop. You can listen to your EQ by clicking the little Headphone icon.
Lower the Frequency knob until you can only hear the kick. You can also raise the Q to intensify your cut off.
Don’t worry if it sounds horrible, we only need the EQ to trigger the gate.
The blue peaks are my sidechain track being EQed. The highest peak is the kick and the lowest peak is the left over snare.
Here is how the track sounds with our new sidechained gate:
You notice the bass is perfectly in sync with our kick, but I would like it to last longer and have the bass kind of roll off… No problem! This is where our Attack, Hold and Release knobs come to action!
Raise the Release and Hold knobs until you find the setting you like.
Threshold: Sets the gates sensitivity. While the track is playing, you will see in dark grey your sidechain signal (your kick), set your threshold 1 or 2db under the peak of your sidechain signal (represented by the top orange line)
Attack: Sets how long it will take the gate to open after the threshold has been reached. In other words, set it pretty low so the gate will open right when the kick hits.
Hold: Sets how long the gate will remain open after the signal level drops below the threshold. Depending on the speed of your song and how you want your sub to sound, this is the amount of time you will hear the bass after the kick has hit. If you want a nice long sub, set the time higher; if you want the sub to stop immediately after your kick, set it faster. Play around with it to get the length just as you want it.
Release: Sets how long it will take the Gate to close after the Hold time has expired. This will allow your sub to fade out gently our cut off hard. The longer the release the slower your sub is going to fade out after the kick.
These are the settings that worked for me.
And there it is! I use these sidechain tricks a lot in my productions! It is a huge time saver, rather than manually automating everything, and it is also a great source of inspiration if you are stuck! Slap on the Autofilter on your lead synth or even a vocal, sidechain it to your drums and see if this inspires you for a different part in your song!
Hope you guys enjoyed! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or email me directly! Thanks again and be CREATIVE!
Official website: http://ericbakerdubois.wix.com/prod