Automation Technique For Vocal Effects In Live



In this one, our guest contributor Eric Dubois shares an awesome technique to save time and automate your vocal effects using sidechain compression and the layering options in Live. Eric uses the Ping-Pong delay effect to make the last word of the vocal track echo and bounce around until the singer starts singing again.

You can try this simple technique to automate delays, reverbs or any other effects from your vocal track.



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Have you ever heard a song where the vocals are clear and at the last line you hear the final word echo and bounce around? Have you tried to create the same effect? … You probably spent hours automating your delay, turning it on and off at the perfect timing to fit that blank empty space in your vocal! Or even spending time and energy creating an extra track just for that echo! Well, I will show a quick and easy way to create the same effect using Ableton’s amazing Layering capabilities, time saver!

Here is an example. I used this exact technique on my short mashup of Adele’s Hello track with Wonderwall by Oasis. You can hear it well around 1:04. I wanted the “About you now” lyric to bounce around and I didn’t want to waste time creating a new vocal track and going through all that hassle.


Setting Your Delay


This is the vocal section I wanted to work on (clean, no delay):


First, drag and drop a Ping Pong Delay or a Simple delay onto your vocal track. I personally prefer Ableton’s Ping Pong delay for the way the delayed signal bounces from left to right.

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Now set the delay for the part of the vocal you want to echo.  By using the filter on the delay you can obtain some cool “telephone” type effect just on the delayed signal.

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Here is how my vocal sounds with the delay:


Sounds pretty messy right? Here is where you would usually play with Ableton’s Automation option to turn on and off your delay at the desired moments. But not this time!


Layering Your Effects


Remember we only want to control the delayed signal and not the clean vocal part. To do this, we are going to use the same principal as the basic Receive and Send channels.

We want one layer containing only the clean vocal signal and another layer containing the pure delayed signal. To do this, right click on the delay and select “Group” (Or ctrl + G).

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Now we need to open the “chain” section of our new effects rack. Click on the rounded icon that looks like a list on the left hand corner:

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I renamed the Chain to Delay


This Chain will be our fully delayed signal, so set the dry/wet knob on your delay to 100%. (The same way you would set effects up on a Return Channel).


We need to create a new Chain for our clean vocal signal. Right click in the chain section and select “Create Chain”.

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We will leave this section empty because it is only for the clean signal to go through. Layering effects is the same as layering Instruments, we are creating several pathways for the audio signal to go. In our case, one for the Pure delayed signal and another for our original vocal.

It now sounds like this:

You can now control the volume of your delay signal by raising or lowering the volume of your Delay Chain.


Okay, now that we have two distinct chains we can start controlling the Delay Chain.


Sidechain Compression


Remember what our final objective was? We want to have the delayed signal appear only when the vocal stops. How are we going to do this? By using a Compressor sidechained to the same vocal track!

This will dramatically lower the volume of the delayed signal when the singer is singing and slowly raise the volume back up when the vocal is done.

Sidechain compression is usually used to lower the volume (compress) of an instrument when the Kick hits, blending the drums and instruments together and creating a better mix.


Drag and drop a compressor onto your Delay Chain. It’s important to put the compressor after the delay!

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Click on the little triangle icon to open the sidechain section of the compressor.

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Turn the sidechain on, select your vocal track in the input section and make sure “PreFX” is selected as a tapping source (we want the clean vocal to trigger our compressor).

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My vocal track is called “Oasis Vocal”


First raise the ratio to the maximum because we want the compressor to compress as hard as it can, lowering the volume as low as it can. Lower the threshold about half way and raise the release so the volume raises back up smoothly. Here are my settings:

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Here is how it sounds:


And in the mix:

And that’s it! Have fun layering more effects and creating more chains, always experiment! Ableton is amazing for this!

PS: For all the producers out there, you can join our team of producers for our weekly challenges! Every week we challenge ourselves to create a 1min beat using the same sample and tempo in only 1 hour! We mix all the submissions together and create a mashup released on Soundcloud every Friday! More information here:

Sign up here:


If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or email me directly! Thanks again and be CREATIVE!

Eric Dubois

Official website:





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