5 Alternative Sidechain Compression Methods

ICON graduate James Geary introduces alternative sidechain compression methods in Ableton Live. James also takes you through the setup of each sidechaining plugin and offers tips on how to get better results. 

What is Sidechaining?

Sidechaining is a routing technique that uses the output from one track to control the behavior of an audio effect loaded on another track. This essential mixing technique enables you to shape the dynamics of a sound using an external sound source such as a kick drum or another percussive sound. Many compressors, gates, filters, and similar devices have external sidechain inputs.

Sidechaining is used in a variety of ways from practical mixing to creative sound manipulation. The most common example of sidechaining in music production is sidechain compression. This method of sidechaining ‘ducks’ or attenuates the bass level whenever the kick hits. It is a great technique that helps the kick cut through the mix. For example, loading a compressor on the bass track and choosing the kick as the external trigger source. Creating separation between two sounds that have overlapping or competing frequencies like this is necessary to improve clarity, power, and punch.

Sidechain Compression Alternative Plugins

In this video, James Geary introduces a variety of alternative sidechain methods. James kicks things off by demonstrating how to set up Ableton Live‘s Compressor for sidechain compression and offers tips to get better results. Next, James talks about multiband compression and shows how to set up FabFilter’s Pro-MB to independently sidechain two frequency bands. James then introduces his preferred sidechaining method with the CableGuys VolumeShaper and takes you through his routing setup in Ableton Live. Lastly, James explains how to automate volume levels manually with Live’s Utility to get more accurate results.



About Icon Collective

ICON Collective is a Los Angeles and Online music production school that teaches you core technical skills while unlocking your unique creative process. Mentorships with industry professionals let you access real-world insights and help you personalize your music education. Check out our Music Production Programs.





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