ok quick and dirty on this one.

Everybody talks about sidechaining in the Ableton groups, people always put this as a one-word solution to your mix problems, and they all act like it’s going to swoop down and give you paradise on earth.

But if you don’t know how to set up sidechain compression in the first place, you’re basically screwed.

So here’s a quick start guide to setting up sidechain compression. It will help you do the bassline & kick drum thing that everyone talks about.

Don’t worry if this seems confusing. That’s the Nature of making tracks. You learn one new thing that solves your problem and opens up a whole new dimension of possibilities.

Then you find out that your nice sparkly new dimension has nice sparkly new problems.

It’s like a video game where every new level has a bigger boss that you have to defeat at the end…

…but you get better speed+power and it’s more fun, so at least there’s that.

Sidechaining is your power-up.

So here’s the quick start guide for making your kick drum louder. It works by sneakily turning down your bassline volume, exactly at the moments when the kick drum hits. Got that? You don’t turn the kick up. You leave it alone so your gain staging stays in place, and you use the sidechain to work with the other elements in your mix.

This is the magic of automatic gain reduction AKA sidechain ducking AKA sidechaining.

FYI — sidechaining is a lot better than LFO tool for volume automation because it automatically adjust to any micro-timing or breakbeat kick drum patterns. LFO only works on the beat on the grid, y know? And we humanize the drums a lot in electronic music, so get good with sidechains.



Here's how to make your kick drum louder without turning up your kick drum volume.

  1. Drop an Ableton Compressor on the bassline track

  2. Expand the sidechain controls using the black triangle

  3. Assign the sidechain input source (kick drum)

  4. Bring down the Threshold until you see and hear some Gain Reduction

  5. Set the Release time to work with the bpm of your music

  6. If you have trouble getting the release time to work, switch on the sidechain filter

  7. Activate the sidechain listen switch

  8. Move the sidechain filter frequency up, to cut out the low end of your kick drum

  9. Lower the threshold, as you see less GR happening

  10. Re-adjust your Release time now that the kick drum is not making the compressor over-react

  11. If necessary, adjust the Gain and Resonance on the input Filter to fine-tune how the GR reacts to the input source. (this takes some practice)

  12. To check if this is working, switch the compressor on and off a few times. Make sure you can hear the difference and FEEL the difference in the low end.

When you get it tuned properly, switching the sidechain compressor on should make the kick drum sound like it jumps forward in the mix. You’ll hear it clearly.

In a room with a subwoofer, you should be able to actually feel the bassline pause at the instant the kick drum happens. This takes a bit of practice but you should recognize how it feels from being the dance floor, I know you’ve been paying attention out there…


There’s a better way to learn this than reading about it.

For all the Ableton users, I built a hands-on guided session lesson to teach you how to do sidechaining, so you can really hear it working, and learn to make your kick drum EXPLODE through the speakers.


This is what it looks like.


It’s a hands-on guided Ableton Project with instructional automation and it’s all about sidechaining — technical sidechaining for deadly low-end bassline mixes, creative sidechaining for the pump & swell in your synths and reverbs. All that good stuff.

BTW, “Session Lesson” means you download a guided Live Pack, open up the Project, and do a built-in tutorial that shows you what to do.


It’s got automated examples, real sounds and plugins to work with, and practice exercises for you to actually DO what the lesson is telling you… not just read about it or watch it on video.

This is a revolutionary new kind of tutorial and it works like crazy.


Last thing: after you make a cool sidechain bassline mix, please join the mixitecture facebook group and post a track you’re working on. Here’s a link.

We give good feedback and you’ll get a lot of support to help you with your production. Plus you get to hear interesting new tracks from around the world, which is super cool.

Steve Knots

Thanks for your visit! If you're new here, check out the session lessons. They're the most exciting new way to learn sound design, composition and mixdown techniques for electronic music production in Ableton Live. -Steve