Elysia Releases Free Filter Plugin

Everyone one loves free stuff. Especially free stuff that is of high quality. Elysia’s new Niveau filter delivers on both fronts. Find out more.

Everyone one loves free stuff. Especially free stuff that is of high quality. Elysia’s new Niveau filter delivers on both fronts. Here’s the scoop:

Get the niveau filter section of our famous mpressor plugin – it’s free! Add punch to muffled snares, reduce the harshness from active pickups, create some wonderful Dub and LoFi sounds… there are so many ways to benefit from this little tool. It’s fast, efficient, and most important: it sounds great!

This filter is a specialist in changing the overall sonic character of a signal with ease. It features two comprehensive controllers and is capable of producing convincing results in no time at all. Whenever a classic shelving filter would be too limited and a fully parametric filter would be too much, the niveau filter is the perfect tool.

Its main function is to change the proportions between high and low frequencies. The principle is quite similar to a pair of scales: Dependent on the gain setting around a variable center frequency, the high frequencies are boosted whereas the low frequencies are attenuated (or vice versa) at the same time.

The center frequency can be shifted continuously between 26 Hz and 2.2 kHz or between 260 Hz and 22 kHz respectively (when the x10 switch is activated). The characteristics of the filter change in the extreme positions of the EQ Gain controller: the fully counter-clockwise setting will give you a low pass filter; fully clockwise position will result in a high pass filter.

Click here to learn more: http://www.elysia.com/software/niveau-filter/

How To Program A Detuned Pad With Ableton’s Analog

Today I am taking a classic Autechre synth pad, and doing my best to recreate it. Included is the “Recipe” for this sound, as well as a video.

For this tutorial, I will be recreating a synthesizer pad from the song “Eutow” by Autechre. I will be only using instruments and plug ins within Ableton Live. Not only will this be showcase the power of Analog, but I hope it serves to teach a few things when it comes to programming synth sounds.

Think of it as a “Synth Recipe”.


Here is the original Autechre version:

And here is the recipe:

Start with the default settings of Ableton’s Analog

OSC 1:

Waveform: Square
Detune: 0.04
Pitch Mod LFO: 0.08
Pulse Width (Width): 100%
Pulse Width LFO 1: 0.65

Filter 1:

Type: 24dB
Freq: 8k

Amp 1:

Attack: 4 Seconds
Sustain: 0.50
Release: 150ms
Pan Mod (LFO 1): 0.19

LFO 1:

Mode: Beat Sync
Rate: 1/8

OSC 2:

Waveform: Sawtooth
Detune: -0.04

Filter 2:

Type: 12dB
Freq: 8k

Amp 2:

Attack: 5ms
Decay: 80ms
Sustain: 0.70
Release: 50ms

Main panel:

Quick Routing: First Routing Option (O,F,A/O,F,A)
Volume: -2.0dB

Reverb:

Dry/wet: 40%
Stereo: 50ms
Decay: 2 seconds

Ping Pong Delay:

Dry/wet: 25%
Feedback: 45%


Click here to download this Live set: http://abletonlife.com/project-files/autechre-pad-recreation.zip

The Julia Child of synth programming I am not, so if anyone else would like to improve on, or send their own versions of the patch, I would love to hear it.

Also, as a side note, if you are new to Synthesizer programming, I highly recommend this set of tutorials: http://synthstudent.wordpress.com/

Vocal Processing Tricks In Ableton Live

Ableton Live’s wide range of tools allow for some truly creative results. In this tutorial, we show a few tricks to processing vocals.

Ableton Live has plenty of great tools included with it. Some might even say it’s the Swiss Army Knife of DAWs. Vocal processing within Live is yet another great by-product of all the creative freedoms this program has afforded the user. Let’s run through a couple.



The Stretch Effect

Ableton’s Warp feature does wonders for keeping songs in time, but with “Texture” mode turned on, it can make your vocals sound heavily stretched, synthetic and drawn out.

Step 1.) Take a Vocal track. For this example I’ll be using an acappella of a Pet Shop Boys song.

Here is what the wave form of this section looks like un warped

Step 2.) If the track has been warped, unwarp it and find a good starting point with the start marker. Once there, right click the start marker and choose “Warp From Here Straight”. Choose “Texture” in the Warp Mode box.

Step 3.) Find the word or phrase you would like to stretch (mine is “business”) and add two warp markers on each side of it.

Step 4.) Next, I am going to click the warp marker at the end of my word and drag it to the right. This, in essence, stretches the word out, giving us the desired effect.

Pitch The Vocal

Pitch shifting is another great aspect of Ableton Live. For complete control, use your transposition envelope for complete control over re pitching certain words or phrases.

Note: Your tracks must be warped in order for Envelop mode to work.

Step 1.) Under the Clip Section of your track, hit the “E” icon to open that tracks envelope.

Step 2.) I recommend you select “Pro” or “Complex Pro” before venturing any further, as this tends to work the best for pitching vocals.

Step 3.) Find the envelope panel that has just opened, and select “Transposition” from the pull-down menu below the box that says “Clip”.

Step 4.) In the envelope window, double click on the red horizontal line to add anchor points. Drag these points up or down to change the pitch of individual words, or whole phrases.

Glitch The Vocal

Ableton’s Beat Repeat can do some wildly amazing things. At first glance it may seem fairly chaotic (so chaotic, in fact, it can be quite intimidating.). Although, focusing in on these couple of parameters for vocal manipulation will help you get the glitch out.

Step 1.) Add some warp points to a vocal track, preferably single words or short phrases. I’m working with a Jay-Z acappella for this example.

Step 2.) Once you have all of your warp markers set up, right click on the audio track and select “Slice To New MIDI Track”.

Step 3.) Select the presets “Warp Marker” and “Built-In-0-Vel”. Click Okay.

Step 4.) This will create a new MIDI track with Drum Rack on it. Drag a copy of Beat Repeat onto this new channel.

Step 5.) Trigger any of the samples off. When you do, be quick to hit the “Repeat” button on the drum rack in order to catch a certain part of the phrase. Once you do, twist the “Grid”, “Pitch” and “Pitch Decay” knobs for some VERY interesting results. Here is what I got:

Creating Harmonies

Vocals harmonizing together can be pleasant to the ear. With a basic knowledge of chord theory (1, 4, 7 is a Major Chord and 1, 3, 7 is a Minor Chord), we can create these through transposition in Ableton Live. Here’s how:

Step 1.) In Arrange View, copy and paste your vocal track on to two new audio channels. I’ll be using this sample in the example:

Step 2.) Engage Complex warp mode on both copies.

Step 3.) For a Major Chord “Harmony”, transpose the first copy up 4 steps and the second up (or down) 7 steps. For a minor key change the first copy to 3 steps.

Step 4.) Mix the volume to a pleasing level for all vocal tracks until it sounds like a three part harmony.

(Robot) Rock The Vocoder!

Humans can fly with the help of airplanes, live longer with the aid of modern medicine, but only one device can help us talk like the robots; the Vocoder!

I’ve tried to get my hands on a software version of a Vocoder that is as easy to use (and sounds as great!) as my MicroKorg’s. Ableton delivered. Here are some great ways to get music sounds out of non musical sounds.

Step 1.) For this example, I am going to use a sample of a voice saying “Please stand clear of the doors”. Here is what it sounds like:

Step 2.) Start by dropping Ableton’s Vocoder on your vocal track.

Step 3.) Drop Analog or Operator (or any other VST synth) on an empty MIDI channel.

Step 4.) Program a simple set of chords on the Synth track (I am using G Minor and D Minor Chords for this example).

Step 5.) So far we have two tracks, the MIDI track with the synth playing chords, and the vocal track (or in my case, speaking), lets merge the two together.

Step 6.) Mute the synth track and on the left side of Vocoder (remember on the vocal track) choose your carrier to be External and your Audio Source to be your Synth track.

Here is the same sample, processed through Live’s Vocoder with some Ping Pong Delay:

Singin’ In The Brain

Vocals are usually the most identifiable part of any track. With programs like Ableton Live out there, processing them in new and exciting ways is not only becoming easier, but also more fun.

As always, if you have any techniques you enjoy using to process vocals, share them below.

Blip Drums Releases Ableton Live Drum Machine – “Magenta”

The great folks over at Blip Drums have released a new Drum Machine for Ableton Live known as Magenta. If their great drum libraries are any indication, this Drum Machine is sure to deliver!

The great folks over at Blip Drums have released a new Drum Machine for Ableton Live known as Magenta.

Here are some samples:

http://www.blipdrums.com/blipplayer/MAGENTA/all_night.mp3

http://www.blipdrums.com/blipplayer/MAGENTA/criminal.mp3

http://www.blipdrums.com/blipplayer/MAGENTA/flashrobot.mp3

http://www.blipdrums.com/blipplayer/MAGENTA/freeformblip.mp3

http://www.blipdrums.com/blipplayer/MAGENTA/partymouth.mp3

Magenta is a powerful fusion of Blip Drums’ world class electronic drum library and Ableton instruments and effects. Within Magenta is over 1000 original electronic drum samples contained within 16 drum pads. All samples are instantly available via uniqe “sample selector” knobs. This allows freedom to explore drum sounds during play back without the hassle of loading external samples. In addition, automation of the sample selector knobs allows musicians to explore a whole new world of rhythm programming.

Each of the 16 drum pads has it’s own set of 8 specifically designed sound shaping performance knobs giving the musician instant access to over 128 knobs that tweak every aspect drum sample. This moves Magenta away from simply being a drum play back sampler to a powerfully effective drum synthesizer.

The combination of Ableton’s powerful instruments and effects combined with Blip Drums world class electronic drum library creates a stunning “go to” drum machine for today’s eclectic mix of modern music.

How To Make An Electro House Song In Ableton Live

On this screencast, we’ll learn how to create the basis for an Electro House track. Starting with the drums, working through a bass line, and finishing up with some melodic chords.

Find out how to write the basis of an electro house dance track in Ableton Live with this screencast. Arrangement and synthesizer programming videos will come soon!



tronaudio.com Shows How To Make A Dub Step Bass With Ableton Live

The folks over at tronaudio.com have posted this great video on creating a nifty dub step bass sound with Ableton Live’s Operator.

Courtesy of Synthtopia.

In this video, Andrew Snook of TronAudio, takes a look at designing a Dubstep Bass in Ableton Live:

I use multiple instruments to construct the sound. I use FM syntheses to create some really interesting tones and movement within the sound.

Top 5 Free VST Plugins For Ableton Live (Windows Edition)

We round of 5 of our favorite VST Plugins for Ableton Live. From dubbed out delay boxes to emulating the sound of vinyl stopping, these plugins are sure to inspire.

There are other “Top 5 Free VST Plugin” lists out there, but this one is dedicated to electronic music production, more specifically, in Ableton Live.



1. Synth1

Modeled after the Nord Lead 2, this synthesizer is the best free soft synth around. A perfect free alternative for someone who can’t afford some of the extra synths for Ableton Live.

Features:

  • 2 Oscillators, FM modulation, ring modulation, sync, modulation envelope.
  • 4 types of filters, distortion.
  • 2 LFOs (synchronized with host).
  • Arpeggiator (synchronized with host).
  • Tempo delay (synchronized with host), stereo chorus/flanger.
  • Legato mode, portamento.
  • 16 notes polyphony.
  • 128 presets.
  • Thoroughly optimized for light CPU load using SSE instructions, etc.
  • Automation.

Download the Synth1 here: http://www.geocities.jp/daichi1969/softsynth/Synth1V108a.zip

2. Tapestop

Have you ever wanted to easily emulate the sound of a tape player or record player slowing down? Now you can with the uber-simple “Tapestop” plug in.
Slap it onto a single track – or your master channel – hit the stop button and listen to the sound slowly die down. Look ma, no turntable! Great for DJs.

Modes:

  • EP(vinyl) – EP is normal mode.
  • TD (Tape deck) – TD will back up the tape a bit when it stops.

Adjustable display:

  • N – normal.
  • R – reverse the button.

Adjustable button:

  • T – toggle.
  • D – Direct return to play when mouse button is released.

Adjustable speed:

  • Select the DOWN speed by clicking on the LEFT mouse button in the speed box, then hold and drag.
  • Select the UP speed by clicking on the RIGHT mouse button in the speed box, then hold and drag.

Download Tapestop here: http://hem.bredband.net/tbtaudio/archive/files/Tapestop_1-7.zip

3. LoudMax

One thing I really enjoy about Serato Scratch, is that there is an Automatic gain control. What this means in, if there is a song that is quieter than the one playing, the auto gain control would bump up the volume of the quieter track to match the louder one.
Until now, I haven’t seen a simple plugin that does this in Ableton Live. However, with the LoudMax plugin, you can put this on your master channel and boost the threshold so that both songs are equal in volume.

Main range of application:

  • Audio Mastering.
  • Output Limiter/Maximizer for web radio stations.

Controls:

  • One slider for threshold, one for the output level.
  • Meters for input, output and gain reduction in relation to the desired threshold.

Features:

  • Supported Samplerates: 2kHz – 384kHz
  • Latency, Look-Ahead and Attack Time: 1.25ms
  • Release Time: Automatic – depending on the input signal
  • Possible Overdrive without audible distortion: 740dB
  • Low CPU usage

Download LoudMax here: http://free-vsts.com/files/LoudMax-1.07.zip

4. iSpinner

Recreate some truly amazing Lesley Speaker action with this plugin. Drop it on a drum loop and let it jump back and forth through your headphones. Hours of fun.

General Features:

  • One-Band Rotary Chorus
  • Adjustable Overdrive
  • Adjustable Rotator Off/On, Slow/Fast, Speed, Depth and Spread
  • Vintage Look GUI
  • Low CPU consumption

Download the iSpinner here: http://www.iliadisorgan.com/freeplugins.html

5. Dubb Box

This is the best free Space Echo simulator I’ve seen. It even has separate controls for tape hiss. This plugin is perfect for getting the dubbed out loop effects that made the space echo so famous.

Features:

  • Main echo and ‘second-tapehead’
  • Sub-echoes
  • Adjustable vintageness (tape hiss, motor inertia, tape and motor age)

Download the Dubb Box here: http://www.freesoundeditor.com/downloads/vst/arcdev_dubbox.exe

Please share any of your favorite free plugins you like to use in Ableton Live below!

How To Go Lo-Fi With Ableton Live (Part 2)

In Part 2 of our “Going Lo-Fi in Ableton Live” series we go over using massive of amounts of compression and creative uses for EQ. Things continue to get gritty.

Compression and creative EQ will be the topics of part two on our series about getting Lo-Fi with Ableton Live. Let’s grab our garbled sounds and continue on, shall we?



Creative Compression

A compressor is simply an automatic volume control. Depending on the settings, putting a compressor onto a track can bring all sounds up to equal volume.

Here is a quick example:

Uncompressed Audio

You can hear a small amount of tape hiss in the background. Now watch what happens when I drop Ableton’s compressor onto the same track with these settings:

Compressed Audio

The sound has been completely flattened, all volume is treated equally with this setting. It has brought up the tape hiss to a considerable amount.

The “Pumping” Sound

One of the most sought after compression sounds for lo-fi freaks is the sound of the compressor pumping. This happens when the compression becomes noticeably audible. Most normal compression techniques use “subtle” compression to add a little punch, but lo-fi is not about subtly.

Let’s take a loop at a drum loop and see how we can get it to “pump”.

Here is a 2 bar loop I’ve programmed with some single shots and Ableton’s Drum Rack. Here it is with no compression:

Drum Loop (No Compression)

Next, I have dropped Ableton’s Compressor on top of it with a threshold setting of -50dB, the ratio is at 4.00, release 30 and the make-up gain is up to 12dB.

This is an extreme amount of compression. Usually the recommended is about -20dB threshold, 2-4 ratio. Try and come up with your own crazy settings. There are no real limits.

Note: I also have Ableton’s Limiter on the Master Channel.

Drum Loop (Extreme Compression)

Notice how the extreme amounts of compression are almost making the drums distort? This is one of the effects of pushing the make-up gain so high. If you listen closely you can hear the high transients on the hats distorting, as well as a “breathing” sound from the kick drum.

Side Chain Compression

One of the greatest additions to Ableton Live’s compressor is their side chain function. This allows you to take an audio signal (say a kick drum) and use that sound to compress another sound (let’s say a synthesizer).

This allows the synthesizer to “duck” whenever the kick hits, allowing for more impact with the drums.

Here is an untreated sample I am going to layer on top of the drums:

Melodic Sample (Untreated)

Here are what the drums and the sample sound like together:

Drums Loop And Melodic Sample (Untreated Melodic Sample)

Not bad so far, but the drums are obviously over powering the sample.

What I am going to do next is add a side chain compressor to add rhythmic interest, as well as let the kick and sample interact better sonically.

Note: To access Ableton’s Sidechain click on the arrow located on the top left of the Compressor.

Once I am in Compressor’s Side Chain Settings, I am going to select the Kick drum from the loop I programmed earlier as the audio source.

Let’s hear what just the sample sounds like now that it is being affected by the kick drum:

Melodic Sample (Side Chain Effect)

You can hear the audio dropping at spots where the kick drum is hitting. This is exactly the effect we’re looking for.

The settings used for the side chain are similar to the drum’s compression: threshold set to -50dB, ratio at 8.00, make-up grain brought up to 20dB. Once again, very extreme settings.

As a frame of reference I am going to play back both the sample and drums with the heavy compression and side chain, as well as a completely un treated version.
Heavily compressed and side chained loop:

Final Loop (With Extreme Compression And Side Chain)

Final Loop (All Compression Removed)

I think the results are definitely subjective, and which one sounds better is really a matter of taste. I hope by noticing the extreme differences of these two, you can apply some real lo-fi edge with Ableton’s Compressor.

Distressed With Equalization

Adding and taking away certain frequencies of sound has been a long standing practice for recording engineers. The most common use of equalization is to create places for instruments to “sit in the mix”.

In this section we are going to look at ways you can create Lo-Fi treatments with Ableton’s EQ Eight.

Cutting The Highs

Most professional audio equipment can reproduce sounds from 20Hz – 20,000Hz. It’s around the 11,000Hz – 20,000Hz where the “sparkle” of audio comes from. Here is a quick technique to reduce the shine.

  1. Load up EQ Eight onto your master channel.
  2. Select Band 4 on the EQ.
  3. Choose the high-cut icon.
  4. Click the “Frequency Knob” and type 11,000 on your keyboard.
  5. This will cut out all frequencies above 11,000Hz.

What this does is emulate old mixing consoles that didn’t have the same frequency response that modern equipment does. By eliminating the “sparkle” you are recreating the lo-fidelity of older equipment.

The Telephone Effect

This is a great technique for the old school AM radio effect where you can only hear the mid-range of the audio.

  1. Load an EQ Eight on an instrument or loop.
  2. Select Band 1 and set it to the Low Cut option.
  3. Change the frequency of Band 1 to 500Hz.
  4. Select Band 4 and set it to the High Cut option.
  5. Change the frequency of Band 4 to 4,000Hz.
  6. Select Band 2 and change the frequency to 1,500Hz.
  7. Give Band 2 a 3-6dB boost with the Gain Knob.
  8. Narrow the Q on band 2 to about 3.

Boosting The Hiss

If you have a track with tape hiss on it, you can use the extreme compression tips mentioned above, as well as some boosting in the high end of EQ Eight.

  1. Load up EQ Eight onto a track with tape hiss or other high end noise.
  2. Select Band 4, change it to the High Shelf setting.
  3. Change the gain of Band 4 to about 6 – 8dB.

You will now be accentuating any tape hiss you have on your track.

Grit Creative

So this concludes part 2 of our series on getting Lo-Fi with Ableton live. On part 3 we will be discussing distortion as well sampling techniques to get that true old school vibe in your tracks. Stay tuned!

How To Go Lo-Fi With Ableton Live (Part 1)

Here is part 1 of a series about going Lo-Fi with Ableton Live. Learn outboard tricks, how to use Ableton’s bit crusher – Redux, and some free links to lo-fi VST plug-ins.

We could all use a little more lo-fi dirt in our Ableton productions, right? Sure, it all depends on what you’re going for. Some genres of electronic music work perfectly with their uber polished tracks. There are times you feel like you can see them sparkling from a mile away.

However, imagine taking artists like – Flying Lotus, The RZA, or even Crystal Castles – and removing all of the dirt and grime. Their recordings wouldn’t have the same charm all of their bruised samples, hyper compressed drums and 8 bit sounds afford them.

So, without further ado, here are some tricks you can use to add extra grit to your Ableton Live productions.


Going Overboard With Outboard

Working in an all digital environment can get a little stale. Everything is precise and predictable. Sometimes that level of control can be a bit uninspiring. Let’s take a look at some outboard gear that is sure to liven things up.

Cassette Tape Machines

Sending out a loop or even an entire track into a cassette recorder, then re-sampling it back into Ableton is a great way to add tape saturation, hiss and other unexpected lo-fi goodies only tape can offer.

Tascam’s famed Portastudio series of 4 track cassette recorders are still alive and kicking. You can find one used for around $100. Some of these even come with a pitch knob that can add a great warped sound so your productions.

Tascam’s Portastudio series is great for re sampling your loops and tracks back into Ableton Live

If you really want some lo-fi sounds, you can even mic a boom box, or hand held cassette recorder with your tracks playing through it. This is an extreme version of a technique known as re amping.

Here are a couple of examples (note: these are my interpretations of the techniques used, I may be wrong):

Boards Of Canada – Chromakey Dreamcoat (Clip)

You can hear the not-so-subtle warping of the sampled guitar part. This can be easily done by sampling a loop into your 4 track, sending three or four different “pitched” versions from the 4 track into Ableton, then re sampling and triggering them.

Try manually manipulating the pitch knob slightly through each run.

Aphex Twin – Xtal (Clip)

Here is another beautiful example of what processing your tracks through tape can do. This recording is steeped in mystery (some say a cat mangled Richard D. James’ tapes.) Even so, here are a couple rough ideas for this sound:

Take note of the extreme amounts of tape saturation. If you were to try and achieve the same results with digital clipping, it wouldn’t sound the same.

Try recording your track from Ableton Live into your 4 track so that it’s in the red. Let the meter peak above 0dB. Adjust input signal to taste until you have a nice saturated sound.

Stomp Boxes To The Rescue

One of the most common ways of getting unexpected lo-fi sounds is by using effects that are not intended for the application. For example, use a distortion pedal meant for guitar, and throw it into your re sampling chain.

Next time you record your outboard synthesizer or drum machine into Ableton Live, try throwing a Pro Co Rat or even a cheap Dan Electro distortion pedal into the signal chain.

Try finding cheap distortion pedals and adding them to your signal chain.

The sky is the limit. Any type of boutique pedals can do crazy and unexpected things for your audio signal, and usually they are inexpensive.

A Bit Of Reduction

Digital music is represented in bits. Most professional recordings are processed at 16 or 24 bits. However, there was a time when computer could only handle 8 or 12 bits at a time. Using tools to reduce bit rate quality is a technique that can drum up sounds of the NES and Atari 2600 days.

Here is a sample from an 8 bit weapon song, a great example of pure 8-bit music.

8 Bit Weapon – Micro Anthem (Clip)

Ableton’s Redux

So, maybe you don’t want to be as extreme as someone like 8 bit weapon. Ableton Live has a great tool called “Redux” that will crush bits in increments of 1.

Use Ableton’s Redux to introduce some light artifacting, or complete chaos in your productions.

  1. Load up an Audio Sample of a Soft Synth in Ableton Live.
  2. Drop Ableton’s Redux onto the track.
  3. Activate the “On” switch next to the knob that says “16”.
  4. Play your audio file or some notes on a keyboard while reducing the bits with the knob.
  5. By bringing the knob down to 8 you can start to hear a noticeable difference in fidelity. Keep in mind, taking the knob all the way down to 1 is not for the faint of heart.

Another thing to keep in mind; most MPCs in the 90s had 12 bit sampling capabilities. Chopping up some samples and dropping Redux down to 12 bits can add more to that MPC sound.

Some Free 8-Bit VSTs

Here are some great (and free!) VST plug-ins I recommend that work with Ableton Live.

YMCK’s Magical 8-Bit Plug: http://www.ymck.net/english/download/index.html

Pontonius’ Pooboy 2.0: http://www.pontonius.se

Chip32 VST Synth: http://www.kvraudio.com/get/229.html

Another example of an artist using 8 bit more subtly.

Crystal Castles – Crimewave (Clip)

In the beginning (and around the 0:11 point) you can hear what sounds like something you would hear out of an old Atari 2600 game. Adding sprinkles of 8 bit goodness can add great effect to your productions.

Try loading a soft synth in Ableton Live and dropping the Redux on and setting the bit reduction knob between 4 and 8 to achieve a bit crushed synthesizer sound.


To read Part 2 of this tutorial go here: How To Go Lo-Fi With Ableton Live (Part 2)

Learning Drum Synthesis With Ableton’s Operator

In today’s tutorial, learn how to dial up your own kick, snare and hi-hat sound from scratch. Ableton Live’s do-it-all synthesizer Operator will be our main sound generator.

Creating drum sounds from scratch can not only be gratifying, but can help to teach the fundamentals of synthesis. With heavy emphasis on ADSR, waveform selection and filtering, here are 3 drum sounds you can re create with Ableton’s Operator Synth.



The Kick Drum

Programming The Sequence

Before we start tweaking knobs on Operator, lets program a simple 1 bar kick pattern.

  1. Enter session view and double click the first open clip slot on a MIDI track.
  2. Locate the piano roll window that has opened on the bottom section of Ableton Live.
  3. Enter a simple MIDI sequence by double clicking the in the grid. Your sequence should look like this:

For better control, zoom in or out horizontally by clicking and dragging up or down over the beat ruler. Zoom vertically by clicking and dragging left or right to the left of the black and white keys.

Here is how the kick drum sounds with a brand new Operator:

Programming The Kick Drum Sound

Time to start shaping the kick sound, drag an Operator synth over to the MIDI track. You can hit play on the MIDI clip we’ve created if you would like to hear the sounds being molded in real time.

  1. Set OSC A’s Coarse knob to 0.5.
  2. With OSC A still selected, locate Operator’s middle panel.
  3. In the middle panel, change the release value to 1.0ms (do this by clicking the number and typing 1,000 on your keyboard).
  4. Drag the sustain level all the way down to –inf dB.
  5. Your kick should sound something like this:

  6. Click on the OSC B panel.
  7. Click on the level knob and enter -5.0 on your keyboard to bring the volume of this OSC up to -5.0dB.
  8. Here is the second Sine added without any shaping:

  9. Pretty annoying, huh? Let’s fix it by using our ADSR options in the middle panel for this OSC.
  10. Start by changing the decay to 15.0ms.
  11. Set the release to 250ms.
  12. Set the sustain to -35dB.
  13. Our kick with both Sine waves blended:

    Now it sounds a lot more like a kick drum. Just a couple more steps.

  14. Locate the Global shell on the Operator and click it.
  15. Set the volume knob to 0.0 dB.
  16. Since drums are monophonic, in the middle panel, change the Voices parameter from 6 to 1.

Our final kick drum sound:

So, with a couple simple sine waves, we were able to emulate a sound close to an 808 hum drum kick. Blending in the second sine wave helps add some attack to the sound, while the first helps round out the tone.


The Snare Drum

Let’s start off by creating another MIDI channel, double clicking the first empty clip slot, and programming this pattern:

Of course, add the Operator to the new MIDI channel.

Here is what our pattern sounds like with a new Operator:

  1. Again, start off by selecting OSC A’s panel.
  2. In the middle panel, change OSC A’s waveform from a sine wave, to white noise.
  3. Set the decay to 300ms and the sustain to –inf dB.
  4. Think of this as our “chain” at the bottom of the snare drum.

    Here is what our snare sounds like so far:

  5. Back to the OSC A panel, change the volume to -25dB.
  6. This will help blend it with OSC B.

  7. Again, locate the global shell.
  8. Locate the algorithm panel on top of the middle section. Select the last algorithm.
  9. While in the global panel, change the level to 0.0dB as well as the voices to 1.

  10. Select the OSC B panel and set the level to 0.0dB.
  11. In the middle panel change the decay to 100ms and the sustain to -60dB.

Here is our final snare sound with both the Sine and White Noise blended:

The sine acts as the “drum head” giving a tone and shape to the sound, while the white noise acts as the chain beneath the snare. Blending the two gives us a class drum machine snare sound.


The Hi-Hat

This is definitely the easiest of the 3 drum sounds to program. It’s simple white noise with minor adjustments to OSC A’s ADSR.

  1. Load up another MIDI channel and double click to add another 1 bar MIDI loop. Program this sequence of 1/16th notes into the piano roll:
  2. Drop another Operator synth on the new MIDI channel.
  3. Here is what the untreated pattern sounds like so far:

    In OSC A’s middle panel,change the waveform from a sine wave, to white noise.

  4. In the middle panel of OSC A change the decay to 100ms, the release to 90ms and sustain to –inf dB.
  5. Back to the Global shell, bring the level down to -20dB and in the middle panel change the voices to 1.

Here is what the final hi-hat sounds like:

Now you have a hi-hat that blends perfectly with the rest of our drum sounds.

Here is what all three sequences sound like together:


Operator? Drums Please

So here is a great introduction to programming synthetic drum sounds from scratch. Try experimenting with other drum sounds (toms and crash cymbals).

I hope that by following these examples, it will lead more people to experiment with their own Operator synthesizer patches in Ableton.