Sound Design in Ableton
I built it also great for doing sound design and my go to scent is actually able to operator and you can I you khun dio frequency modulation subtracted synthesis and additive synthesis with operator and it's a lot of fun so I'm just going to start off by showing a few tones sounds like a pitch envelope on there right now so right now we're just got a, um there's one oscillator so there's basically one uh ones one sound generator right now and that's oscillator and operator has four oscillators and the way that we have selected is a sign wave right now and you can actually I go through a variety of the wave ah ah some complex uh tones in there as well wolf you get add distortion within the channel when it's set to aditya mode and there's a there's some algorithms and operator that lips there's some algorithms and operator that allow you to change the routing of the oscillators and the way that they saw summer distort before they some are way that they combine. And so, um by default it's...
sex two frequency modulation and that's when they're all vertical and we have it an additive mode so additive basically means that you can bring in other sounds and they're equally allowed when you have them in the same volume ok, so ah there is actually a feedback bram iter in an operator within the oscillator itself there's also a variety of distortion audio effects if you want in this just if you want it had provided or add additional harmonics to the sound if it's so in this instance we have this kick drum and this is basically just a really uh smooth sine wave it's just taking up the lower part of the spectrum and if you know if you want that kick drum to be more president and more apparent with other sounds you might want to add some upper harmonics to it to give it a little more full frequency life. Um and the way that I like to do it consistently is I like to work with a lot of color and a lot of, uh in the sound a lot of harmonics. And then I like to subtract um that I mostly try to work with a subtracted process more than often it's a lot easier to, um, to take away and get it for me. It's a lot easier to take away and get it balanced uh than it is to try to continuously add stuff to it. I'm gonna add some feedback on and then there's a filter here on you can basically shave office buzzy upper harmonics that you've added with distortion and that would be a subtracted ve effect so you can also you can also modulate uh, effects like the filter with a lfo or effects like the pitch and the oscillator I'm just going tio thie filter and turn that on and right now that's the rate on that's just a very slow oscillator happening ah and that gives the sound some motion that that envelope opening and closing creates an effect which is really nice if you're trying to, uh, let that sound continue to lead the attention but maybe it's been going for a while and you're trying to figure out a way to keep it interesting and maybe you don't wantto evolve any other parts of the song yet on dh that's a wayto adding motion is a great way to, um to keep a sound interesting. Ok, so we're gonna take a look at some composition real quick, so basically I have a track going in the arrangement motive this sequence er hit my stop point to rewind the play head all the way back to the beginning and right now I've so this is our session mode viewpoint and secession mode happened provides us with a vertical representation of the tracks and you can see the tracks so right now they're they're in groups and this is track one which it looks like there's twelve tracks in in this group track thirteen which is there some vocal samples on it looks like there's a c it would be six of vocal tracks and so this is track nineteen, so if we're toe expand this group, we could get a an individual look at all of the instruments on the other side of the picture is our arrangement view and this shows us the timeline and these air all midi notes and aiken look, go in here and take a closer look at him if I click on the club, double click on it if I want to look at the instrument for that middie give it shift tab on we've got a drum rack here with some samples in it some kicks, some high hats snare and percussion. We reached a sort of bridge or piano breakdown of the song and got some harmony down here and you see some effects modify uh, modulation these air going tio return wait a second dropper bigger drop of the tracks wait, we're talking about earlier we've got these different hit song part of these different markers there locators at the top of each part of the arrangement here and I've put these in here just so that I can jump around when I won't we never want to go to different parts of the arrangement from working on this song and I'm like, ok, I want to work on this ending aiken skip ahead to that song by double clicking the play head of the locator you can also midi map these these locators if you want which can be kind of fun and convenient if you've uh maybe you've got some backtracks that you're working with as ah you're live musician and you know you've got all your you've got your drum songs laid out in the arrangement view and you're maybe you're punching in or jamming on some other tracks in the song and uh what these session markers allow you to do is you can actually mini map that and instead of sort of being a slave to the original arrangement you khun bounce around and go to any part of the timeline you want tio so um that is some of the power of arrangement mode so as I was saying you can actually you can actually if you're live musician, you can perform alongside with with the arrangement and I'm going to go back tio on earlier part of the track way can also punch in and perform parts of the song that wait can perform different parts of the songs so basically I'm triggering clips and sessions be right now and what happens is that whenever you trigger something in session while something is playing into her an arrangement, that session clip takes priority over the original arrangement so uh when you want to return to the arrangement there isa returned arrangement but and that's this button here and so you can go back to what your previous arrangement or you can in session mode it's also on the right here so basically you can punch in improvise some samples in sort of d j along with a previous arrangement if you want tio or maybe you can experiment and tried out different sounds or different uh, you know, different sequences with the session of you and you can uh you can do that with the arrangement of you well, it's playing you can also recorded at the same time so it's really handy so there's also a bunch of tools, composition tools and middie effects that are really awesome for for basically helping create harmonies and melodies and able seuin and some of those are our arpeggio eaters so you can generate arpeggios off of pre existing notes, so if you're sustaining a note, it can repeat it on or it can generate more notes depending on the intervals that you sat with it. So we'll start with will play with generating an arpeggio off that are pre existing baseline, so I'm actually going I'm going to make a new mid e track and I'm in a rout, the middie information coming from our pre existing baseline and the song so here's our base I'm just gonna loop, so I selected that clip and I hit command l toe loop that part of the arrangement and so I'm going to take the middie from track number twenty six here that's our bounce lead bouncy as it's titled and I'm gonna add an operator sent and I'm going to do tone that's a little brighter all that stuff you take it up a notch so I just went into operator and there's a transposed all here added twelve sima tens and I'm going to go to my many effects and I'm going to find it arpeggio er and pull it in and just drop it there in front of our soft center ah extend the gate in the up and the aarp educator toe make the note length longer and I could even turn on the glass and you can there's all kinds of great settings in here so there's a there's a variety of many effects you can also generate cords you can you can filter all incoming many messages to a scale um you khun uh you could intercept the pitch values so I could say instead of transposing it inside a operator e I could do it here too I could say twelve seven or I could say to actives or twenty four seven and that's that's really handy if you maybe you don't want to re program amidi controller or something like that it's it's living in a few octaves below a sound that you want to play you can just use a pitch effect to transpose that that many information so the mini effects are super handy for for composing you can also you there's random many effects which are really nice if you want to automate some variation and drum hits or high hats or just maybe human eyes cem playing a little bit you can use the randomize features well velocity will work work the same way for drum hits or you khun raise the velocity on the effect or lower it instead of actually going in and editing all the messages that's really handy um and there's also note length so you can make you can basically do like a force llegado in just the middie effect to extend the notes or you can shorten the notes so all of these mini effects are really fun to explore and super easy to use you just drop him in front of any vsd instrument or ah or instrument that able thing comes with so yes all right, so we're gonna talk quickly about mixing a little bit and, um you know, most of the mixing is goingto happen and able to end the arrangement you and um I try to do so I have sort of a mix is I go process and then at the very when I'm finished with the composition I go back and I'd fill in the details and I provide automation over the timeline of the arrangement like a lot of times I'll start off the track a couple decibels quieter than the drop because I want that I want to create that emotional arc over the song and sometimes I used the mixing and volume automation or effects automation to do that um this breakdown here the piano break is an example of a bunch of automation to the return bus on the return bus I have a bunch of ah a bunch of reverb effects on delays and some distortion in these effects are basically creating reverberation and echoes and delays are, you know, helping these sounds sort of sit and create atmosphere and there's even some like this one has a frequency shift on it and I'll actually it's a fairly quiet track and you'll see the automation here on the fine tuning of this frequency and has the thiss part sort of climaxes it's actually winding down on then the that part looped again. So the effect that I've got going here is with frequency of one part is going down and then the frequency of this other sound is also going up it has a sort of jet plane up and down like simultaneous things, the fact that it's kind of fun, so, um that can be really helpful so uh the more automation that you can have in the track I mean it's um it's just it's really interesting to be able tio to have all kinds of motion and details in your final mix down stage and you can you can use that first sound design as well you can add distortion or take things out over the time went with it to um so yeah um and also I mean, sometimes you'll get if you if you run into any like clipping or or big peaks and a lot of times that will be caused by a weird sound combinations or sounds that don't combine well and they'll just distort you can use the mix automation to go in there and sort of repair it so I like to push things basically is as loud as well go to get the highest resolution we can possible adam within sort of the boundaries of our mixed down limits and and our target average decibel value and um I basically try to push it until it it breaks those peaks and then I go in and I usually automate throughout the mix teo fix those peaks and it's the arrangement was great for that and we talked a little about a reverberation I like to use it on the return bus um as a parallel effect I've got quite a few rivers in this track and it is a very cpu intensive process on basically this for for the you know, for the beginners out there the return bus is an extra set of of auxiliary channels and you can add basically as many as your cpu can handle in a bolton and these air label abc e you know uh labeled alphabetically and you can send the signal from any channel to this to these return effects and you can actually send these return effects to each other uh let's see here I'm gonna collapse that view and you can actually see going to go back over to our piano breakdown and I'm actually sending some of this compressed river been this reduction son, if I start the break over, you can watch this automation basically it's sending that to return c which is a delay. So that sort of distorted bit reduction effect which is pretty quiet there it is is also getting a little delay treatment there and I'm just re using that other effect on the return bus instead of duplicated in the track or putting an effect on every single instrument in the in the session or the arrangement um and then that will save me a lot of cpu power instead of using the mullah's insert effects so the other return buses is really handy and I like to use pretty much all my cpu intensive effects are, um and a lot of a lot of my compression in effects right now I I am using mohr on the return bus than than ever it seems like I use the return bus more and more of the more that I have been creating music with ableto we've also got some distortion effects this re ducks is actually an example of one of those distortion effects on so it's going to this delay here on c and you can hear so you know it's pretty quiet effect but you can you can use effects like, uh their distortion effects like re ducks which basically goes in it reduces the bit rate and you get all this crazy noise and harmonics and it's really cool um let me actually I'm going to throw it on the master and just dinner that real quick so it try to avoid using a lot of effects on the master channel I don't I really do that I have a fline jer at some at the very end of this track the very last few seconds but that's it um and I have a limiter in a multi band compressor just for the sake of the playback of this audio right now. Um if I were moving to the mix on stage, I would remove all of that, so I'm just going to go into our audio effects and I'm going to add the reduction to the master channel so it means everything is getting affected by that you get some super nintendo sounds out of that well actually original nintendo more than super nintendo but you get some some pretty wild stuff with that it's a really cool distortion there's ah variety of other distortions there's even a vinyl distortion which has lots of little cliques and pops in it there's over drive I think my favorite distortion and and live I'm actually going to go back to sort of a more ambient section of this song here and any time you highlight a section and live you can actually hit command elta lube it so right now I'm just looping this intro and I'm gonna pull in this is an overdrive it's one of thea other, uh, distortion effects I'm goingto pulling us saturate er though this is my favorite there's a lot of different control options could be really extreme with this and bring the output level down drive that in fact the color and the frequency depth and with its really versatile this is a really went way I mean there's some is there some incredible distortion effects that had really interesting harmonics it's not just dirt and grind like you might think you can do some really cool sounding stuff so a distortion is a great way to get some color out of a sound that might not be sitting in the mix right and a lot of by process with a bolton is about giving each sound their own place in the mix and finding different ways to do it and and we'll talk more about the physics of of these sounds and how that works. And, um, and also just how we can actually get our hands on the sounds and manipulate them in different ways to make them all fit together. So it's all about the interaction, that story that they tell all with the way the sounds interact over the timeline of our song, our story being arrangement mode in this in this example right now. So, um, yes, distortion is awesome and there's also compression and normalization and there's a couple different compressors and able tonight and let's see, I won't think I'm using any on the reacher bus on this track. I'd like to avoid compression, so my later stages, um, unless I have a sound that is has got some volume changes in it, I I feel like I get a lot of alias sing and sort of a digital distortion and just clicks and pops and unwanted sounds that I might not necessarily want. So I am going to add a return track here, and I'm going to do to use a glue compressor and that's, one of the compressors that that life has roots in our audio effects, and if we go over here are trained buses gotten to be so big that we can expand the library right now uh so I'm going to find our glue and since I just added that return their convertible click and drop it in there so e o go back let me make sure that that oh let's take this saturate er off now so I'm just going toe any time you want to remove an effect you can just select it clipped by clicking on it and had to lead to remove it so so so you want that that atmospheric part to be a little more stay steady in the volume and present you can actually consented to something like a glue compressor and I'm sitting in teo return j I'll go in here tio glue just the makeup of the bring our threshold down essentially the way the compression works is it normalizes all the frequencies tio a similar level on dh so it doesn't actually make the sound any louder than the the what the output is that too so your peak of the sound might still be the same but the frequencies and overtones that might not normal or might not be as loud usually we'll be brought up with the fundamental frequency which usually the loudest frequency and that's the frequency that determines the pitch of of the sound um so that's without the compression it's a little bit more steady over liberation of the playback of that sort of dreamy horn sound or whatever that is.
Ableton Live is the most efficient platform for electronic music production for djs, producers and sound designers. DJ and producer, Andrew Luck will take you through some of the coolest, and most commonly overlooked, features in Ableton Live.
In Ableton Tips and Tricks, Andrew will walk you through sound design using Ableton Instruments, mastering both Sampler and Simpler to bring real-world audio samples into your production. You’ll also learn about some of the less intuitive features of Session View including, Impulse, Clip Launching and Slice to MIDI.
If you're a new Ableton user and are ready to start using the platform like a pro, Andrew Luck's tips and tricks will help you brush up on those next-level skills.