Skip to main content

Synthesis and Sound Design 101

Lesson 2 of 9

Subtractive Synthesis with the Ableton Analog

James Patrick

Synthesis and Sound Design 101

James Patrick

staff favorite

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

2. Subtractive Synthesis with the Ableton Analog

Lesson Info

Subtractive Synthesis with the Ableton Analog

everyone. Welcome back. This is less than two of class one for a sound design and synthesis intro and slam academy. For this lesson, we're gonna be focusing on a little bit more about the the analog inside of able to know just how to really employ subject of synthesis to create your own sounds that are gonna be rich and unique. Um, the main topics we're gonna be covering today are going to be about key tracking and d tuning using some of the other global functions like glide and port aumento and unison to thicken and add keyboard articulation to our patches. So I'm gonna happen down in here as well as, um, a little bit of further awareness of oscillator tuning and key tracking and using some of these enveloping functions and phasing to get more thick results. So if you remember where we left off on her previous patch, we had this nice kind of pad that we evolved. We started with a marimba type sound. And then we added a parallel oscillator with the band pass filter with a little bit of...

lfo, and then we panned them. Ah, a nice like, evolving pad. Really liking the sound. I think it sounds pretty thick and pretty cool. Let's see if we can take a little bit further through using some of these additional functions. One thing in particular that I have employed already in this patch, just thoughtfully knowing how I was gonna want to work with this is called key tracking to my filter. So by default, your oscillators are always key tracking. That's where this key to pitch 100% comes into play. Each of our oscillators are following along with our keyboard pitch. Um, if I did put these at zero and played a scale e, get no pitch modulation, right, because the key tracking to our oscillator frequency is zero. Put this back up, please. No, of course, I can play notes and add melody and harmony, etcetera. But we can also employ key tracking to other unique and important destinations. For instance, the frequency of our filter without key tracking. When I play really low on the keyboard, e get a nice Tambor right When I go up high, there's nothing left through. This is because our filter cut office down at 248 hertz and low pass mode, so anything I play above 248 hurts. I'm not gonna hear it all once I turned up key tracking. This is a ratio. I can overdrive it. One is 1 to 1, meaning that at middle C key tracking never affects my cut off it all. But as I move up and down from Middle C, which is the centre key on the keyboard like cut off is also going to move along with my key position. Therefore, as I play way up in the register, my cut off is gonna get allow those brighter notes pass. And then when I played bass notes again, it's gonna close. Listen. Nice, huh? So now I have this ability to allow my oscillator tambor and toned to preserve its settings and feel across the entire key range, regardless of where my cut off is sitting. So when I'll usually do is all play my low bass notes or wherever I want them to be else that Mikey tracking at 1 to 1 and dialling the cut off right where I like it that way. I know that no matter where I plan on the keyboard, that tone and Tambor I dialed in is gonna be just right. Then maybe depending on how my arrangement is working out, I might overdrive this or back it off if I want toe attenuate. The amount of modulation evokes of the cut off from the keyboard cools. Let's keep tracking. I've gotten known on my band pass filter. Maybe I'll even add some here. Cool. So that's key tracking. Well, that's a really important thing to be aware of. You can attach key tracking to other parameters as well. Look, I can do key tracking to my residence. We could do key tracking to my volume, which could be a little dangerous when I get higher in pitch, but output amplifier is going to get louder. I could also be tricky or messy. This might be a cooling to invert that way when you play low, bass notes, they're nice and loud, and when you play on high and the register, it's gonna be softer. Let's try that out, way up in the red stuff move. Minister. Gonna watch out for that, too. These are tricky parameters, but it's good to know how key tracking works. Watch out for it in any good synthesizer, especially for your leads and your base sounds, you're gonna wanna be able to play all over the keyboard and have that sound preserve its Tambor and its brightness across the key range. Another thing that's really cool to point out is de tuning to demonstrate this. What I'm gonna do is I'm actually gonna pan my amplifiers back to the middle and I'm gonna turn my filters off by doing this. Now I'm essentially becoming the barking dog. This is gonna be probably pretty bright. So right now I have two different saw waves at different octaves. Let's hold down a note. I'm gonna actually turn out my LFO modulation to us. You can really hear this. Ah, but notice how those waves are all perfectly in phase with each other. Listen to what happens when I de tuned one of them a tiny bit. Even if there are identical frequencies, those overtones dancing, that's because these days watch if I kicked him into a different active range thing, is already becoming a classic sound. I even have semi tone determining to evoke what's called parallel harmony Lets out a perfect 50 this Ah, you can really hear how, um Why I might not need to play chords on an instrument like this, right? I mean, I could even I could rack up a couple of these in parallel and have some major seventh chord that would all have saw waves. I mean, I'd have so many overtones populating the spectrum, it wouldn't sound even very musical anymore. So this is tuning and how it works. On that note, though, another thing I like to point out, I'm going to get rid of this perfect fifth and to stick with the sub active. One thing I could do that's really cool is I can actually each of these oscillators, as I pointed out in less and one have their own sub octave isolation. So watch this. I'm gonna turn this one off, and we're just gonna turn up in octave below This don't give me perfectly constant and in phase, but it'll just be another occupy. When I turn this up, you'll be able to see another set of peaks that are lower than the fundamental ones get higher. So it's not unlike turning this on. Look, now I have one here too. Even here too wait gets pretty thick pretty quick, huh? So this is a really nice function being able to Not only do you tune are oscillators manually, but employed the sub active oscillator under the hood of each of these as well. So now we have basically, frankly, too much content coming out of this thing. I'm gonna back this up with this guy. I'm even gonna back this out, but maybe I'll kick this into square wave around Square waves have odd ordered harmonics on Lee. So since this is 1357 and nine and this has 1234567 by kicking this down one essentially were adding every other harmonic kind of poking through the middle of the existing Sile waves. Overtones Watch and listen when I slowly turned this one up, becoming a nice, beautiful patch with some asynchronous modulation being re triggered. Well, second order modulation slowing down the attack and depths of those LF owes parallel oscillator, waves of different wave shapes with a little bit of sub active oscillation, maybe. Or maybe not in this case, another thing that's really cool we could do with the tuning is we can invoke evoke what's called unison. Unison is a global function that affects the whole instrument. And what this does is this is actually going to duplicate the entire instrument either twice or four times. If you go with twice, you're just going to get a second layer if you go with four, obviously going three more layers and they're just going to get make the whole patch louder until you revoke de tune here. So now what this is going to do is it's gonna offset the pitch of the additional iterations sickness and her LF owes wait Global unison. They were to double check in the section here sometimes that some instruments, like massive, you could do 60 invoice unison could do even more sometimes and determine those things. A whole bunch essentially giving you the ability to pluck one note and unleash an insane canon of sound across your whole mix. Cool. So, um, another cool thing I'd like to point out kind of in the additional subjective synthesizer parameters lesson here is, um, glide and voice count. So in this case, notice how when I play chords, it evokes all of the court. In fact, I can open this up a little bit more, give myself a little more overtones. I think this is very orchestral and beautiful sounding, but it also could get pretty gnarly if I was playing down in the lower register. You start becoming like noise, especially if I didn't have such sensitive attenuation. Of all my parameters here, we get pretty much out of control pretty quickly. So here's what I can do. Just right next to the unison voice count, I have a global voice count function. This allows me the ability to essentially go classic and log subtracted instrument, meaning I cannot play chords or allow myself to play chords. A big argument for using a virtual since versus a real hardware centers that you can play in harmony so often times by default. I leave this up on eight or 12 so I can really play big chords. But to evoke the classic analog sound, we'd go mano funny watch how distinct the results are here when I play a scale way a lot harder to hear each notes, articulation, Imagine if we did this without the filters on and Polly. It's almost hard to hear the notes being struck it all. Once I put this in mind, a lot more articulation sound there, and especially when we go maybe mono and add some filter envelope waken get into some more plucky and really gesture early, controllable Tambor out of our keyboard. So that's really a keyboard function. And, um, as voice count, um, is critical and getting on articulation to work. As is glad with glad Now glad is essentially port aumento. But in the case here, where, um, it's a synthesizer evoking glide versus port event of the only real critical differences that poor Demento is amount of time to get to the next note, whereas glide is amount of time to get to the next note. When you play llegado now in the able turns analog case, the in the analog case here they give you a llegado control. But, um, again, here's no glide eyes. How much time your spending in here Now this is llegado or not. If you have no llegado, it's gonna disporting mental no matter what. Actually have that backwards if you have llegado on an apartment and also this percentages relative is relative to the distance of the notes that you play, which could be a little tricky, because sometimes I'll be in here trying to get glad. Hard to hear it unless you crank it way up when you're just doing a semi tone. But when you do like the O eso, little bits are often times a lot more musically useful in a lot more sexy. But sometimes you might just want, like a big, long pitch riser. That's a really cool easy wages by clocking two notes to get a nice, biggest ascending or descending pitch. Sound cool? So that's glad. Good to know, huh? Cool. Um, so I guess that's gonna be probably enough to get us started. That's the advanced kind of under the hood functionalities of any good subtracted synthesizer worth its weight in gold. You can de tuned the waves manually. You can employ sub active oscillations, toe add base. You can layer them and further de tune the layered it orations with unison and unison de tune. You can also add time of pitch bending in between each note on your keyboard. This is going to give you that kind of plucked a guitar string or friendless based sound in the interests of creating the acid sound, which is a really critical patch of sub track of synthesis days. Let's go ahead and make a little acid patch quick first, create they media affection. We'll have that analog on the end of it. Now I'm gonna do is pulled my note for a minute. Choose a couple intervals. Now go random little groove on there. It's gonna global groove amount from a group. Cool is gonna affect my swing. I way e cool, huh? So they were really using unison, layering things, thickening them up, g tuning them. It's plus one more note. Pretty cool. So, yeah, that's subtracted synthesis. In a nutshell. That's lesson to from our Class one and and log subtract of synthesis from our three class intro to sound design program, It's Slam Academy. Keep in mind that this is an overview. I'm moving quickly through this because this is a simply three day long class that's previewing our six month long class that we've been offering for quite a while with great success in Minneapolis, that slam academy. So stay tuned for more of those videos to be coming at you soon and look forward to more hangouts coming up next. In less than three, we're gonna be digging in more deeply into synthesis language. Getting a little bit away from subtracted synthesis has started to combine our wave forms together in Siris in the interest of creating or complex wave forms and Tambor's using FM synthesis. That's gonna be a lot of fun, and I'll see you had not less.

Class Description

This course is SLAM Academy's introductory offer for people who want their music to stand on its own. In Sound Design 101, we'll uncover each of the main elements of what it takes to be a cutting-edge electronic sound designer. After an explanation of analog synthesis, we'll feature demonstrations of techniques and tools for FM, granular, wavetable, physical modeling, multi-sampling, and signal processing. Students can expect personalized technique demonstrations from Ableton Live, Max for Live, U-He Instruments, Applied Acoustics Systems, Glitchmachines, Native Instruments Systems, and Eurorack Modular Synthesizer components.  



This is a great, fast-paced introduction to producing sound using various popular software choices. James Patrick is super knowledgeable and presents the material in a patient (but fast), systematic way. This course is meant to be a high-level preview of a full-blown 6-month course at Slam Academy (taken online or in Minneapolis) so the pace of the material presented here is quite fast. In other words the tone is to show you what you'll learn if you take the full course. James suggests taking this course over 3 weeks to let things sink in. A dedicated student can follow along and review the material and then practice on their own software although it takes some focus! And while much of the course is incredibly well explained, there are also some sections where James works the controls without much narrative but making cool sounds. I ended up hitting pause every 30 seconds or so during some of the key sections so I could watch what he was doing and play around with the same controls. Ultimately the way to learn the software is by getting hands-on, so when I followed along this way, I learned a ton. Great course, be aware that it is a super high level survey of a longer course but this is still absolutely packed with information

a Creativelive Student

love this course, and i like it for my liking.

Jose Freitas MElo jUnior