Learn Synthesis with Ableton Live Series 01

Learn Synthesis with Ableton Live Series 01 Title Screen

Series 01 – The Fundamentals of Synthesis

The first series of Learn Synthesis with Ableton Live does not require any prior knowledge of synthesis. We start with the basics in understanding how sound and the frequency spectrum work. We learn important terminology like overtones, undertones, harmonics, and partials. We also look at some digital audio fundamentals. We then branch out into the instruments in all tiers of Ableton Live that are the core tools for creating sounds. The mission is to not only learn these instruments, but also to learn the language of synthesis and understand what important components of a synthesizer are, such as the VCO, LFO, VCF, and envelope to name a few. We also look at all the important skills in using these components effectively.

Episode 01 – Frequency Spectrum, Overtones, Harmonics, and Partials

In this first episode of the first series of Learn Synthesis with Ableton Live, we start with the fundamentals. One can be a complete beginner when it comes to synthesis and still benefit from this episode. We look at what sound is and how the unique tone color of any given sound is defined by its frequency spectrum. We especially look at overtones, harmonics, and partials as they are what gets shaped in synthesis in order to create different sounds. We use Ableton Live’s Spectrum audio effect utility in order to visualize the frequency spectrum of sounds and identify the fundamental, harmonics, and partials in sounds. We then use the Operator Instrument in order to hear and understand what goes into making the four basic wave shapes, which include sine, triangle, square, and saw. This episode serves as the essential introduction to learning about synthesis.

Episode 02 – Operator’s oscillators, envelopes, filters, and LFO

In this episode we are going to learn some of the basic functions of the primary components in any synthesizer using the Ableton Live instrument called Operator. We will look at how the GUI for Operator is structured and where these primary components are. We will learn about oscillators, envelopes, filters, filters, and the LFO. Operator has 4 oscillators, multiple envelopes for different functions, one LFO that can be assigned to multiple destinations, and a filter that can be a destination of many other components. We will look at how these different components work together and some of the basics of how they are used to make sounds. For example, we will look at the ADSR envelope in detail and how to use the low pass filter to craft the frequency spectrum. This is some of the fundamental knowledge that one needs to know about what basic components in synthesis do and how they work in Operator.

Episode 03 – Operator Tutorial Continued + Making a Square Bass Sound

Now that we have started learning the basic components of a synthesizer with Operator, it is time to continue the operator tutorial and look at some functions that we have not covered yet. In this episode we will also focus on designing a square bass sound that can also be used as monophonic lead for solos. We take a look at setting the number of voices for the sound and working with its glide and pitch envelope. We also work more with the filter and LFO in assigning destinations. Finally, we also look at using feedback on our oscillators and how that adds fuzz to their sound. Overall, we get into sound designing using the full compliment of 4 oscillators in Ableton instrument Operator.

Episode 04 – FM Synthesis with Operator & Retro Synth Sounds

We are finishing up our thorough overview of Operator in Ableton Live with one of its more powerful functions. Operator has 4 oscillators that can be arranged ain a variety of ways to perform FM synthesis. The different oscillators can be arranged as modulating ostillators as well as carrier oscillators so that one can perform frequency modulation in a wide array of configurations. As we explore these different arrangements with different amount and rate settings for the modulators, we discover how to make a lot of retro synth sounds.

Episode 05 – Tutorial on the Instrument Analog

In Ableton Live’s suite of instruments, there is one called Analog that is a sleek, but powerful synthesizer. This episode is a tutorial on all the different functions of the instrument and what the different parameters do. Because of its sleek GUI, it can sometimes be hard to find where different things are or know what different functions do. This episode will clear that up. The synthesizer has two oscillators, two filters, two amplifiers, two LFOs, and a master section. There are a lot of envelopes and controls over different sections. There are also a lot of routing possibilities that can be tricky, so this episode explains how the routing works.

Episode 06 – Making Retro Pads & Plucked String Sounds with Analog

Now that we have covered the controls and parameters of the instrument called Analog in Ableton Live, it is time to make some sounds with this instrument. As we are in the earlier days of learning approaches to synthesis, we will focus on some basic sound types that analog can make pretty well. We look at different variations of a plucked string sound and how different parameters can be used to vary whether it sounds like an acoustic guitar or if it sounds like a Japanese koto. We also look at how to make various retro pad sounds for playing chords and harmonies. We especially look at ways to make the sound have some form of modulation or movement so that it does not sound static.

Episode 07 – A Tutorial on the Instrument Called Collision & Using It

In this episode we will take a thorough tour of the instrument called Collision in Ableton Live. We will look at the basic principles behind the instruments, such as the use of the mallet and/or noise to stimulate a resonator, and then how the two resonators can either be fed one into the other or used in parallel. We will look at all of the different controls, parameters, and settings in the GUI to see the signal flow and how everything does. After watching the episode, you will know what all of the different controls, parameters, and settings do.We will learn some of the fundamentals that pertain to synthesis overall as well as fundamentals that pertain to physical modeling as a form of synthesis. Collision is a very flexible instrument that takes a unique approach to creating sounds and it is very powerful.

Episode 08 – Making Beats with Collision as an Alternative to Drums

In the previous episode, we looked at the instrument named Collision in Ableton Live and explored its interface and saw what each of the controls and parameters do in crafting a sound. In this episode, we will craft a handful of different sound types to create a beat. Collision allows one to approach percussion in a different way in that the different sounds that one makes will usually be quite different than typical drum or percussion sounds, which inspires creativity. Collision allows one to make unique sounding beats that incorporate different instruments that help to stretch the imagination of the creator.

Episode 09 – A Tutorial on the Instrument Drift

Ableton Live has a lot of great instruments for synthesis and sound design. One of the simpler instruments that still packs a lot of functionality into its sleek design is Drift. The Ableton instrument Drift has 2 oscillators plus noise that allows for wave shaping on the first oscillator, octave tuning, and fine tuning ont he second oscillator. Te filter section has both a high pass filter and low pass filter that can be used simultaneously. There is a pitch envelope and two assignable ADSR envelopes. The second envelope can also be put into a looping mode where it can oscillate customize able shapes. There is an LFO that can be assigned to just about anything as well. The overall synth has multiple modes, monophonic, polyphonic, strep, and unison that have controls for chorusing and stereo spread. It is a well-rounded and pretty powerful little synthesizer.