Live’s recent upgrade to version 10 has caused much of a stir, featuring a variety of new devices, enhancements and improvements. Something of particular note was the new Wavetable Synthesiser, featuring over 100 wavetables, oscillator effects, a flexible modulation system and much more … arguably not the most intuitive of Ableton’s instrument collection, we thought it would be fitting to do a new series exploring what this synth is capable of.
We’ll begin by looking at some basic functionality and progressing deeper into more complex sound design in the forthcoming posts.
If you’ve got plenty of experience with synths such as NI massive and Xfer Records’ Serum you may well be familiar now with how a wavetable synth operates. But for those who aren’t so fluid, to explain (briefly!) – for each oscillator we can choose from a number of wavetables, within each one of these there’s a number of different oscillator shapes, selectable via the Wave Position control. Ranging from very basic and familiar waves through to much more complex and noisy ones. The ability to modulate the Wave Position control with an envelope or LFO helps contribute to the unique sound of wavetable synthesis.
Let’s begin by crafting a bass sound from the initialised state of the synth. We start by loading the Wavetable Instrument on a new MIDI channel (tip – click the arrow in the Device Title Bar to expand the view of the synth). Next we audition some different wavetables on Osc 1 to see what fits, opting for ‘Freak’ from the Distortion category. Now grab the Wave Position control to audition the different shapes available in this wavetable, some modulation here is going to have a profound effect on the patch.By simply clicking on the Wave Position control brings it up in the Modulation Matrix below, click and drag up in the relevant box to direct it to Env2, thus applying the envelo pe modulation.
Next load up another wavetable in the Osc 2 section (making sure you turn on the oscillator), we load ‘Voice Harmonics’ from the Formant category. Although with the Wave Position control at the bottom the sound is very deep, movement of the control should reveal vowel/formant type sweeps. We again modulate this with the same Env 2, also tweaking the modulation envelope itself, taking off any sustain for a tighter modulation.
Finally we take the Filter cutoff Frequency down, switch the Filter Circuit to the MS2 Sallen Key type that offer some soft clipping, allowing us to add some Drive. We also modulate the filter frequency with the same modulation envelope, to create a stabby bass tone. A touch of reverb doesn’t go amiss here either!