Today's tutorial is about sound design, and we'll cover how to create some great EDM lead sounds using Ableton Live's built-in synths. First we'll create the pluck sound from Inna's "Hot" title soundtrack. Then we'll do the same with "Seek Bromance" by Tim Berg (better known as Avicii).
Create the Pluck Sound from Inna's "Hot"
Step 1: Create the Main Sound
This riff contains a very distinct sound, which is called a pluck, and plays the song's main melody. It's a simple sound which you can easily produce with Ableton's built-in Operator synth. It has all of the functions we'll need. We'll use three oscillators, two squares and one saw wave.
Drag and drop an Operator, and choose the last setting from the Global Shell, which means that the oscillators are not modulating one another, so it's acting as a subtractive synth, not an FM synth, and the oscillators work independently.
Next, set the parameters of the oscillators:
- Turn off all oscillators except D. If you are play the keyboard, you won't hear any sound. That's because the D oscillator's volume is at zero. Turn it all the way up, and you'll hear a sine wave.
- We need a sawtooth, so select the Saw D wave underneath the wave selector menu.
- It sounds one octave lower than we need, so set the Coarse parameter to 2, to raise the pitch an octave higher.
- Do the same with Oscillator C, but select the Square D waveform instead of Saw D.
- Set the B Operator to the same as the C, but set the Coarse to 4, because this oscillator will be an octave higher than the others.
- Select the appropriate volume levels: -22dB for the D Operator, -19dB for B, and -13dB for C.
To give the sound a pluck timbre, you need to create a strong transient sound. You need to use a quick filter envelope:
- Choose a 24dB lowpass filter, and set the filter cutoff frequency near 58Hz, and you can give a little resonance if you want.
- Next, go to the Envelope menu, and turn the envelope to 85%. Now you can hear the bouncing sound that we're looking for.
- Turn on the Shaper, and then the Soft function.
- If you listen the melody, you can hear that the sound is a little bit sharper. Turn the drive to 3.6dB.
Listen the dry sound (without effects):
Step 2: Add Effects
Our sound is little dry right now, but with EQ and some effects we can colour it.
- After the Operator, drag and drop an EQ Eight, but select only one filter - a high shelf filter.
- We'd like to increase the higher frequencies, so raise the gain about 7-8dB at 950Hz, and set the band wide (Q) to 9. That way we won't increase the volume of the lower register.
We can apply a rhythmic pulse to our sound with a delay. We can do that with a simple delay with the Sync button turned on.
- Choose the fourth beat on the delay time.
- Apply a little reverb to add a little space to our sound - but not too much. Set the dry/wet at 10-12%.
- Set the decay time to 2.30 so the sound will have a little bit decay.
- Set the output volume of the EQ to +9dB.
Create this simple four-bar melody:
Listen to the finished sound:
Create the Pluck Sound from Tim Berg's "Seek Bromance"
The next sound is very interesting - kind of like a pan flute - which you can hear in Tim Berg's "Seek Bromance" at the break. The sound has two parts, and we'll separate them to make sure we keep the sound close to the original:
- When someone blows into a flute, we can hear their breath. This gives it a bouncing sound, and of course a transient.
- The other sound is the flute itself, or the flute's resonance.
Step 1: Create the Flute Sound
For this sound, we will use the Ableton built-in Analog synth, because we have to use the unison feature.
- Drag and drop an Instrument Rack, then open an Analog synth.
- We'll use a square wave, because it has a similar spectrum to the flute. So set the first oscillator to square, set the pulse width to 100%, and apply the signal flow only to Filter 1.
- Turn on Filter 1 and select the low pass 24 function.
- Because the sound is too bright, set the cutoff frequency to 640Hz, then add approximately 22% resonance.
- We would like the sound to have a little decay, so set the filter envelope decay time to 626ms, the sustain to 0.44ms, the release to 1.99, the Env parameter to 1.47.
- Set the Key parameter to 1.00. (This parameter can open the filter open more for higher notes than lower notes.)
- On the Amp1 envelope, turn the decay to 2.64 seconds.
The spectrum of the flute isn't exactly the same as a square wave, so we'll give some dissonance to the sound with a sine wave.
- Set Oscillator 2 a sine wave, set the octave to 2, set the semitones to 4, and set the detune to exactly -0.22.
- Set the signal flow to Filter 2, and turn down the amplifier level to -32dB, because the sound now is too prominent.
- Our sound is not plucky enough right now, so we'll use the pitch envelope. Set the Pitch Env Initial for both oscillators to 100%, and time to 3%.
- Set the synth's main volume to -11dB.
Listen to our flute sound:
Step 2: Create the Main Transient
Now we'll create the main transient part, which simulates the breath sound when someone blows a flute.
- Drag and drop another Analog synth. Temporarily turn off the first Analog synth so you'll be able to hear what you're doing with the second.
- Select a square waveform, set the pulse width to 100% and to only go to Filter 1.
- Set Filter 1 to low pass 24, and set the cutoff to 576Hz and resonance to 15%.
- We need a quick decay, so set it to 194ms.
- Go to the pitch envelope again, and make the it 100%, and the time 5%.
- Turn on Oscillator 2, and select the noise waveform. The signal flow has to go out at Filter 2.
- Set Filter 2 to low pass 24, and set the cutoff to 154Hz and the resonance to 15%.
- We need a transient sound, so set the filter decay to 182ms, the Env (envelope amount) to 1.64, and key to 3.40.
- Turn on Amp2 so we can hear the sound, and set the decay parameter around 182ms.
- Almost done! Go back to the oscillator and set the initial pitch to 100% and the time to 3%.
- Finally, turn on the Unison feature, set it to 4 voice, and detune it to 14.84. This will strengthen the signal. Lower the main volume to -18dB so it won't be too loud.
Listen to our transient here:
Step 3: Apply Some Effects
Turn all the oscillators back on, and the other Analog which we turned off earlier. Now we can hear that we can get an interesting flute like sound. It is too dry, so we have to spice it up with some effects.
- Drag and drop an EQ Eight, and increase the low and high frequencies.
- Set the first filter to low shelf with 450Hz and 5.16dB boost, and the Q to 4.43.
- Set the other filter to high shelf, with 1.44kHz and an 8.36dB gain boost, and the Q to 4.25.
Now put and filter delay on top of it.
- Create a ping-pong delay, which means that the echoes will bounce back and forth from left to right.
- Turn off (L+R), and set the other filters to horizontal so the timbre won't be changed.
- Then set the left delay time to 4, and turn on the Sync button.
- Set the feedback to around 40, the pan to 50L, and the volume to around -8dB.
- Do the same with the right delay, but make the delay time 3, and the pan 50R.
- Set the dry to 0.0, so you will hear the original sound at full volume.
Finally, give the sound some reverb.
Create the chord melody in the image below.
Listen to the finished sound:
Thats all, guys! I hope you've enjoyed and learned from this tutorial. Happy music making!