Ableton Live 10 ~ Wavetable

Ableton Live 10 ~ Wavetable

Ableton Live 10’s Wavetable is a simple, yet extremely powerful synth that allows for near infinite sound design creations by way of using Wavetable Synthesis.

Wavetable consists of two Wavetable Oscillators, a Sub Oscillator, two analog-modelled Filters and a powerful but intuitive Modulation Matrix. The user interface design is by far one of my favorites Ableton has ever created.

Also, if you really want to dig in and give all of your focus to designing within Wavetable, you can enter into the expanded view to see all of the parameters at once.

Wavetable Synthesis

Wavetable Waveform = A collection of single-cycle waveforms (small samples of audio) that play back on loop to produce a Periodic Waveform, or a continuous sound or tone.

Waveform Playback = The speed at which these waveforms are played back or the speed between each loop cycle (pitch or frequency). And in the digital audio world, a MIDI note is essentially what determines this speed.

Wavetable Synthesis ELI5 = A highly specific form of sampling, but with the intentions of quickly morphing or animating between different single-cycle waveforms, producing an entirely new sound all together. All of this mixing and matching is why I say Ableton's Wavetable offers near infinite sound design possibilities.

Ableton's Waveforms = We can access & listen to the raw audio samples Ableton uses

// Step 1 = Right Click Ableton Mac App > Show Package Contents

// Step 2 = Travel to Contents > App-Resources > Dsp > Vector > Sprites

// Step 3 = Play audio samples

Wavetable Oscillators

Oscillator Gain = Adjust the oscillator amplitude

11 Wavetable Categories = Browse & Select for wavetables by similar characteristics

Wavetables = Choose a specific wavetable within a category

// Arrows = Quickly sift between a wavetables in a category

Visualization = See the wavetable & the animations in real time

Wave Position = Choose a single cycle waveform for playback (highlighted waveform)

// Tip = Click and drag to change the wave position as well

Visualization Switch = Toggle between the linear and polar views of the wavetable

// Linear = Single cycle waveforms are arrayed from bottom to top

// Polar = Single cycle waveforms are displayed as loops from the inside out

Effect Mode = Activate 1 of 3 oscillator effects

FM = Add in additional harmonics via frequency modulation

FM Pitch = Set the relative pitch of the modulating oscillator relative to the carrier oscillator

// 0% = No FM is taking place

// 50 % = 1 Octave above

// 100% = 2 Octaves above

FM Amount = Adjust the intensity of frequency modulation

// 0% = No FM is taking Place

// 100% = Maximum intensity

Classic = Warp the oscillator, Akin to Pulse Width and Sync parameters found in classic hardware

Pulse Width = Adjust the waveforms pulse width, or distort the phase of the wave reader

// Tip = Negative and positive values will shorten the wave reader on either side

Sync = Virtually increase the pitch of the oscillator, but maintain the same phase length

// Tip = You could add subtle amounts via an envelope to add additional harmonics to transients

Modern = Warped version of Classic, using phase distortion to warp the oscillator

Warp = A subtle form of pulse width, warping our waveform, but with slightly less harsh harmonics

Fold = Warp the waveform from the middle, mirroring itself infinitely

Oscillator Transpose = Adjust the pitch of the oscillator in semitones

Oscillator Detune = Adjust the pitch of the oscillator in cents

// Tip = You can modulation this parameter for less robotic sounds

Sub Oscillator

Sub = Quickly add a sub element to the sound

// Tip = Can help the sound feel a bit fuller & less weak

Sub Gain = Adjust the amplitude of the sub oscillator

Tone = Adjust the amount of harmonics in the sub oscillator

// 0% = Pure Sine Wave

// 100% = Maximum harmonics (closer to a square wave)

Octave = Adjust the pitch of the sub oscillator by octaves

// Choices = 0, -1, & -2

Transpose = Adjust the global pitch of Wavetable


Filters 1 & 2 = Sculpt the sound via subtractive synthesis

Filter Type = Choose from 5 filter styles

// Choices = Low-pass, high-pass, bandpass, notch & morph

// Filter Morph = Adjust the morph cycle of the morph filter

Filter Slope = Adjust the intensity & color of the filters resonance

// Choices = 12db or 24db slope

Filter Circuit = Choose between varying circuit types, each coloring the filtered sound differently

Filter Frequency = Adjust the cutoff frequency of the filter

Filter Resonance = Adjust the filter frequency boost or attenuation  

Filter Drive = Add some drive to the signal before entering the filter, adding a bit of distortion

Filter Routing = Adjust the configuration of the filters, effecting how they interact with the sound

Serial = Route all oscillators into Filter 1 & then route Filter 1 into Filter 2

Parallel = Route all oscillators into both Filter 1 & Filter 2, adding half of each signal together

Split = Split route Oscillator 1 to Filter 1 & Oscillator 2 to Filter 2, while Sub is equally sent to both

// Example = To create a more robust layered synth sound, you can use Oscillator 1 for your lows & Oscillator 2 for your highs and apply filters accordingly

Mod Sources

Mod Sources = Adjust five different Modulation sources which we can route & use to manipulate other Wavetable parameters over time

Amp, Env 2 & Env 3 = Modulate multiple parameters within Wavetable via the standard ADSR controls

// Tip = Unless routed otherwise, Amp will act as the "amplitude modulation” for each oscillator, AKA our volume over time

Attack = Adjust the amount of time it takes the sound to travel from the Initial amplitude to the Peak amplitude

Decay = Adjust the amount of time it takes the sound to travel from the Peak amplitude to the Sustain amplitude

Sustain = Adjust the resting amplitude, while a MIDI note is held down

Release = Adjust the amount of time it takes the sound to travel from the Sustain amplitude to silence once the MIDI note is released

Slopes = Adjust how gradual or steep each envelope stage is

// Tip = Select the red squares in the display for faster editing of envelope slopes

Initial = Adjust the starting amplitude, as soon as a MIDI note is pressed

Peak = Adjust the ending amplitude, marking the end of the attack phase and start of the decay phase

Final = Adjust the ending amplitude, marking the end of the release stage

// Tip = Initial, Peak & Final are not available for Amp

Loop Mode = Choose whether or not the envelope will loop & how it will react to MIDI note length

None = Respond as usual, following MIDI note length & entering the stages respectively

Trigger = Play the entire envelope from start to finish regardless of MIDI note length

Loop = Loop the entire envelope without pausing on the Sustain, until the MIDI note is released

LFO 1 & 2 = Modulate multiple parameters within Wavetable via two highly customizable low frequency oscillators

LFO Waveform = Choose the shape of the LFO waveform

// Choices = Sine, Triangle, Sawtooth, Square & Random

LFO Attack = Adjust the duration of time it takes for the LFO to fade in

// Tip = Useful to add slight modulation to the tail end of your sounds

LFO Sync Switch = Toggle the LFO Rate between Hertz or beat-synced times

LFO Rate = Adjust the LFO frequency (Hertz or beat-synced times)

// Tip = You can also click and drag the display area to quickly adjust this

LFO Amount = Adjust the intensity of the LFO modulation

LFO Shape = Further adjust the shape of the LFO waveform

// Tip = This gives us full customization to the LFO waveform shape (fun to route!)

LFO Offset = Offset the phase of the LFO waveform, starting it at a slightly different value

LFO Retrigger = Adjust the LFO waveform starting point per MIDI note

// Activated = Phase starts at same position each time

// Deactivated = Phase runs free and starts at a different position each time

Modulation Matrix

Modulation Matrix = Route modulation parameters from the Envelopes & LFOs (mod sources) to multiple parameters within Wavetable

MIDI Matrix = Route MIDI information to multiple parameters within Wavetable

Top Columns = Modulation Sources

Left Rows = Modulation Destinations

// Tip = This will dynamically update as I click & select around Wavetable

Routing = Click & drag corresponding Source & Destination box to create a positive or negative value

// 0 = No modulation is taking place (connection is bypassed) (double click to return here)

// Positive = Modulate the destination normally

// Negative = Modulate the destination in the opposite way

Global Modulation Time = Scale the times of all modulators

// Negative Values = Make envelopes and LFOs faster

// Positive Values = Make envelopes and LFOs slower

Global Modulation Amount = Adjust the over all amount of modulation for all sources

// 0% = Preview the sound without the modulation routings

// 100% = Modulation intensity is as routed

// 200% = Modulation intensity is over emphasized

Routing Inception Example = Route LFO 1 to LFO 1’s Rate

// Tip = Play around with the near infinite combinations the mod matrix offers

Global & Unison

Volume = Adjust the global output volume Wavetable produces

Poly = Play Wavetable back with multiple voices

Poly Voices = Adjust the number of MIDI notes Wavetable can read at once

// Choices = 2 to 8 voices

Mono = Play Wavetable back using only one voice

Glide = Adjust the duration of pitch glide between overlapping MIDI notes

Unison Mode = Choose between six different unison modes for enhancements to the stereo image

Classic = Oscillators are detuned with equal spacing & panned to alternating stereo channels

Shimmer = Oscillator pitches are jittered at random intervals, giving it a shimmering reverb effect

Noise = Like Shimmer, but at a much faster rate

Phase Sync = Like Classic, but the phases are synced at the start of each new MIDI note (creates a phaser sweep)

Position Spread = Spread the wavetable position for each oscillator evenly

Random Note = Each oscillators wavetable positions & detune are randomized at the start of each new MIDI note

Unison Voice Count = Adjust the voice count of the simultaneous unison Oscillators

// Tip = More voices will result in a more chaotic, thicker & wider sound

Unison Amount = Adjust the intensity of the unison effect


0:28 = Overview
1:10 = Wavetable Synthesis
3:22 = Wavetable Oscillators
8:09 = Sub Oscillator
9:21 = Filters
11:37 = Mod Sources
16:34 = Modulation Matrix
20:28 = Global & Unison

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