Celebrate the birthday of an amazing resource with free stuff for Ableton Live

It’s perhaps the most useful Ableton Live-focused resource on the Web. And we’re celebrating its fifth birthday with exclusive freebies for CDM readers.

To put it plainly, I think this whole music tech business is at its best when it supports those people willing to share their skills and knowledge. And I can think of few better examples of individuals who I’d want to support than Madeleine Bloom. A veteran of Ableton support, she’s an inexhaustible source of wisdom for how to use that tool precisely and creatively.

Sonic Bloom is full of free tips and inspiration, so it’s a great place to start if you’re just stuck and want to feel more comfortable and effective with this ubiquitous tool. From there, you can then go shopping for more advanced courseware, and packs for Live and Max for Live.

Talk about a personal story – Madeleine was able to solve health issues by using revenue from the site.

Five years ago, on October 19, I released the first Ableton Live tutorial on Sonic Bloom. I started it as a resource hub after realising there was a need while working in tech support at Ableton. Since then it has grown into the biggest Ableton related website on the net, with close to 600 articles available in English and German each. And that, even though I was very ill for about half of Sonic Bloom’s existence (I used my troubleshooting skills to figure out my health issues). I often just about managed to keep it going, the positive feedback I keep receiving from Sonic Bloom readers has helped a lot. I’m now looking forward to the next five years and creating more things I’ve dreamt up. I feel like I’m still just getting started.

I can relate to that struggle to make things work independently, and I’m really hugely happy Madeleine stuck it out. So, let’s celebrate a little.

We have a bunch of stuff to give away – including additional creations by Ableton’s Christian Kleine (like the modular Oscillot):

5 Max for Cats Complete Collection (6 packs, 9 devices)
5 Ableton Live & Push Video Course Bundles
5 House Operators Vol. 1
5 Oscillots
5 Pallas
5 Bengal

Feeling unlucky? Hate leaving things to chance? (Ooh, I hear you… I have a tendency to lose such contests!) Fret not – I asked Madeleine to provide one free download for everyone. So everyone who signs up gets a nice House Operator Device. I demonstrate how not to use it (but hey, I was having fun) here, and prove it’s not limited to house music:

And you can go shopping, because through the 25th of October, everything is half off.

Sign up for our giveaway here. By the way, I’d dragged my feet and had some false starts with the email list. I’ve now got a format I think should work perfectly – we’ll get all the big headlines to you in your inbox, plus some of the music I’m listening and tools I’m using, and the latest on our new video streams, so you don’t lose track. That’ll just be once a week, plus the occasional promo deal and giveaway (for more stuff free).

I’m actually rather enjoying email again as alternative to social media, so maybe the time is right.

Good luck with the giveaway. We’ll announce winners on Monday.


The post Celebrate the birthday of an amazing resource with free stuff for Ableton Live appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What if you used synthesizers to emulate nature and reality?

Bored with making presets for instruments, one sound designer decides to make presets for ambient reality – and you can learn from the results.

“Scapes” is a multi-year, advanced journey into the idea that the synthesizer could sound like anything you imagine. Once you’ve grabbed this set of Ableton Live projects, you can bliss out to the weirdly natural results. Or you can tear apart the innards, finding everything from tricks on how to make cricket sounds synthetically to a veritable master class in using instruments like Ableton’s built-in FM synthesizer Operator. The results are Creative Commons-licensed (and of course, you can also grab individual presets).

The project is the brainchild of sound designer Francis Preve. Apart from his prolific writing career and Symplesound soundware line, Fran has put his sound design work all over presets for apps, software (including Ableton Live), and hardware.

As a result, no one knows better than Fran how much of the work of making presets focuses on particular, limited needs. And that’s too bad. The thing is, there’s no reason to be restricted to the stuff we normally get in synth presets. (You know the type: “lush, succulent pads” … “crisp leads…” “back-stabbing basslines…” “chocolate-y, creamy nougat horn sections…” “impetuous, slightly condescending 80s police drama keyboard stacks…” or, uh, whatever. Might have made some of those up.)

No, the promise of the synthesizer was supposed to be unlimited sonic possibilities.

If we tend to recreate what we’ve heard, that’s partly because we’re synthesizing something we’ve taken some care in hearing. So, why not go back to the richness and complexity of sound as we hear it in everyday life? Why not combine the active listening of a soundwalk or field recording with the craft of producing something using synthesis, in place of a recording?

Scapes does that, and the results are – striking. There’s not a single sample anywhere in the four ambient environments, which cover a rainy day in the city, a midsummer night, a brook echoing with bird song, and a more fanciful haunted house (with a classic movie origin). Instead, these are multitrack compositions, constructed with a bunch of instances of Operator and some internal effects. Download the Ableton Live project files, and you see a set of MIDI tracks and internal Live devices.

You might not be fooled into thinking the result sounds exactly like a field recording, but you would certainly let it pass for Foley in film. (I think that fits, actually – film uses constructed Foley partly because we expect in that context for the sounds to be constructed, more the way we imagine we hear than what literally passes into our ears.)

You wouldn’t think this was internal Ableton devices – not by a longshot – but of course it is.

And that’s where Scapes is doubly useful. Whether or not you want to create these particular sounds, every layer is a master class in sound design and synthesis. If you can understand a cricket, a bottle rocket, a rainstorm, and a car alarm, then you’re closer not only to emulating reality, but to being able to reconstruct the sounds you hear in your imagination and that you remember from life. That opens up new galaxies of potential to composers and musicians.

It might be just what electronic music needs: to think of sound creatively, rather than trying to regurgitate some instrumentation you’ve heard before. This might be the opposite of how you normally think of presets: here, presets can liberate you from repetitive thought.

I’ve seen this idea before – but just once before, that I can think of. Andy Farnell’s Designing Sound, which began life as a PDF that was floating around in draft form before it matured into a book at MIT Press, took on exactly this idea. Fran’s scapes are “tracks,” collaged compositions that turn into entire environments; Farnell looks only at the component sounds one by one.

Otherwise, the two have the same philosophy: understand the way you hear sound by starting from scratch and building up something that sounds natural. Scapes does it with Ableton Live projects you can easily walk through. Designing Sound demonstrates this on paper with patches in the free and open source environment Pure Data. As Richard Boulanger describes that book, “with hundreds of fully working sound models, this ‘living document’ helps students to learn with both their eyes and their ears, and to explore what they are learning on their own computer.”

But yes – create sounds by really listening, actively. (Pauline Oliveros might have been into this.)

Designing Sound | The MIT Press

Sound examples

A PDF introducing Pure Data (the free software you can use to pull this off)

But grabbing Scapes and a PDF or paper edition of Designing Sound together would give you a pairing you could play with more or less for the rest of your life.

Scapes is free (only Ableton Live required), and available now.


For background on how this came about: THE ORIGIN OF SCAPES [TL;DR EDIT]

The post What if you used synthesizers to emulate nature and reality? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether.

Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound.

Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle of sound. And as usual, integrate those sounds with Ableton to inspire you to play with a controller (or Push) and get into automation and song making right away.

The Symplesound take on FM comes with a deep library of three instruments:

Yamaha DX7
Yamaha TX81Z
and Ableton Operator

That covers two original vintage hardware instruments and one more contemporary Ableton instrument, respectively. (The latter requires a copy of Operator, the others don’t.)

And it’s exactly what you want. It’s got loads of attention lavished on instruments you want, and skips over obscure stuff you don’t. So for the DX, you get Electric Bass, Electric Piano and Marimba multisampled, in a form you can tweak and play to your heart’s delight. There’s even chord select. It’s retro friendly, for sure – but could also be a staple for something new.

The 81Z selection for me is the real standout, in that it lets you cover a lot of vintage territory but in a way I think could be really versatile. The “Lately Bass” (“Solid Bass”) alone could be worth the price of admission, but then you get Perc Organ, Reed Piano (Wurli) and EZ Clav – now as beautiful for their distinctive simplicity as once for their realism. And there are Leads and Plucks, some velocity multisampled.

But then there’s Operator. Having a library for Operator might sound like overkill, but as beautiful as Robert Henke’s panel design was for the original, it’s still a sound designer’s instrument – it doesn’t quite reach that level of being able to turn a knob and immediately get a satisfying result. That’s where this collection comes in.

And then because it’s Symplesound, this isn’t just a collection in presets. It’s a lesson in history and sound design – both historically in music you know and for modern creative use. So you get complete tutorials. You get presets and macros that themselves tell a story – you’re learning something from Francis’ approach to sound design when you just turn a knob. The MIDI loops, rather than just giving you some dull stock building blocks, will genuinely demonstrate what the parameters are for and how to use automation. You’ll get a sense of where recognizable sounds come from — which might prompt you to recreate something you know, or to move beyond that and find some new hit.

If you just want to play around, you can go do that.


US$14.99 for the sampled Yamaha libraries, $24.99 for the Operator library, or get the bundle for $49.99.

And if you care about the history and technique here, you can nerd out with the creator. Francis Preve is a regular on this site precisely because his experience in sound design, teaching, and production spans decades, and … let’s be honest, because he likes to nerd out about his passion as much as we do. So it’s worth reading the blog post for some background.

The Making of The FM Collection [Symplesound]

I mean, how else would you curl up for a nice evening with a set of FM synthesis presets?! That’s why we love you, Fran.

The post Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Ableton Adds Lion Support, Better MIDI Sync; For Some Music, Watch Nicolas Jaar Play Live

Ableton this week has released 8.2.5; it’s worth mentioning here primarily as it adds Lion support on Mac OS. I still strongly recommend against upgrading to 10.7 for the time being, until you’ve verified that your particular mix of plug-ins and hardware is also compatible, but it’s a promising sign. Other improvements are also worth a look; via the Ableton forum:

– MIDI sync has been improved when Live is a MIDI clock slave
– Imported tracks (from the Live Browser) now route to Master if their original output routing can’t be resolved, instead of “Sends Only.”
– The default for the Takeover mode in the MIDI Preferences is now Value Scaling instead of Pick-up.
– We now prevent choosing the root of the system hard drive (or the Windows system folders on Windows machines) as the third-party plugin location. Doing that would crash Live on startup, because these folders contain files that are interpreted as third-party plugins.

Registered users can download the new release from the Ableton site.

Also, Ableton quietly introduced a new Support site with searchable direct Q&A.

Okay, since dot releases aren’t terribly thrilling, let’s use this an excuse to check out some artists. Christian Andersen, aka XI talks working with the Operator synth and shares some custom patches; Bruce Pronsato chats Resonator (one of my favorites, going back to the pre-Ableton AAS days).

We’re still working on catching up with Nicolas Jaar himself, especially after some comments, without much context, caused controversy. (See our previous coverage, which I personally still think points to a pretty good video!) But here’s more on Mr. Jaar’s live performance approach, and how he’s set up Ableton with live band and vocals. Some nice stuff; it’s always great to get some live band performance, and something that dates back to the origins of Ableton Live.

By the way, speaking of Operator, here’s a terrific-looking download of Operator patches, accompanying live clips, and tutorial videos, all for the absurdly-low price of $10. Samples:

Operator Ambience Vol. 1 by nickmaxwell

20 Operator Patches. 20 Live Clips. 21 Videos. Inspiration + Education In 1 Pack! [Nick’s Tutorials]

Heck, I may give myself the day off from being the one writing the tutorials and doing the sound design and check it out myself. Nick’s been doing great stuff.

Ableton Operator Tutorial – Wave Morphing

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ableton Live: This video, via learnMax, takes a look at wave morphing in Ableton Live’s Operator:

I’m always looking to do things a little differently. It occurred to me that with a midi/parameter LFO I could automatically and rhythmically change the waveform parameter for each of operator’s operators

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Demo Videos

Click here to view the embedded video.

This set of videos, via djthomaswhite, starts off with unboxing the new Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesizer, and then dives into first impressions and demos of working with the synth.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Endless Sequence & Tape

Click here to view the embedded video.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Drums, Sampler Info & Pattern Sequencer

Click here to view the embedded video.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Drums, Punch FX & Grid FX

Ableton m4l Tutorial – Modulate Anything With Max for Live

Click here to view the embedded video.

This a is a quick look at how you can modulate any Ableton Live device parameter, dubstep style, with Max for Live.

via eameres2:

Add as many LFOs (low frequency oscillators) to Operator, or any other device as you like!

Ableton Live Wobble Bass Tutorial

Click here to view the embedded video.

In this video tutorial, via DubSpot, trainer Michael Hatsis explains how to make ‘dubstep talking wobble bass’ in Ableton Live.

In the first video, above, Hatsis demos making a dubstep wobble bass with the Simpler instrument.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The next video looks at making a dubstep wobble bass using Ableton Live’s Operator:

Starting with the Operator sound he created in the previous video tutorial Dubstep Wobble Bass Part 2, and using the patch as a launching point, he turns off Operators B, C, and D and keeps Operator A on a square-wave, sets the LFO rate to a 1/2 a bar, and switch up the Filter resonance to 5, which gives us a somewhat mild whomp bass sound.

To add the talking effect, Hatsis used Ableton Live device Redux effect to bring the sample-rate down a few levels, set the Downsample to Hard, somewhere between 15 to 24 to get the talking sound. As the LFO sweeps through the Filter’s frequency, the Redux adds a vocal effect to the wobble, and as you increase the value of the Downsample, the deeper and heavier the voice gets; as you decrease, the voice gets lighter. The technique known as “digital downsampling.” Hatsis returns Operator to add a little FM/make the sound grittier by turning on Operator B. Be aware of the odd effects, as the Redux plugin enhances the grittiness of the FM. Furthermore, Hatsis demonstrates other effects within Operator including Coarse value, LFO rate, and Filter settings and options, frequencies, resonance, and recaps the steps and methods at the end.

If you don’t have Ableton Live, check out the Reason Wobble Bass tutorial or the tutorial on how to make a wobble bass with any synthesizer.