Synthesis & Sampling

Synthesis
Sample Galaxy

Sample Galaxy

Search SoundCloud and Freesound for royalty-free, high-quality audio samples, beats, and loops. Once you’ve searched for sounds, preview them with the built-in audio player; when you find a great one, download it to your DAW’s sample folder with the one-click download button. All samples are licensed under a Creative Commons License, and are in WAV or AIFF format.

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Extreme Sound Stretching

Extreme Sound Stretching

Stretching out audio can do magical things to it: hidden melodies appear, transients crumble into blurs, and tiny blips of sound turn into rich soundscapes. Most digital audio workstations can do simple stretches; for something more drastic, though, you’ll need a dedicated program like Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch. In this tutorial, I’ll use Paul’s Sound Stretch to turn a field recording of…

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Using Found Sounds

Create a Track from Found Sounds

Prepackaged sample packs are great tools, but unless you alter the samples extensively, they can make your tracks sound cookie-cutter and samey. Recording your own sample packs gives your production a unique sound; even if you don’t have access to drum sets or hardware synths, you can use Ableton’s powerful sound-processing capabilities to transform a recording of just about anything into a usable sample.

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Make a Synth from a Sample

Make a Synth from a Sample

All sounds, synthesized or natural, are made up of waves. Most synthesizers produce simple, pure waveforms, while naturally occurring sounds are much messier — and more interesting. Use a short segment of a sound you’ve recorded to create a unique synthesizer-like instrument using Ableton’s Sampler. Load up Sampler, then drop in a recorded sample. I’m using a recording of a door closing, which you can download…

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Creating Movement in Pads

Add Movement to Pads

Pads are simple, drawn-out synths that sit in the background of a track. Because they’re background instruments, pads are usually fairly uncomplicated, so as not to distract from the rest of the track. Uncomplicated doesn’t have to mean static, though. Add more life and movement to your pads by modulating their filter settings, panorama, volume and pitch to create evolving, kinetic sounds.

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Make a Wobble Bass

Wobble Bass

The wub-wub-wub of the wobble bass is an essential sound in drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep production. Essentially, a wobble bass uses a low frequency oscillator (LFO) to automatically open and close a filter, often in time with the beat. This effect is usually produced using the LFO inside the synthesizer, but you can also use a separate filter plugin…

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Using Pitch Bend

Using Pitch Bend

Pitch bending smoothly lowers or raises the pitch of a note according to a defined envelope. You can quickly access a MIDI clip’s pitch bend envelope in Ableton by clicking the “E” button, then clicking “Pitch Bend.” To make the pitch go from lowest to highest over the course of the entire clip…

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Pictures of Massive's Oscillators

Massive Oscillator Images

Native Instruments’ Massive synthesizer uses a unique set of wavetable oscillators to produce sound. Some of the oscillators are self-evident: “Square-Saw” blends square and saw waves, and “Sine-Triangle” mixes a sine and a triangle. Others, like “Melofant” and “Strontium,” are more creatively named. Here’s a set of pictures showing visual representations of all of Massive’s wavetables…

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Using Multisamples in Ableton

Make Multi-Samples in Ableton

Ableton’s Sampler plug-in is a powerful audio manipulation tool that lets you transform raw audio samples into a playable instrument. To make complex multi-samples in Ableton, use Sampler to combine up to 128 waveforms, then use the Zone section of the plug-in to map the samples to different MIDI notes and velocities. Start by loading up an instance of Sampler. Click the “Zone” button…

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Synthesizing Risers

Synthesizing a Riser

Whooshing risers act as punctuation within a track, signifying the end of one section and the beginning of the next. The simplest kind of riser is just a white-noise generator run through an automated filter. To start making a riser, load up Operator, then create a blank two-bar MIDI clip. Draw a note all the way across the clip. It doesn’t matter which note you use: white noise has no specific frequency. Switch over to Operator’s control panel and…

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Using Keytracking

Using Keytracking

Keytracking changes a synthesizer’s parameters depending on which note the synth is playing. When positive keytracking is enabled for a parameter, the parameter increases for high notes and decreases for low notes (negative keytracking does the reverse). Most synthesizers include at least a couple of keytracking settings; use them to make your synth patches more interesting and lively.

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Make a Revving Bass Sound

Revving Bass in NI Massive

Massive’s Performer modulator makes it easy to apply complex envelopes to synth parameters right within the synth itself. You can use the Performer to, for example, create a bassline that sounds like it’s revving up and down in pitch over the course of each note. Apply this technique to any patch — if you don’t have one ready to go, just load up one of Massive’s…

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Simulate Vinyl

Simulate Vinyl

Incorporating the crackles and hiss from a vinyl record into your digital production adds a subtle layer of dusty soul to your track. Although dedicated vinyl-simulation plugins like iZotope Vinyl and Milli Vinylli can create digital vinyl noise, using a sample of an actual record will give you the most realistic result.

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