April 19, 2011  |   Ableton Tutorials

Ableton Tutorial – Recreating the Roland TB303 Acid Sound (Part 2)

In part 2 of this series Danny J Lewis delves deeper in his attempt to emulate the character of a Toland TB303 bass synth in Ableton Live, setting up 8 macros which controlling various parameters. These can then easily be assigned to a midi controller for great live performance possibilities. You can download the rack from the video for free right here. In the final part, next week, Danny will record a live performance and start to build a track.

Watch part 1 and loads of other free music production tutorials on the Point Blank YouTube Channel

Video Transcript

In the first video, we set up everything so that we can get this 303 kind of vibe. It’s a synth that has a flavor of the 303, and we looked at some of the theory behind the way the real 303 worked last week in order to get sound that we have. I’m going to just expand on things a little bit, and we’re going to put this into a rack so that we can do some performance stuff. We’re going to get something that’s going to give us a little bit more variation with the sound as well, so we’ll get to that later.

Now, the first thing I’m going to do is to click the first effect in the chain and then the last, and that’s holding down shift. Everything in between it is selected and I’m going to right-click and we’re going to select group. Now, everything is in a single container, so this is really good if you want to just save it and use it on another project. It makes it a lot easier to transport a file. I’m going to actually save this and make it available for you guys to download. If you’re feeling a little bit lazy, you don’t want to just follow all the steps in the video, feel free to download it. Now, what I’ll do is I’m going to map the real obvious controls to the macro. On the left-hand side, we’re going to click on the macro icon. There are eight rotary controls that we can assign to anything contained within this group.

First, you go to the frequency, then I go to map to macro one. You can see that’s mapped over here. I’m going to rename that. Let’s just say here “Frequency”. Over here we’re going to right-click on Resonance. Map to macro two. Let’s say “Res”. In fact, that’s a nice little abbreviation. You’ll notice if you do more characters it goes down to the next line. So, I want to keep it aesthetically clean. So, that’s that. Also, what we’ll do is we’ll come over to the effects, and on the overdrive, I’m going to select the dry/wet mix and put it onto macro three. Whilst I’m here, let’s do the ping-pong delay onto macro four. So, let’s come over, rename, “Distortion”. Rename, “Delay”. Let’s see if we can get that on one line. Yep, that’s good. So, this is a mixed control. But what I’m going to do with the frequency and the resonance is actually restrict the range that they can actually control over here.

So, look at the moment, it’s the full range. It’s remote controlling. Same with the resonance, but I want to restrict that. We click on the map mode, and we can come up here to frequency. We’re going to set a low value. I’m going to set up only about 300. I’m going to take the maximum, probably just above 10K or so, so we’ll say about 11, maybe 12K. We’ll have a listen and check it in a minute. The resonance, I’m going to do the maximum to 90. I’ve heard 100% is a little bit too much. We’ve got here the ability from this, we could take away all the other elements in the rack and just have this available. That’s the whole beauty of this concept. Let’s have a listen. It’s about 80 or so.

Let’s stick on the distortion. Let’s take it nice and high. Let’s take it to 100%. A bit of delay again, so we’re back where we were before. What I’m feeling about that random effect is that basically, the charts at the moment, I’d like to map that to a control as well. We don’t always have that. If we stick it here, I’m just going to say “Random”. I can introduce that when I need to as part of the performance to add some variation. I think that’s going to work nicely.

We’ve got here some really nice little shortcut controls that are really going to help us for the actual performance side. I’m talking about when
we’re recording into the arrangement view here, but I also want to expand on things a little bit. We’re going to go closer to a little bit more to the original 303 style. If we open up the MIDI data, you can see that I’ve got a variety of different velocities here. So, we’re going to emulate accent. The ones that are going to the higher velocity are going to be accented notes, and so what’s going to happen is it’s going to make it slightly louder and adjust the filter behavior as well. It has a more open sound on the louder accents.

Let’s bring back the synthesizer. In order to do this, we just click on the amp one section. We’ve got the ability over here to adjust the amount the volume is affected by the accents. So, let’s just have a listen to this on this one. You can really hear those accented notes jumping out now. I’m going to go somewhere around here, I think. I think that’s working nicely. So, let’s also take a look at the filter. Let’s click on here. Let’s adjust this. Let’s also adjust the envelope amount. Let’s give it some of that. You can see that’s affecting the louder accents. Let’s see how that interacts with the frequency.

That’s making me think now, I would like to set the decay onto a control here. So, I’m going to right-click map to macro six. So, I’m going to say here “EMV 2K”. So this is going to be quite handy. The low value is too short, okay? So, let’s open up the map mode again. Let’s find those values, so here we go. Let’s take this. I’m going to adjust this when I listen to it properly. That’s way too long there. Let’s just see how that feels once we get going. So, let’s adjust this, and let’s get a feel for that. Maybe, slightly shorter. Here we go. Maybe, slightly longer. Yeah, it’s working nicely. So let’s take away the map mode. Let’s maybe, just increase the amount the velocity is modulating that filter cutoff. A little bit too much, I think. Yeah, so I feel that that’s tweaked and it’s sounding a little bit more to how I want it to be.

You guys can, of course, adjust those parameters and make them more customized to how you want them. So, now we’ve got the filter frequency slightly more bright on the accented notes and also the volume slightly louder as well, which is very much the case on the old TB-303 as well. So,
a couple more things to think about on the original 303, the filter type was not a 12dB per octave low pass as we have set here. It was a 24. There are lots of rumors that it was an 18dB per octave, but the general consensus seems to be that it was actually, in fact, a 24dB per octave filter. It’s a stronger filter, more pronounced. You may feel that you actually prefer this sound to the 12. So, let’s have a listen. That’s one option there. I wouldn’t suggest assigning this to a macro because you can’t restrict the range. You’d have to go through all the different filter types here, so it wouldn’t be such a good choice.

The final things I’m going to add, suited to the more mix kind of aspect of the performance, so I’m going to set a EQ3 on the very end, and also a limiter. Now, at the moment, these are outside of the chain. I’m going to put, in fact, the EQ3 into the chain. The limiter is out for a deliberate reason. I’ll show you in a second. I’m going to take away the lows here. Yeah, 250 should be good for this, for this particular track. That’s because the bottom end is coming from the beats and one of the low sounds that you can see listed above. This is more of a kind of mid and highs kind of flavor for this performance, so that’s why I’ve rolled off the lows there, just as a little safety net. The limiter here is going to basically deal with any of the big volume differences that come from the performance. Let’s take this away and let’s see how this behaves with a variety of adjustments. Let’s take away distortion. Yep, that’s working nicely. I might just bring the gain down slightly low, because it’s pushing quite hard into that limiter.

So I took a break and then I came back. I did a bit of tinkering, and I’m just going to show you what I did on these final changes. Color-coded the agile macros, you can right-click on these to do this. The other things I’ve added are a volume envelope decay and an accent control, which is actually mapped to two parameters. So that’s the envelope to velocity on both the amp section and also on the filter as well.

I’ve given them a maximum value of 4.78, and the volume envelope decay I’ve got here, and that’s going to go as long as you want it so you can have some longer notes, much more flexibility now. This I have saved as the TB- 303 style synth, and that’s a file that you’re going to be able to download. We can tuck this all away, and the whole performance can be done now using those parameters. There’s a huge range of possibilities from that. We’ll set up the MIDI keyboard and record a long section into the arranged view in part three, which we will actually make available nextweek.