October 28, 2011  |   Ableton Tutorials, Tutorials

Create a Spooky Halloween Drone Synth in Ableton Live – Sound Design, Instrument Racks, Macros

With Halloween just around the corner, we decided to show you some Ableton sound design techniques to make a drone synth full of slime, ghouls and goblins!

Danny J Lewis builds an instrument rack with the spooky parameters ‘Drama’, ‘Mystery’, ‘Critters’, and ‘Demons’… can you guess what the macro parameters are controlling before Danny reveals all?

This is a sample taken from week 3 of the upcoming Ableton Live Sound Design course which launches in January 2012. Find out more about that here.  The rack featured in this video plus many others will be available to download for students enrolled on the course

Danny is otherwise known as Enzyme Black, with releases on labels such as Defected, Masters At Work and his own imprint Enzyme Black Recordings. He is the head of course development at Point Blank’s online music production school. If you want to learn more about producing or performing with this unique piece of software, check out our whole range of Ableton Live Courses.

Keep up to date with all of Point Blank’s news, tutorials and giveaways by subscribing to our Youtube channel, or following us on Facebook and Twitter… and if you have something to say about this post, start the conversation with a comment below. Thanks!

Video Transcription:

Here’s an instrument rack that combines some of the stuff that we’ve been looking at in this lesson. This is a bit of a Halloween theme, so we’ve got some scary kind of names on the macros here. We’ve got Drama, Mystery, Critters and Demons. What I’m going to do is I’m going to perform these in real-time in front of you guys, and show you the scope of what this instrument rack is capable of. Then we’re going go and take a look behind the scenes and see what we’ve done to actually make this happen. I’ve got MIDI clip running here. This is 16 bars in length so I don’t have to hold a keyboard down. I’m just going to manipulate these four to create a variety of textures throughout the duration. Here we go.

Only a touch of drama. You can see in the spectrum the movement that’s occurring. What I want you to do is to think about some of the stuff that you’ve learned in this lesson, and try and think in your mind about what’s actually going on behind the scenes in this instrument rack. See if you recognize the texture and tone. There’s the drama. Let’s add some mystery. Let’s bring on the demons.

We’ll see lots of high frequency energy coming through from those demons. Let’s take the drama down a bit, calm it, and let’s bring on the critters. Let’s take a look behind the scenes. I’m just going to open this up so we can see inside. You can see that there’s one operator here, ping-pong delay EQ. There is another operator running here, and this is running through an EQ3, auto-pan, and ping-pong delay as well.

Let’s focus on the first one. You can see we’ve got some mapping here. You can see the actual controls that are being mapped over here to the macros. The first one I’ve got here is actually mapped to mystery, and this is the second FM oscillator.

You can see here the algorithm is set so that we’re running in FM mode. We’re getting the first oscillator followed by the second, followed by the third. What’s going on with the second oscillator, which is set really low, is that with the mystery control we’re adjusting the fine tuning.

If I click on the map mode, you can see here that I’ve set a minimum value of 148 instead of the zero that I started off with. The maximum is in fact the maximum. I’ve used these to specify a certain range. This is a great thing about the macro mapping, is the fact that we can do this. You can see that I’ve also got some different minimum and maximum values here that are different to the default. We’ve also got drama. When I move this you can see over here, the LFO amount is being adjusted. There is a slow LFO speed. Let me take this off and you can see it in more detail. The drama is increasing the depth of the LFO. You may have guessed that from earlier. That’s what that’s doing.

Drama is LFO amount. Mystery is the fine tuning of the second oscillator. Demons, the real mad, kind of high frequency wash that was coming out, is in fact the level on the third oscillator. These are all running with sign waves. The third oscillator is set to a course tuning of four, so it’s higher. It’s bringing in that harsh, kind of FM wash of texture coming through. That’s what’s going on with that.

Now, the critters were basically just the first oscillator here running with a SQ4, and then the movement is coming from the LFO here which is doing a sample and hold. We’ve got the filter set to the SVF at high resonance to create a more, kind of bubbly texture, and the frequency set over here. All that’s happening here with the critters is that the level of the actual operator is being adjusted here, so we can see that coming through.

It’s just simply turning it up and down. After this we’ve got an EQ3 here just to thin the sound out, some auto-pan to create some random movement. You can see here that this is set over here to the random panning. Then some ping pong delay to add a little bit more stereo space as well. With that all in mind, I’ll just do another little perform so you can see everything in action and understand exactly what’s been going on.

That’s behind the scenes. We’ll make the project available for you to download. You can take a look, and maybe you’ll want to make it on customizations.