I’ll be live in performance in Berlin on the 8th of September, come along!
This set is all comprised of reclaimed music from the 90s which I recorded onto old DAT tapes and 8 tracks, then put into deep storage for 20 years.
They are due to be released on Sleepers Records as “Steve Angstrom -Sleepers Recovered Artefacts ’93 – ’97”.
To celebrate the release I’m performing those songs and also a bunch more live on stage.
To perform them live I’ve spent months trying to figure out what I played and then re-creating those basslines and drum parts and entering them into my newfangled hardware sequencers. All live and mostly analog make sure you check out Steve Angstrom Live in Berlin at the Ohm club
Many users liked the old calcium skin for Ableton Live, and find the new skins for Live 10 a bit gloomy and lacking contrast. So I remade Calcium skin for Live 10. There are some differences becuase Live 10 has different transport buttons that the earlier versions, but it’s as close as I could get.
Live 10 skins are much easier to edit than Live 9 skins (which required a hex editor). Live 10 skins are in an XML format and each element is named. If you want to change anything about this skin simply open up in a text editor and start tweaking. It’ll probably break but that’s how we learn eh?
Unwind yourself with this very very ambient noise.
Sometimes, after I’ve spent all day making complicated music I need to decompress my brain. That normally means I put on something by Brian Eno like Discrete Music, or perhaps No Pussyfooting. But very often it’s as easy for me to make an ambient noise for myself – so I turn the dials to very very ambient. And this is what usually comes out – It resets my brain.
So, I thought you also might like it too.
Don’t expect a tune, this is real “drifting through space” stuff. DOWNLOAD IT IF YOU LIKE (try a right click and save-as)
Ableton Operator is a small FM synth which comes with Ableton Live Suite. Operator may seem limited to familiar traditional FM sounds but it is capable of much more. Here I show thirteen advanced tips and a few ways to use Operator’s lesser known features to create bigger sounds. and a few you might not expect, ranging from deep rumbly analog-style basses, evolving leads and pads.
1: Make oscillators morph from sine to “sawtooth”
The oscillators can be set in various FM modulator / carrier routings, but if an oscillator has no modulator input then the oscillator feedback parameter becomes available. Setting an oscillator waveform to sinewave and turning up the feedback parameter will feed the sine wave pitch back on itself and you will hear the sine morph into a waveform which sounds and looks quite similar to a sawtooth.
This waveshaping effect is is dependent on the oscillator amplitude (as amplitude induces feedback), so turning the oscillator up will take the waveshape closer to a “Saw”, turning it even higher will make it distort toward noise, and turning the amplitude right down will take the waveshape closer to the original sine.
The oscillator amplitude is obviously affected by its (amplitude) envelope and by all the other modulation sources mapped to oscillator amplitude – LFO, Aux envelope, modwheel, after touch, etc. meaning you now have deep control over the waveshape of these oscillators.
Of course – morphing a sawtooth wave into a sine wave is very similar to what a lowpass filter does it removes high harmonics – but the benefit here is that each of the four oscillators can independently vary from saw to sine, as if you had 4 independent filters (or 5 if you count the filter itself !). Additionally the smooth interaction between volume and waveshape gives a good almost natural physical modelling feel to the waveform. It’s a unique sound.
2: Invert harmonics for hard to reach waveshapes (a Triangle wave)
Operator has a very handy method of drawing your own waveshape with partials and you will be able to get clues for how common waveforms look as harmonics by studying the built in waves. Not all waveshapes are possible with the basic approach. The reason for this is that harmonics also have a phase relationship, a fundamental might be oscillating up while the third partial is oscillating downwards (180 degrees out of phase). This is the case with the humble Triangle wave.
The basic additive waveform drawing system of Operator does not allow for drawing harmonic phase relationships but we can emulate out of phase partials by using a second oscillator with a waveform phase offset. 50% of offset is 180 degrees of phase difference.
A triangle wave contains the same odd numbered partials as a square wave – yet is plainly very different in sound. In a triangle wave the phase of the upper partials is 180 degrees out of phase with the fundamental. You can see in this image that Oscillator A is handling one group of harmonics (1,5,9,…) and the second oscillator (B) is taking care of the harmonics which are inverted. Combining these two oscillators together allows us to create a waveform with harmonics with relationships which are out of phase with each other. In this case we make a Triangle wave, but the same principle allows other (otherwise unavailable) waves.
Notice that PHASE INVERSION on the B oscillator which is what makes our complex triangle output.
Triangle / Square wave morph
In the above GIF we can see what happens if we make oscillator D a copy of oscillator B but turn in Oscillator D make sure to reset the phase parameter of that oscillator down to 0, and then by using the LFO to crossfade between these two variations (B and D) the wave changes between a triangle and a “square”. the same principle can be used to create more complex harmonic shifting effects. See tip 5 for more on this.
Free Ableton Live pack. To celebrate the festive season here’s a bunch of FREE & amazing instrument racks featuring Ableton’s Operator instrument
Ten free Instrument Racks for Ableton Live
These racks come from an upcoming pack called Vintage Operators, which uses Ableton’s Operator synth to make vintage inspired synth sounds reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s. Yes, it’s a weird idea. The full pack contains over 120 live racks featuring Operator with 21 leads, 28 basses, 34 “keyboard” patches, FX synth patches and more.
Anyway, that’s another story, here’s your Xmas Presets (Free!)
I have been using Ableton’s built in effects for guitar recently and despite owning a few other VST based sims I’ve found the Ableton effects in racks to be much more useful, because of the ability to shape them to my requirements.
So, I’ve provided four of my (many) guitar amp experiment racks for you to download here.
Guitar Amp Ableton Audio Examples
In these I use the same short loop of me playing guitar badly and then for each “amp” I tweak the provided macro dials to show the variations each amp can reach.
Dual Crunch Amp
Clean / Dirty hilo Amp
Pro Vib Amp
Twang and Fuzz Amp
Investigating the sounds of Ableton Guitar Amps & Sims
Initially I found the “amp” and “cabinet” which Ableton include to be a little underwhelming yet I know they are licensed in from well regarded company Softube. So I decided a few months ago to investigate more fully. What I discovered is that if I “Bi-Amp” then it’s possible to get a rack which responds better to different playing techniques, has a more intriguing variance over the dynamic range and also has a more interesting sound across the stereo field.
So here are the four effect racks all wrapped up inside a live set, just for handiness. Please note that if you say “why isn’t this making any noise” you may have to check your input routings 😉
Collapsing your bass frequencies to mono while maintaining stereo imaging is something you may want to do for a variety of reasons, but there’s a simple way to do this with just the basic Ableton devices in a rack.
UPDATE EDIT: March 2018
You can now safely ignore this whole post if you own Live 10, because Live 10s Utility device has a “Mono Bass” button complete with a frequency crossover selection parameter. You should certainly use this feature whenever you need to make sure your bass is colapsed to mono.
Live 9 users might want to try out the tips below, but Live 10 users should certainly use Utility’s Mono Bass feature instead.
The rack is attached to this post, but you may as well pretend to read this post so you have a vague understanding of how it works. In my example I’m using a broad spectrum noise which is a field recording of a street scene.
Before we begin – a warning
This tip uses Eq8 to produce a Crossover with the aim of collapsing the bass end to mono. Almost all EQ tends to alter phase and so you should be aware of potential phase issues around the crossover frequency. Phase issues might be imperceptible … or they might audibly mess with your transients (the percussive part of your sounds), or they might alter your bass sound – so proceed with your ears open.
How to use EQ8 to collapse the bass to mono
To collapse the bass end we can use EQ8 in mid/side mode. We make an Audio effect rack, and put an EQ8 on the first chain then activate Mid side mode. Clicking the “M” button means that we can edit the “middle” of the stereo field. This is all of the components of the stream which is common to both the left and the right. So if something is equally in Left and right then it will be available in this M channel. Set the M channel of this EQ8 as below
You can see I have mapped the frequency of the 4x lowpass filter to a macro named “crossover”, you should do that too.
In this chain we need to kill all the stereo information in the low end. So we now we go to Side mode by pressing “M/S” toggle button again, and in the stereo channel we kill everything by doing something like the below image where we use a couple of bands of hi-pass filters pushed right up to 22kHz to eliminate any stereo signal in this chain.
Now lets deal with the stereo component. For this we make a whole new chain … as you probably spotted in the above images. In this chain we add another EQ8 but this time set to Stereo mode because in this “hi” chain we need both mono and stereo signals. This is what the Hi chain looks like
Now all that is left to do is map that frequency dial of the 4x HiPass to the same x-over macro and we are nearly done.
try running a signal with a broad range of stereo information through this rack. It should sound reasonably transparent, but of course there are filters involved and filters make for phase shifts. I never said this was going to be as pure as driven snow!
To test the mono compatibility of the output get a utility device from the browser and set its stereo with to 0%, you should still be able to hear the entire frequency spectrum in this mono-ised channel if you have done it right.
Now you have a rack which allows to collapse the bass end of your tracks to mono while leaving the higher frequencies in stereo. You can either process the bass and high frequencies in the rack chains themselves, or use Live’s routing features on individual channels to pull the stereo or bass feeds out and process them in separate channels. For example compressing the bass and hi end separately.
Operator is Ableton’s FM synth and while it allows the user to design their own waveforms you might think it’s not possible to do PWM in Operator, in fact there appears to be no Pulse wave available in Operator so using Pulse Width Modulation to morph from a square wave to Pulse wave seems doubly impossible.
In fact there is a way to create a pulse wave and also pulse width modulation in Ableton’s Operator synth. This is possible by using two oscillators out of phase with each other and then harnessing the power of FM.
Routing of the Oscillators
Firstly you’ll need to put Operator in any of the the routing modes where oscillators A and B interact through frequency modulation. In simple terms any where the Green boox feeds into the yellow box. I’ve indicated any that you can use in this picture.
The Basic Waveform
Choose the basic waveform of a squarewave, as indicated below.
The square wave I used is the one with the D next to it which indicates “Double” or 128 partials, in simple terms this means it’ s the most detailed square wave that Operator can manage. ensure that the little “R” for re-triggering is activated, this means we’ll have a reliably consistent wave output that starts at 0 every time.
You can see that in my example I’m using a Max for Live oscilloscope by Jonas Obermeuller in order to show you the wave output, I’d suggest you also use an oscilloscope plugin of some kind to help you craft the sound. Any will do. If you have M4L you can grab the same one that I used.
The Second Oscillator makes a Pulse
Now, we add in the modulator waveform in Oscillator slot B. here again I use the square wave with the D next to it and again ensure that the retrigger is active, but here we use the phase offset to set a 25% offset . It’s equally important to set the volume of oscillator B to -22db
If you have an oscilloscope active you should now see a pulse wave, a narrowed square. If this is not the case check the previous steps and images carefully.
Now, try turning the volume of oscillator B down from its -22db position, listen and watch the oscilloscope. You will hear and see the disctinctive pulse width modulation as the pulsewave morphs smoothly to a square wave and back (as you return the Oscillator B volume to -22db)
So, all we have left to do is to automate this volume control by use of the LFO. Copy the settings in this image carefully
Notice that all of the LFO “Destination A” settings are deactivated and we are instead using the “Destination B” section to route 100% of our modulation signal to the Oscillator B volume.
Now you should hear the sound of LFO modulated pulse width modulation in Ableton’s Operator.
This is just the start of creating bold new unexpected sounds in this powerful little synth. Try dropping the Coarse pitch oscillator B to create a rich complex waveform.