Alright, so it’s been a while since my last blog. I want to share with you my first experience with Wavetable the new synthesizer in Ableton Live 10.
This is not another how-to guide, this is not a comprehensive tutorial, actually, this is not a tutorial at all. There are many great tutorials and overviews online and on Youtube that you could check out and learn from those.
This is my experience, tweaking around wavetable. I set up, mobile phone off, dimmed lights, headphones on and here we go for eight hours straight. Giving myself ample time to look around and experiment with wavetable. And this is what I found out.
Eight hours not enough even to scratch the surface of this tool, it’s just too magnificent and timeless. Anyway, I went through all the presets, marked a few favourites…. Most of them sound super good. Presets wise we are spoilt for choice.
Wavetable is an all-inclusive synth, in the sense it can play very well across many genres. It has a certain character to its sound, dare I say uniqueness? The presets showcase this very well; if you scan through them like I did. You will find cinematic sounds, EDM capable, Techno stabs and dubs and quirky little soundscapes. If you are not careful you can get lost, next thing you know you are down 4 hours and you haven’t even looked at the interface.
So once I covered the presets and I understood it’s capabilities, I went into fullscreen. Once in fullscreen, it makes much better sense when you start out. Everything laid out, top down, left to right. Much easier to understand the flow and how sections can connect to each other. Definitely worth to have the second window in Ableton Live and even a second screen so you can have the layout and everything else visible at all times.
Wavetable is a two oscillator, 3 envelopes, 2 LFO, 2 Filter with a matrix panel that glues most parameters together. As well as a global section like every other synthesizer in Ableton Live. In fullscreen, on top, we have the two oscillators. Right below 3 envelopes and the 2 LFOs. Below that the 2 Filters and the Matrix modulation section.
If I may, the sub oscillator is a separate 3rd Oscillator. The sub-oscillator can be tuned in and also control its tonality, where you can almost get an FM sounding Sine wave sub.
Wavetable Oscillator(s) is broken down into ‘categories’ and sounds. Within those categories, every oscillator has a table of waves (hence the name).
A side note, I read online that a lot of people wanted the ability to load external wavetable files into this synth. This feature or lack of is exactly why this synth will turn out to have an iconic sound once the dust settles. Not being able to add a file, it might have to do with the performance/quality control rather than anything else. The current waveforms are more than enough. Also resource usage, it performs exceptionally well (am on a beta version). I tested about 70 instances on my laptop and my CPU was about 80%, (4-year-old MacBook Pro). I am certain it can load more than 70 instances on newer machines, not that you will ever need so many. Ok back to the oscillators, am a sucker for the polar visualization. Oh! and one more thing, each oscillator has 3 effects to change up the sound, classic, FM and modern. Just when you thought it was all over…BOOM, have some more.
The filters section at first look seems familiar, BUT then there is a new function. You can use the filters in serial, parallel or split mode, which affects how the oscillators are assigned to them. I call it the “lovely little option that can drastically impact your sound and create/manipulate your layers/grains even further.
The 3 Envelopes have the standard time, slope and value controls, with 3 loop modes (none, trigger and loop). Looping the AMP Envelope and adding some modulation to parameters and holding a single note can take you places. This is one of my favourite functions on this synth. Finally, the matrix and MIDI components of the modulation section are where things can get deep without any complexities.
The global section’s unison parameter spoils us again, with 6 options to choose from (7 counting off). You can widen, and further dirty up your sound if this is what you are into.
To come to think about it, even when the synth is not popped up you are 2-3 clicks away from any function you desire. Not bad at all if you want to keep it tugged in the device view.
Towards the end of my 8-hour mess about, I realized that Ableton Live’s wavetable synth although it has so many controls, it’s so easy to use. Once you get into it, you creatively peel away layer by layer. I always test new synths by creating 3 sounds, a solid, fluid and ambient sound, so I can get to a baseline, lead and pad real quick, and wavetable is no different; easy, straight to the point sound generator.
Now, is a good time to record a small video of me messing about, to put all the above into perspective!
Also thinking to do a short video on a regular basis on wavetable’s sound design. Will share on the Youtube channel and embed it here in this post as well.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect in any way those of Ableton AG of which he is a Certified Trainer. Please use synths responsibly, and stay hydrated.
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