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Computer music blog » Discover Wavetable from Ableton Live
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Wavetable from Ableton Live is designed for sound designers and musicians, both professionals and beginners. The wavetable synthesis software offers you a high quality sound result from the samples you have selected and worked on thanks to its numerous features. Let’s discover here the elements that will allow you to work all your sounds in a dynamic production with timbre variations offering you an almost unlimited creative choice.

What is “Wavetable” in Ableton Live?

It’s a virtual synthesizer with wave tables proposed by the music sequencer software Ableton Live 11. The program, created in 2001, integrates this synthesizer from February 2018 from its version 10. This virtual instrument allows you to create your own sounds and melodies thanks to a system of importing files by dragging and dropping, or the use of wave tables already present in Wavetable.

Wavetable is a direct competitor to other wavetable synthesizers, such as Massive of Native Instrument or Pigments d’Arturia.

Creators can take advantage of this powerful synth to transform their sounds into a varied sound palette, all in a professional quality sound design.

But beware: It is not available in the intro, lite and standard editions of Ableton Live!

interface in three sections

Wavetable UI
The three different sections of Wavetable’s interface

Both intuitive and powerful, the Wavetable tool is composed of an interface and parameters that are both accessible, readable and fun. It is composed of three distinct sections. As a quick overview, we can name the oscillator space (or wave-based synthesis), the filters, and the modulation. Oscillators and modulation are themselves composed of several tabs that you can then select.

If you want to see more than these three settings on your screen, just click in the title bar and the rest will be split between the main window and the exploded view.

Wave-based synthesis and oscillators

wavetable Oscillators
The synthesis section

It produces its sounds through the technique of wavetable synthesis. These sounds are produced by the oscillators of the software. Here, I don’t develop more the definition of wavetable synthesis and oscillators, I only talk about these functions in Wavetable. But, if you need to have more explanations, I will be happy to give you a course on this subject, do not hesitate to contact me.

When you launch a sound on the oscillator, the note will be played with its timbre continuously. And this is where you can play and modulate the sound according to your creativity!

The two main oscillators allow to modulate the wavetables. They offer the possibility to create wavetables derived from classical, synthetic or real instruments.

The Wavetable tool allows you to act independently on each oscillator for even more customization in the creation of your sounds. You can activate or deactivate them in the settings according to your needs with a button on each oscillator tab.

Wavetable offers you the possibility to work additionally with a sub-oscillator. It can also be activated and deactivated with its switch button, you can work on the timbre, the harmony and the sound on one or two octaves.

The filters

With filters, you can take your oscillator-based sound design to the next level. Wavetable offers you a total of five filter types, five circuit options and three routings.

Each resonance and frequency parameter can be modified directly: thanks to an intuitive handling, you just have to click on one of the points in the filter display area and drag it.

Wavetable’s five filters are high-pass, low-pass, band-pass, notch and Morph, a special filter. They can be routed to shape your sound in any way you like, with only your imagination being the limit!

The routing option offers you the possibility to organize your filters according to your choice of sound creation. You can then work with your oscillators in series (serial in the software), in parallel (parallel) or separately (split). The latter is very useful if you are looking to overlay synth sounds or to deepen your sound design on the sub-oscillator!

Modulation tabs

The Wavetable instrument features a three-tab modulation section. Its modulation system reveals the full strength of wavetable synthesis, with five modulators including three envelopes and two LFOs (very low frequency oscillation generators).

The modulation tabs are : Mod Sources, LFO, Matrix and MIDI which are all on the same line. Wavetable offers you many resources for assigning modulations to the parameters of the instrument.

Wavetable Mod Sources
The Mod Sources tab
wavetable Matrix
The Matrix tab

Depending on the tab you choose, you will have different actions to perform depending on the sound you are looking for. You can click and assign a value in the matrix (MATRIX) or choose to modify one of the five possible LFO waveforms, with ascending or descending slopes, pulse width changes, adjust the modulation value, etc.

In conclusion

So you’ve just discovered Ableton’s Wavetable through its history, its interface and its main elements and parameters. I could talk to you about it for hours, breaking down each of these categories and evoking all their advantages, but for that I suggest you contact me for in-depth and personalized lessons!

An article is coming soon with several tips so that you can use Wavetable from Ableton in a fun and efficient way. And if you want me to talk in more detail about other elements of this software, feel free to put a comment below to give me your suggestions!

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