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Custom Wavetables using sounds from Space

I am in continual awe at the huge and mysterious nature of the cosmos. When Ableton Live 10.1 let you add custom wavetables I had the idea of using celestial sounds as wavetables. But before I get started, let me answer the question of how there is sound in space.

NASA released a collection of sounds and said this:

Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions. When scientists convert these to sound waves, the results are eerie to hear.

In other words, these sounds are either radio wave transmissions or other radiation. They are then translated or processed into sound for human hearing.  I went through the Public NASA Sound LibraryEuropean Space Agency Library, and a collection of recordings by Don Gurnett at the University of Iowa. These sounds make awesome textural pads or layers for your music. There is nothing like playing with the sounds of the universe.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at how you can use them with Live’s 10.1 Wavetable Synth.

 

 MAKING SAMPLES INTO CUSTOM WAVETABLES

 

Live announced the ability to add custom wavetables in Live 10.1 update. I thought it was going to be an incredibly complex process but they surprised.  It is actually really easy to use samples as custom wavetables.  All you have to do is drag and drop a sample. Yeap… that is it.

The audio file can be dragged from the Browser, from a clip slot in the set, or directly from anywhere on your computer.

Wavetable reads the first few seconds (up to 256 wavetables) from the file. Each wavetable is a 1024 sample.  In other words, it chops up the sound into 256 splices each being 1024 samples each.  It does this all automatically so you don’t have to start thinking about all the math to prepare the file. It’s incredibly smooth and easy to do.

If you want to learn more about making custom wavetables, check out this article. I had to learn how to make my own 1024 sample wavetables the hard way. This was before Live let you drag and drop samples.

 

SOUNDS FROM SPACE WAVETABLE PRESETS

 

Once I realized I could use any sound I wanted, an idea popped in my mind.  A few years back I heard sounds from the Nasa Soundlibrary and I decided I wanted to turn them into wavetables.  I collected a bunch of sounds and started experimenting. I found the best collection of samples to use with Ableton Live’s Wavetable. I was then playing with the sound of stars. Here is a walkthrough video:

The presets and samples are free / by donation with the link below.


Download Free / By Donation Live Pack

When you open the live set you can play with the Presets I created, or drag and drop the samples on the first track into a new wavetable to make your own.

 

CREATIVE POTENTIAL WITH WAVETABLE

 

Adding custom Wavetable’s with Live 10.1 opens up a whole world of creativity. You can record your own voice and make it a synth, or you can take field recordings… you name it.  If you have found a cool technique, I would love to hear about it. Comment below with any links to videos using custom wavetables, or tricks that you have discovered.

 

MORE WAVETABLES

 

I have tons of articles and videos on how to make sounds using Wavetable. If you want to level up your synthesis chops check out the Wavetable category of my blog.

Making Your Own Epic Custom Wavetables in Live

The Wavetable Instrument in Live is an amazing tool for synthesizing complex sounds. In Live 10.1 they included a new feature that lets you add your own custom User Wavetables.   In this article, I am going to show you different techniques for making Custom Wavetables.

 

DRAG AND DROP AUDIO SAMPLES

 

Ableton Live made it really easy to just drag and drop samples into the Wavetable Synth.  The audio file can be dragged from the Browser, from a clip slot in the set, or directly from anywhere from your computer (Just like dragging in samples). If you add an audio file from a folder, you can use the Next/Previous arrows to move through those samples in Wavetable.

 

How are the samples processed?

Ableton Live has to process the file to make it work as a Wavetable. You have to keep things in mind like sample size, phasing, and many other things.  Most of the time just dragging a file in works great, but let’s look at how Live processes it.

  • Wavetable only reads the first few seconds from the Sample. Since it can only use up to 256 waveforms to make a wavetable, it just takes the first bit and chopped it up.
  • Live makes the wavetable from 1024 samples per wavetable. That is the total length of the wavetable (that is a really really small file).
  • Serum makes files at 2048 samples per wavetable, so Live downsamples it to 1024 if you drag it in.

What is the new “Raw” mode?

When Raw Mode is on it doesn’t process the sound and just chops it up into equal sized 1024 sample waveforms. If the sample is not prepared properly this will cause lots of clicks and phase issues.  It’s best to only turn Raw Mode on when you made the wavetable to the 1024 sample per wavetable spec.

With Raw Off, Live add extra processing to make it work better as a wavetable.  Live will ignore any silence parts in the sample, edges of each wavetable are faded to zero to get rid of clicking, process the sound to avoid phasing, and normalize the wavetable.

 

CREATING NEW WAVETABLES

 

Audio Samples are a fun creative way to make new sounds but don’t always turn out as musical as you would like.  Sometimes you just got to get nerdy and make your own wavetable from scratch. So… how do you do this? The best way to make your own Wavetables is by using a Wavetable Editor and Software.  I will preface this by saying we are going down a pretty nerdy rabbit hole… but for those that are brave, let’s do this. I am going to run down my top three.

Audio Term:

Clunky software… Strange interface… but cool results? Yeap, that is Audio term. The software looks like it was made in the late 90’s on DOS. It has little support, so why use it? Well, it has some really amazing edit functions. Once you get past the initial confusion of the GUI.  I have made some really interesting wavetables based on mathematical equations, F_Type, with this one.  This is a Windows Only Program.

One of the other issues is it renders the sounds as 128 – 4096 samples. Live Wavetable is best used with a 1024 sample, which means you have to downsize this. You can do that in Serum or with other editors. Or alternatively, use it with Raw Mode Off.

 

Serum:

Ok… I know some people are laughing with this one. It is ironic to edit wavetables in Serum just to use it in Live’s Wavetable. I think Serum is an amazing synth, and I use it in production a lot. I, however, find Live’s Wavetable to be a lot faster for 80% of the tasks I am looking at as a Sound Designer. To me, it’s worth making these wavetables and using them in Live’s Wavetable.  Besides, I can render them and share the wavetables with producers that don’t have serum so they can use it in there music.

With that, let’s have a look at Serum.

Serum has a Wavetable Editor window. To open up the editor, just press the pencil tool next to the wavetable on the oscillator 1 or 2. It will open it up.

In the Editor, you have all sorts of parameters and options for editing the Wavetable. I have found this to be one of the smoothest ways of making a new Wavetable. You can draw things in by hand, use some advanced automation, and other tools.  There is just one problem, Ableton Live’s wavetable is half the length (1024) of serums ones (2048) so you need to go to “Process ->Resize tables to be Double (1/2 total number)”. It will then when you export the Wavetable it will be the proper size.

Synthtech Waveedit:

Synthtech is a free program (Mac and Windows). It is an amazing editor. It was designed to work with hardware made by Synthtech, but can work great for what we need. Visit: http://synthtech.com/waveedit/

There is one problem though, it doesn’t allow you to change the sample size.  You need a 1024 Sample for Wavetable, so if you just load one up and edit it, it will not be optimized for Ableton Live’s Wavetable.  The workaround I have found is to either load one of Ableton Lives pre-existing Wavetable’s and just edit it or find a 1024 Sample Wavetable, load that, and create from there. It will then export it to the right samples. Glitchy workaround, but it works. Just make sure it’s 16bit.

The caveat is that the editor is designed for tables that are 256 samples long and only 64 of them. So you get really small tables out of this (16 at 1024 samples if my math is correct :)

Another gem is the community of sound designers making wavetables with Waveedit. Check out the waveedit online community to download tons of free Wavetables. Remember, these are just 256 sample wavetables, so you will have to either use them with Raw Mode off, or load it into Serum to process it into a 1024 sample wavetable.

 

Serum FM Wavetable Studio:

The last Wavetable Editor is the Serum FM Wavetable Studio. This is an easy and free way to generate some pretty simple and interesting wavetables. This is a utility to generate wavetables for Xfer Records’ SERUM using FM synthesis (or, more properly, “phase modulation” synthesis).  Once you export the wavetable you will have to process it in Serum to make it 1024 or just use it with Raw Mode Off, like many of the other Wavetable Editors/Generators I showed.

 

BUILDING YOUR ARSENAL

 

With these tools, you should have everything you need to start making unique wavetable to use in your sound design.  I also suggest trying to mash up these tools. Make something in Serum FM Wavetable Studio, add some flare in Waveedit and do the final go in Serum. Lot’s of crazy things can evolve.

To help you get started, I have a collection of 50 custom user wavetables for free download.  Follow the link below to grab them and use them in your sound design.

 

Download the 50 User Wavetables

Get Epic Songwriting Ideas Fast

Sometimes a track just spills out of you and other times it is an epic battle equaled to the fight on the mountains of Mordor.  Through the years I have figured out some techniques to get me out of those ruts. Once and a while you just need a  little creative nudge to finish that idea or come up with a new one.

One technique that has helped me a lot, I call the title question. The idea is you start with a title and start exploring questions and answers that it envokes. I know… seems cheesy. Well, it is but it works.

1. Start with the track title.  Usually, when I start a track the title is the last thing on my mind. I usually don’t even have the name until I send it out for mastering. But when I am lost on ideas to get a track started, this technique is a lifesaver. One of the best ways to come up with an idea is to start with an action. Like running, fighting, breaking, and so on. Then add something else to give it context, and you have an evocative name.

2. Start to question the title.  Now that you have a title, start asking yourself what it might mean. Make a list of questions you might ask to unlock the meaning of the title. Things like: When did this happen? Who was there? How does it make me feel? What will happen next? Try to get at least 3 questions, but 4-5 is better.

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Drum Patterns for Electronic Music

Over the past week I have been loving using my Launchpad Mini and the custom LPC Live 2 script for drum sequencing. As I am still learning how to write new drums on the fly I decided to make a few “cheat sheets”.  I have printed these out and use them to help me write in the patterns. The idea here is if I do it enough, it will be second nature.

The images below show the sequence in a 1/16th setting. They can also help you visualize different beat patterns in multiple genres for your own production.

House and DnB Step Sequence

For me what I am doing is writing on the Kick part, and the Clap part into my step sequencer to then create the beat. If you wanted to, you could always recreate this in Ableton like the image below:

House Music Midi Pattern ableton

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By |2019-01-05T12:59:59-07:00December 24th, 2018|Subaqueous Music Pages|0 Comments

Bongo Percussion Samples and Drum Racks – Free

Every killer track needs a bongo solo… right? Well, either way, bongos are cool. It’s an iconic percussion that can add interest to your tracks.

I’ve created a sample library of Bongo Samples as well as a collection of Ableton Live 9+ Bongo Drum Racks. Check out this video walkthrough and download below.

DOWNLOAD THE BONGO LIVE PACK AND SAMPLES

If you end up using this in your production, please send a link below. Love checking out what people are up to with the libraries I put out into the world.

The live pack is for free / by donation. Just put in “0” to get it for free. Consider donating if you want to see me release more resources like this.


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