In this article we’re going to make an awesome Ableton instrument in Operator. We’ll go through all you need to know to make this patch even if you’re new to Operator. Here’s the patch we’re going to make:
You can download this patch & MIDI progression here for free.
Required: Ableton 9.5+ Suite
Let’s get started!
Let’s load up Operator onto a MIDI track. Here’s what it looks like by default:
Now let me explain in short Operator’s UI. On the left of the device there’s four oscillators (they generate the sound). Then, the sound can be modified by using some of the sections on the right (LFO, Filter, Pitch etc). The center pad always shows the details of a selected section.
Before we begin make sure to deactivate the Filter section (2nd on the right, you deactivate things by clicking the orange buttons on the left of the sections)
If you click on the A section on the left, you’re shown that our current oscillator is a sinewave. Click on this dropdown menu and select Saw64:
That will change our oscillator type to a saw wave. For this pad sound we’re going to use three oscillators - A, B & C.
Let’s do the same thing for the B oscillator - select the B section but this time change the waveform to Sq16.
For the C oscillator we’re going to use white noise.
Now the synth is going to sound terrible, because by default Operator routes oscillators one into another, which modifies their shapes. (That’s called FM synthesis.) To make the oscillators play independently you need to click on the fourth section on the right:
Now the colorful boxes are stacked on top of each other - that means we’re routing one into another into another. If we select the last mode on the display (1), it’s going to switch to independent mode (2).
Now let’s turn down the level of B & C oscillators:
The synth should sound like this by now (still quite unpleasant)
Now we’re going to apply a filter to take out the harsh sounding high frequencies. To do this turn on the second section on the right by clicking this box:
Also choose the „Low SVF” filter shape. It’s a lowpass filter - it cuts out frequencies above the filter frequency.
If you move the Freq knob the synth should sound like this:
Now we’re going to add in some effects to spice up the sound.
First I’m going to add a compressor to even out the volumes. With higher filter cutoff positions we’re letting in more frequencies, what makes the overall signal louder. To prevent this I added a compressor with a low threshold (-40 dB), standard attack (2 ms) and a ratio of 2.5:1.
Then I added a Chorus to give the synth more stereo width.
The last effect on this synth is a reverb with a higher than default decay time (3.5 sec)
Now I selected all of the devices on the track (select the Operator, hold Shift, select the Reverb) and clicked Cmd+G to group it inside an Instrument Rack:
I wanted to have all my controls in one place, so I opened up the Macros (3) and mapped a few parametres by clicking Map (1), clicking the parameter (green area on a device) and clicking Map (2) under the macro knob.
The parameters I mapped are:
- The Freq knob in Operator’s Filter section
- The compressor’s Threshold
- Chorus’s Dry/Wet knob
- Reverb’s Dry/Wet knob
That’s all I did for this instrument! Remember that you can download this patch & MIDI progression for free here. Good luck with your operator sound design!
I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.
Listen to my music: https://souncloud.com/k-pizza