In this tutorial 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 here for free.
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.
Let’s now create the kick and later we’ll add the bass. 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)
Step 1: Oscillator
If you click on the A section on the left (which is selected by default), you’re shown that our current oscillator is a sinewave. This is all we’re going to use in the case of this kick.
The only thing we’re going to change is the Coarse knob for this oscillator - let’s drag it all the way down (to 0.5). That will pitch our sinewave down one octave.
Step 2: Pitch Envelope
Now we’re going to use a pitch envelope to turn this sinewave into a kick. To access the pitch envelope view on the display, click on the third area on the right (Pitch Env)
The curve at the top of the display shows your current envelope, which should be flat by now. We’re going to bend it to modulate the sinewave’s pitch.
First, make sure to set the Pitch Env knob on the right to -100%. That will invert the shape of our envelope.
Now copy the settings from my display (Attack, Decay, Release, Initial, Peak, Sustain) to get the exact same curve as I have. You can click on these parametres and type in my values to be precise. This envelope pitches the sound up suddenly and stays at a very high pitch. It’s later inverted by the Pitch Env knob, so that the pitch goes from high to extremely low (barely audible).
Now also add a Pitch MIDI effect and put it at +44 semitones.
Here’s what it should sound like by now (playing C0) - a clean kick with no effects on.
If you play higher notes you’ll notice that the kick will have a sub tail at the end. To remove it turn on the Filter section with the Highpass curve and set the cutoff to 50Hz (cutting off the low sub frequencies)
Step 3: Effects
Alright, now let’s spice it up with some effects - I added an overdrive to make it sound more dirty and a limiter to shave off a few decibels. Here are the settings:
Step 4: Layering
Now that we have a nice kick, let’s layer it with a bass. To do that, click on the Operator’s name, hold Shift and click at the last element of our effects chain (the limiter). That will select all the devices on our track. Now if you press cmd/ctrl+G, it will group all these devices into an instrument rack’s chain.
We’re going to use the instrument rack to put another operator device onto our MIDI track. To do that just drag another operator onto this area:
Step 5: Bass
Now inside the operator we’re going to be using two sinewaves (I used them on C & B and didn’t use A). If you use two oscillators in Operator, it feeds one into another. That means that if we route a sinewave into another sinewave, it’s going to modify its sound (most likely add harmonics and deform the waveform shape). That’s exactly what I did here. I put a sinewave on oscillator C and wanted more harmonics, so I put another sinewave on oscillator B, which is feeding into C.
Here are the oscillator settings:
OSC B Level: 0dB (all the way up)
OSC C Level: -20dB
Now if you play the instrument (C0-C1) you’ll notice that the bass and the kick play simultaneously. What I wanted to do is to duck the bass when the kick hits, so that we lower the peak volume of the two and we get the kick to sound cleaner.
I did it by increasing the bass’s attack in the envelope section. Here are the settings:
Peak: -inf dB
Attack: 27.8 ms
After that, I put a limiter on the bass to even out its volume. It was playing higher notes significantly louder, so I shaved off a few dB with the limiter:
Step 6: Bass effects
To make the instrument glide, turn on the third section on the right, click the G button on the display and set the glide time (mine is at 166 ms)
That’s all I did for this instrument! Remember that you can download this rack for free here. Good luck with you 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.