Some posts back, we discussed how to make a synthesizer out of any sound: found sound, field recording, Kung Fu Panda soundtrack. But what about something a little more, um, conventional? Something like a synthesizer based on a simple waveform? Well, that is totally doable, too!
What is a Simple Waveform?
Simply put (har har) a simple waveform is an audio recording of just one cycle of an oscillator; the “motor” at the heart of all analog synthesizers. These simple waveforms are audio files that are so short that they will generally just sound like a “click” or “blip” if you play them in Quicktime or iTunes. But, when you repeat them over and over, they will form a tone. This tone can then form the basis of a synthesizer much like the ones that we made out of a field recording of a stream.
Luckily, instead of pressing play a 1000 times a minute to create the tone, you can set simpler to repeat the waveform as long as a key is depressed.
The easiest way is to load up a simple waveform in Simpler, and make sure that the “Loop” button is depressed. This should get you started, but here is a great tutorial about how to produce a basic synthesizer out of a simple waveform and a Simpler.
And the best part is, since these waveforms are so small, you can keep a bajillion (don’t quote me) of them on your hard drive and not run out of space. Not too shabby, huh?
Where Do I Get These Simple Waveforms?
Now, that’s all well and good, but where do you get these simple waveforms? Ableton comes with some, but eventually you might tire of these and want to expand your collection. The good news is that a chap who goes by the name of Adventure Kid made this killer simple waveform collection some time ago and it is still my go-to. Not only does it have the standard waveforms, like square waves, sine waves, etc., it also has waveforms sampled from all kinds of sources like oboes, theremins and all kinds of stuff. I’ve reupped the collection below. This is mandatory downloading for anyone who wants to take their synthesis in Ableton to the next level.
Are there are any other sound packs lying around the internet that we should know about? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put ‘em in the Toolbox section!