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We’re launching a new video tutorial series today, Lessons from the Modular. These videos will examine important concepts and techniques in hardware modular synthesis and how they can be applied to music production in Ableton as well as other hardware or software instruments. Our first video focuses on the concept of modulation with random values, a popular and useful tool to keep sounds fresh and interesting.
In the modular world, randomization is used in many ways. One method is to use stepped random voltages, often generated by sending a noise source into a sample & hold tool, freezing whatever voltage happens to pass through when a clock is received. Some modules have stepped random voltage generators built in, such as the Wogglebug from Make Noise, the Sputnik Modular West Coast Random Source or the Qubit Nano Rand, often included with other randomizing functions.
These stepped voltages change with a clock, and can often be attenuated to limit the range of randomization. Randomization is often available in both hardware and software synths, sometimes included as a wave shape option in the LFO section. In Ableton, this is often the case, as seen with the LFO/S&H sections on effects like the Phaser, or LFOs in the different synthesizers. One extremely handy Max4Live tool, the LFO MIDI plugin, is an LFO that can be assigned to any parameter in Ableton, from mix controls to effects to sample start scrubbing.
Using the beat sync mode with the random or “Noise” wave shapes on these LFOs will quickly get your modulation source in the right direction. The only step left is to assign the LFOs to control interesting parameters. Remember to attenuate your random signals, limit the randomization to a small range for subtle modulation, or a wider range for a more dramatic result.
What lessons from the modular world are you applying to your music productions? Let us know in the comments!