Ableton Live Techniques: Synthesis and DSP

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Authored by Erin Barra, Loudon Stearns

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Course Code: OMPRD-379

Next semester starts June 28

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition

$1,497

Non-Credit Tuition

$1,250

Building on the skills learned in Ableton Live Techniques: Fundamentals, you will explore how the many synthesizers and audio effects in Ableton Live can be used in contemporary music production. This includes building unique synthesizer timbres, performing with synthesizers to capture the full expressive capability of the devices, polishing mixes with the standard dynamic, spectral, and delay effects, and creating new audio textures using Ableton’s unique audio processors. 

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Employ a practical understanding of subtractive, additive, frequency modulation, physical modeling, and Wavetable Synthesis types
  • Utilize a practical understanding of audio effects
  • Deliver unique projects based on a wide range of styles and emotions
  • Use all of the unique synthesizers and effects in Ableton Live
  • Develop a custom synthesizer in Max for Live
  • Effectively use dynamic, spectral, and delay effects in contemporary music production
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Syllabus

Lesson 1: Big Concepts Overview

  • Ableton Synthesizers and Effects
  • Max for Live
  • The Language of Sound and Synthesis
  • The Classic Processing Chain
  • Assignment 1: Create a Beautiful Sound with Synthesis and Signal Processing

Lesson 2: The Delay Spectrum

  • Building Delay Effects
  • Modulation Makes Music
  • Types of Synthesis
  • Delay Effects in Practice
  • Assignment 2: Create Ambient Music

Lesson 3: Racks: Series and Parallel Signal Flow

  • Basic, Advanced, and Rack Effects
  • Build a Subtractor Synthesizer
  • Synthetic Drums
  • Collaborating in Sound Design and Composition
  • Assignment 3: Create Techno Music

Lesson 4: Subtractive Synthesis 

  • Distortion and Filtering
  • Build a Two-Oscillator, Two-Filter Synthesizer
  • Multiband Devices
  • The “Vocal Mode” in Synthesis
  • Assignment 4: Tell a Story with Sound

Lesson 5: Subtractive Synthesis II

  • Analog Synthesizer Overview
  • Creating Analog Pad Presets
  • Analog Vocal Lead
  • Hybrid Instrument Creation
  • Assignment 5: Score a Short Film


Lesson 6: Additive Synthesis With Operator

  • Operator Overview
  • Building an Additive Synthesis Hammond Organ Preset
  • A Modulated Pad
  • Build a Sidechain Compressor
  • Assignment 6: Build a Banger

Lesson 7: FM Synthesis

  • Vibratus Maximus
  • FM Groove
  • Sidechaining: Beyond Volume
  • Stereo Signals in a Stereo Space
  • Assignment 7: Robot Lullaby

Lesson 8: Wavetable Synthesis 

  • What Is Wavetable Synthesis?
  • Evolving Pluck
  • Airy Pad
  • Dynamic Range Manipulations
  • Assignment 8: Remix a Song

Lesson 9: Wavetable Synthesis II

  • Wavetable Modulation
  • Modulated Bass with Push 2
  • Synth Chopper and Morpher Racks
  • Multiband Dynamics
  • Assignment 9: Synthesizer Relay

Lesson 10: Physical Modeling

  • Physical Modeling Overview
  • Expressing Yourself through Synthesis
  • PM Percussion
  • “Melodisonic” Hooks
  • Assignment 10: Six-Dimension Improvisation

Lesson 11: Build a Synthesizer From Scratch (Max for Live)

  • Max for Live Interface
  • Max for Live Oscillations and Envelopes
  • Max for Live Filters
  • Creating an Interface
  • Assignment 11: Reflection and Integration

Lesson 12: Reverb

  • Sampling a Room
  • Convolution Capabilities and Limitations
  • Convolution Performance
  • Reverb Freeze Synthesizer
  • Assignment 12: Create a Custom Live Pack

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Completion of Ableton Live Fundamentals or a strong understanding of the basic functionality of Ableton Live is required.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • Ableton Live 10 Suite
  • Max for Live Essentials Pack (included with Live 10 Suite)

Hardware Requirements

  • MIDI controller
  • Audio interface

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.


General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection

Instructors

Erin Barra

Author

An authoritative voice in music, tech, and education, Erin Barra is a course author and instructor at Berklee Online, the Director of Popular Music at Arizona State University, and Executive Director of Beats By Girlz. She has a wide breadth of experience developing and teaching curriculums at the open source, K-12, and collegiate levels, several of which are the most popular and highest rated courses on their respective platforms. 

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As a community organizer, she has the ability to mobilize and build from the ground level up, creating and funding several organizations and efforts at the intersection of art, technology, education, and equity. She currently sits on the board of Women in Music, and has spearheaded research regarding women in the music industry in partnership with Berklee’s Institute of Creative Entrepreneurship, which won the Innovation award at SIM São Paulo. 

Specializing in composition, performance, and creative music technology application, Erin has worked with and represented companies such as Ableton, ROLI, MusicTech, Moog, and iZotope. She has presented at Loop, NAMM, SXSW, Moogfest, Gearfest, KIEM, Future of Music Coalition, Yale’s EXPOL, and Re-Mixed Media Festival. 

Erin has worked with an array of artists, from Grammy winners like John Oates, George Massenburg, Kathy Mattea, and Elliot Scheiner, to those at the front lines of the independent movement like Res, Miles Robertson, and Ari Raskin. She holds a degree in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music and has 20+ years of keyboard/piano experience. Read Less


Loudon Stearns

Author

Loudon Stearns is an associate professor at Berklee College of Music, a course author and instructor at Berklee Online, and an active media-artist. Within the Contemporary Writing and Production department at Berklee College of Music, he prepares students to work as independent composers and producers in a technology-laden music industry. Online, he focuses on the latest electronic music styles and music-technology innovations, showing students how to analyze contemporary styles and use the latest music technology in their own works. An innovator in both education and art, Loudon authored a Massive Open Online Class, "Introduction to Music Production," that has provided high-quality free education to hundreds of thousands of students, received an award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association for "Excellence in Teaching" and received the "Excellence in Media Art" award from the Emerson College Visual and Media Art department.

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Holding a Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Writing and Production and Bass Performance from Berklee College of Music, and a Master of Fine Arts in Media Art from Emerson College, Loudon pulls from a broad range of skills in the creation of his own multi-media performances that include live music, projection-mapping, dance, visual art and interactivity. Of particular interest is using the entire world as a performance space by using internet streaming to coordinate numerous performers and audiences on vastly different parts of the globe. The technical and aesthetic challenges of this type of performance are new and exciting and require the sort of broad skill-set that Loudon has developed through his extensive institutional and self education in music, sound, performance, motion graphics, photography, programming, and construction. Read Less


Dennis DeSantis

Instructor

Dennis DeSantis is a composer, sound designer, percussionist, and author. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music. His electronic music appears on labels such as Ghostly, Global Underground, Cocoon and Kanzleramt, and he has performed throughout North America, Europe, and Japan. DeSantis is the Head of Documentation for Ableton, and previously worked as a sound designer for Native Instruments.


Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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