Ableton's Operator is a little intimidating at first, but it's often overlooked for more commercial plugins. It's a versatile instrument and with a little time you can be on your way to making your own patches and basslines. Operator is an FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesizer with subtractive and additive synthesis.
The Operator has 8 individual sections called ‘Shells’ and 1 display section at the centre. Depending on the shell you have selected, the centre display will show you a more detailed set of parameters from which you can modify your sound.
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Oscillators : The noise makers inside the Operator. There are 4 oscillators (ABCD) which have their own parameters that can be tweaked in the centre display.
Waveform : Essentially waveforms are a representation of sound and can be complex or simple. In Ableton we can choose from a 22 types of waveforms, design our own or choose from the fundamental waveforms, sine, saw, square and triangle. We’ll choose a sine wave as it has a prominent presence in the lower frequencies.
Algorithm : In a nutshell Operator’s Algorithms are different routing options for the oscillators (ABCD). You can see that depending on which one you choose, algorithms can drastically alter your sound.
[How to make the Bassline]
1. Generally, the sine wave registers the best in the lower frequencies so, to create our bass sound, we’ll go to our oscillator 'A' and leave the waveform to run a sine wave.
2. We’ll then change the Algorithm to the last configuration so that our oscillators will run independently.
3. Add another oscillator with the same sine wave to boost the fullness of the sound. You could also add a third oscillator and run another waveform on top of the sine waves to add some tones to the sine wave.
Filter : The filter sections controls the Operator’s built-in filters. You can choose from a range of Filter-types (LP,HP,BP,Notch) and then adjust the cutoff with the Frequency knob which sweeps the band with whatever Filter-type you chose. The display will also allow you to change the envelope of the filter and also add curves to your waves with the Shaper Types. Choose from Soft, Hard, Sine or 4Bit to had that little bit of grit or guts to your sound.
LFO : By default, The Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) shell will modulate the pitch of your oscillators ABCD, but can also modulate the filter cutoff depending on which ones you have turned on in the LFO centre display.
Release: In the Oscillator display you can adjust the Release to extend the tail end of the signal. Doing so will lengthen or shorten the amount of time for the signal to decrease after the key has been released.