Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ableton Preset: Tuvanism

One of this season's trends in EDM tracks is a focus on voice-like synth sounds. Pleasurekraft's 2010 hit "Tarantula" is one of the main influences for this synthesis technique.

Whenever a new sound hits the clubland zeitgeist, I'll find myself spending spare time analyzing the timbres and textures and reverse-engineering the techniques for future reference. For this particular trend, I've found myself experimenting with vocoders and formant filters.

What's a formant filter?

In a nutshell, a formant is any resonant peak (or series thereof) found in an acoustic musical instrument. However, in most cases the term refers to the resonances of the human voice.

For example, different vowel sounds are created by chancing the shape of the oral cavity via your mouth opening and tongue placement.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on formants.

So... In one of my formant shifting experiments, I created a wavetable of constantly evolving vowel sounds using Propellerhead Reason's Thor.

Next, I rendered the sample and popped it into Live's Simpler with a really tight loop, so I could configure Simpler to scan through the wavetable in real-time.

From there, I added the following macros:

Vowel: Scans through the vowel wavetable
Formant: Adjusts the secondary formant
LoPass: Lowpass filter cutoff
HiPass: Highpass filter cutoff
Envelope: Varies envelope from percussive to full sustain (for leads)
Glide: Adjusts glide/portamento time
Chorus: Adds chorusing
Delay: Adds delay


- I'm posting the patch within a Live Set, as opposed to a Live Pack or single preset, so you can hear the patch with example clips and twist the macro knobs to see what's what. If you like it, then hit the preset save button on the macro and add it to your Library.
- There are two examples: A gliding lead with clip envelope automation of the parameters and a percussive plucky loop. These show the range of the instrument. There's also a simple octave lead clip so you can experiment with the macros.
- The patch will run on Ableton Live 7.0.18 or higher.
- What you see/hear is what you get. I tested it on a couple of systems and the Zip file works as expected.

Download Tuvanism


  1. Hello, after getting a tip about your Ableton "instrument" Tuvanism from Anthony Arroyo from Ableton Cookbook. I checked out your blog, it looks great, can't wait to check out your sounds, that Tuvan Throat singing is wild! Thank You for your work! Joseph W. aka WaterRabbit, Cape Cod, MA, USA

  2. Fantastic! This has opened a new chapter in synthesis for me, thank you!

  3. I'm having problems with the zip file. Wont unpack. :(

  4. Very nice tips you got man! Love the site. This Tuvanism thing, if i would like a vocal to sound like that, how do i do that? Can i do it in your "Tuvanism"? Thanks for all the helpfull tips!

    Patrik, Sweden.