Sound design tips with Ableton Live and Arturia Pigments

Published: Wed 17 June 2020
Updated: Sun 20 December 2020 by Ludo In Music

Did you know that basic things like an oscillator frequency settings, are completely different between synths makers? For example, the frequency parameters found in the Ableton live operator are not directly usable with Arturia Pigments?

If you don't know these differences, you can make big mistakes in sound design and synthesis!

Let's take Underbelly's great Youtube tutorial on making a Neuro Bass.

This tutorial is done with Ableton Live Operator, and we have to have a sound with 3 frequencies: the fundamental, and the harmonics 5 and 7.

Harmonics may also be called "overtones", "partials" or "upper partials".

Live's operator partials

With Live's Operator you only need 3 oscillators, with the Coarse setting to 1, 5 and 7 respectively. That's all! Because Coarse is a simple frequency multiplier, not the Octave setting.

3 harmonics with Live Operator

Arturia Pigments harmonics

But if you use other synths, for example the amazing Arturia Pigments, oscillators can be adjusted in semitones and cents. So to have the same 3 same harmonics you need the following:

  • Fundamental: Coarse = 0
  • 5th harmonic: Coarse = 27 + Fine = 0.86
  • 7th harmonic: Coarse = 33 + Fine = 0.68

With Pigments Analog engine you get this:

Arturia Pigments 3 harmonics analog engine

As you see that's not easy to convert between a frequency multiplier and a semitones adjustment.

That's why I made the following table to help you in sound design ;)

Harmonics Ableton Coarse Arturia Coarse + Fine
Fundamental 1 0
2nd 2 12 + 0.0
3rd 3 19 + 2.0
4th 4 24 + 0.0
5th 5 27 + 86.3
6th 6 31 + 2.0
7th 7 33 + 68.8
8th 8 36 + 0.0
9th 9 n/a
10th 10 n/a

I have seen semitones adjustements similar to Arturia in theses instruments:

  • Ableton Live Simpler and Sampler: Transp + Detune
  • Ableton Live Wavetable: Semi + Detune
  • Synapse Dune : Semi + Fine
  • Massive : Pitch

Hope it will help you and let me know below if you use other synths (software or hardware) where oscillator settings are in semitones!

Infographics Harmonics to semitones converter Arturia Ableton

LD. --

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