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Ableton Live 12: Granulator III

Ableton Live: Tips & Tricks By Oli Freke
Published June 2024

Granulator III shows direct recorded audio in red.Granulator III shows direct recorded audio in red.

We check out Live 12’s updated granular synth.

Robert Henke, polymathic genius and one of the original designers of Ableton, has contributed a brand‑new version of his popular Granulator instrument to the all‑singing, all‑dancing Live 12. Like the rest of this latest Live, Granulator III sees refinements to workflow and new features aplenty.

For those not familiar, Granulator is a powerful granular synthesizer that processes samples in a very different way to normal samplers, and which often gives rise to completely new and exciting textures. Great for ambient sound designers and anyone who wants to experiment more deeply with sound. It also represents Ableton’s ongoing commitment to the Max audio programming language in which Granulator III is written. This new version makes this powerful synthesis method easier than ever to work with.

Those familiar with the prior version — Granulator II (dating back to Live 9) — will notice quite a few differences: gone are the FM, AM and noise sections, the dedicated filter envelope, and the ability to chain two filters together. Not only this, but the remaining parameters are renamed: Pitch Tuning is now called Transpose, but has lost the Fine control that might make it harder to tune patches to a track; FilePos is now named Position; the previously complex Scan section is now just one Scan knob, and Spray is simplified to the less evocative but more descriptive Variation control.

These changes have led to a cleaner, more modern‑looking layout, which is in keeping with the Live 12 update in general. There is now a simple row of virtual knobs along the bottom of the instrument, which remain constant, and the top half of the display alternates between the current sample’s waveform and the new envelope and filter panels. This makes navigation simple and intuitive.

The real innovation comes with the new modulation options that appear in the narrow row below the waveform display. Clicking a bottom‑row knob calls up the modulation options available to it — a different selection appears for each. Alongside standard modulators like LFO, env 2, and velocity, these now include the all‑new MPE inputs of Slide and polyphonic Press. I found it easy to check what was modulating what and to quickly adjust settings I had in mind. This simple change has also decluttered the display very effectively.

Vocal Exercise

Sampling your voice is a great starting point to get familiar with granular synthesis: we know what our voice should sound like, so the effect of the individual parameters is immediately apparent.

Use the brand‑new direct recording method (‘Ext‑in’ under the ‘I/O’ button) to record directly into Granulator from...

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