Ableton Essential Exercises Level 6: Basics of Serum | STRANJAH | Skillshare

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Ableton Essential Exercises Level 6: Basics of Serum

teacher avatar STRANJAH, Music Producer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (47m)
    • 1. Hello from STRANJAH!

    • 2. 01 What is an Oscillator?

    • 3. 02 Unison Mode Thickens Sound

    • 4. 03 How to Shape Sound with Envelopes and LFOs

    • 5. 04 Understanding Filters

    • 6. 05 Filter Modulation

    • 7. 06 Mono and Glide Mode

    • 8. 07 How to Use LFOs

    • 9. 08 FX Section

    • 10. 09 Recreating Classic D&B Sounds

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About This Class

Learn the basics of modern synthesis and sound design using Serum VST.

Meet Your Teacher

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Music Producer


Hello, I'm Stranjah and I am a music production instructor!  Through my 20 years of producing music for international labels such as Hospital Records and Metalheadz, I bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to students who wish to learn music production but are having a challenge getting started.  I have been teaching for almost as long as I've been making music.  I started by teaching friends and colleagues, and later evolved to teaching professionally in group and 1 to 1 classes.  My teaching style is direct with a simple step-by-step approach, ensuring that students can follow along and progress.

Feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions!

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1. Hello from STRANJAH!: Hey, what's up? It's strange. Music producer of 25 years for releases on metal heads, hospital records and critical music for the majority of my career, I've been making drum and bass music, which is a very technically demanding music where synthesis plays a key role. Learning basic synthesis is an important skill as a music producer, because once you've gained a skill, you'll unlock a new horizon of creative possibilities. In this class, you'll learn the basics of sound design using a poplar synth called serum. However, if you don't have serum, you can follow along with other synthesisers as well. All the concepts should be universal, alright, without further ado, let's get right into some synthesis. 2. 01 What is an Oscillator?: Alright, so this class is meant to be a primer on serum. So if you know nothing about serum or sound design, then this will be a perfect way to start. So once you open up Serum, you have a basic sound that plays if you play the keyboard, it's just playing this waveform here, which is a sawtooth. So essentially, serum has a synthesizer that you use to sound generators, and we call them oscillators. So we have Oscillator a, which is turned on and currently osmolarity oscillator B is disabled, however, you can turn it on and then you can layer to 2M. But we'll just focus on oscillator a for now. So essentially what this does is that oscillator a will oscillate or repeat indefinitely as long as you hold the key, the shape that is chosen here. Now, you can choose a number of shapes here there's hundreds of shapes that come by default in serum. For most analog, since they come up the basic shapes. A sine wave would be an example of a basic shape. Now, with serum, serum is called a wave table synthesizer. Essentially, what it is, is it's kinda like a table or a list of different shapes in one preset, I guess you would call it, you have this wave table position. What it essentially does is it goes through the different frames and this wave table to show you the different shapes that you can access. Index basic shapes, setting. So if you move this, you can find different shapes. Helpful thing to do. If you click on here, then you'll see a three-dimensional view of the wave table. So essentially, what is doing when you move the wave table position is you're just changing it to the subsequent wave table or shape or position. So that's shape would oscillate indefinitely. Yeah, these are the basic shapes that most analog sense come with. For example, if you picked up a actual physical synth, they usually come with these shapes. And also their basic shapes through various techniques such as filtering and filter modulation or volume modulation or even pitch modulation. You're able to create an infinite variety of different sounds using these basic shapes. Don't be, I'm misinformed that just because of their basic shapes that you'll get basic sounds, it's really what you do to the sounds. I would recommend browsing through two different wave tables here you have more advanced wave tables as you move into the digital and spectral shapes of you chose, for example, let's go this one. If you look at a three-dimensional view, then you'll see that this one actually has 250. Notice the number here. There's 250 different positions of this wave table, right? The reason why this one has 256 is it attempts to morph from this sound, the very first sound, to the very last sound of the table. So by morphing it, essentially, it's like creating kinda like, you know, like a film strip. If you were to look at like someone walking in a movie, if you break it down by frames. Each frame as an individual still picture of that person moving, right? So essentially it just says what is happening as you move them, wait till you're looking at different frame in that sound, right? So if you hold the note and dry the wave table position, then you'll get the sound, sounds like there's some movement. And especially one way you can create some pretty gnarly and nasty sounds is when you modulate the wave table position and make it oscillate like that. But that's for a little more advanced and will come to that later on. We just want to focus on the basics right now we'll stick with the basic shapes. Now again, we're going to keep this a level one in terms of sound design, will look into more advanced synthesis as we move on to higher levels. But I just want to make sure you guys get the basics down. So play with changing the position, right? And then try play with the different parameters here, right? So for example, you can change to octaves, semitones, and then fine tune, which is hundreds of a semitone. Alright, so play with that. Rent this random knob. It tries to simulate a natural analogue synth because n log, since whenever you press the key, it lands on a different position, we call it the phase of the wave forms. Every time you hit the key and randomizes the phase start of the waveform. So it says slightly different. However, some modern producers, we like to put random all the way here so that every time you hit the key it sounds exactly the same. As you can see phase here. It just shows you can actually determine where in phase this waveform starts ready, so you can start here. And this might have some subtle effects on how your wave, the end result sounds. If you want to be at the very 1AD is usually default. What it does sound, I guess. Okay. And yes. 3. 02 Unison Mode Thickens Sound: Another very powerful tool as the unison mode. So unison, essentially, what it does is that it plays or it multiplies this waveform by this value. So if we put two then is that playing one? It plays two instances of this exact wave form, right? So if we put two, now, it sounds wide or by default Serum hands, the two instances between the left and right. So that is why it might sound like it's there's one on the left and one on the right. Also, when you have unison mode enabled to more than one, you can determine the detuned. So if it's all the way at 0, it's playing exactly the same note, but as you detune it, then they're playing links slightly off, right? And that's what makes it so fatter. As you detune it and moves further, further to the left and right. You can actually control that in the global panel here, you can set what the zeros so that it doesn't have any stereo width or stereo depth when you detune it. However, it won't just leave this at default. Okay, try increasing it further. Notice the higher you go to fatter sounds. And then again, experiment with the detuned settings as you increase the voices of the unison mode. Blend is just how loud is the, the, as you can see, there's visual representation how loud is the center two oscillators. So you can give a little more focus to the ones closest to the actual note blended with the others. And that's what it is satisfied. Or actually that's how you create a 3D space is a 3D space is actually a sawtooth wave form, so this one detuned. Then there's some additional parameters where you can pan it. There's the level which is the overall volume of the oscillate later it's set to Sunday five because 75% because it is tried to set a so it doesn't cut when you add an additional oscillator. Okay, so that's the basics of controlling the oscillator. 4. 03 How to Shape Sound with Envelopes and LFOs: From here on in, you can modulate different parameters and then shape the sound. The very basic idea between shaping is creating kind of, we call it an envelope. So envelopes shape the sound and by default, envelope one down here shapes the volume of your sound. Does it probably easier if I pull in an oscilloscope so you can see what's actually happening to the sound. So I'll pull this guy here. So this is a sound that's happening right now. One thing to note is that when you turn unison mode, because each voice is slightly de-tune, what will happen is you'll get phase and meaning you've got these peaks and lows because when this goes back to physics, grade ten physics. So you guys have heard took physics in that when you have two waveforms that are overlapped, it just makes it louder. But if you have a waveform that's in the APV phase and then you have a wave from this, that down phase, they cancel each other. So that's why you have ups and downs. Notice if it's just one voice, we have one consistent. As you increase it. That's when you get to phase in which it's not actually a bad thing, That's what gives for exempt the resound, its character. But let's make it here and I'm going to choose the square wave just so we can keep this basic for your understanding of what's happening when we use envelope one. So once again, envelope one is dedicate it to shaping the volume of your sound. So at this point there are five controls. The attack is how long does it take to start from the bottom to go to the top of the envelope. So if we increase the attack, notice now there's a fade. Well, wait to get into a whole. Before we get into that, let's visit the decay and sustained. So these two knobs work in tandem. So essentially the K is how long it takes to reach the sustain level. Are sustained levels all the way down to negative infinity, right? The k determines how long it takes to get to the sustain level. So if it's all the way at 0, then it just reaches sustain. At as soon as it reaches the top, it drops to the bottom. As we increase it. Now you get that kind of fade out. So the hole is just how long it holds at the top before it starts to K2 to sustain. Right? And I'm holding my keyboard here, the note. Now you have these slope little notes here where you can change the, how, how hard it's slopes up. And that's useful. Further customize how your sound shapes. Experiment with that. So you have the volume. Try it with different shapes. Again. Once again, visit the other shapes as well. But I'm just showing you using the basic shapes because that's what basic system is based on. Alright? And then let's try adding another oscillator. Okay? So let's turn on oscillator B. So now we have a square wave layered with a sawtooth here. Actually go to basic shapes here. And then now we can choose additional shapes. So again, the sawtooth under the desk deciding just looks a bit different from the other sawtooth. It should sound exactly the same. Okay, so experiment with changing some of the parameters of oscillator B. So maybe oscillator B can place at a completely different octave. So now you're, what we're doing is we're layering, layering two completely different sounds on top of each other. And this is when your sound starts to sound a little more complex. Poplar thing that we do in dance music, especially in drama base, is to change the semitones amount to seven. Essentially what this does is one, your oscillator a will be playing the root node, and then oscillator B will be playing the perfect fifth from the root. So kind of playing like a chord is playing two different keys at the same time. Then you get this really funky sound. Okay? Try unison mode of these two oscillators. How that made a fatter? I heard there's a rule of thumb for a unison mode, especially for resounds in data six between more than one but less than 60, usually bus. Because as you move up to the max, it gets starts to get cluttered. But there's nothing wrong with that. If you want it to sound like that. Actually sounds pretty cool. It's all about experimenting. I'm happy with the sound, so let's keep moving on. 5. 04 Understanding Filters: The next step to basic synthesis is filtering. So essentially what filtering does is it's letting some sounds pass through the filter and some sounds not pass through. So for example, a low-pass will allow the low frequencies to pass through and cuts the high frequencies. Now, right now, the filter is only applied to oscillator a. So notice that there's some buttons here. We'll ignore the N and S for now. It just stands for the noise generator, which is here and the sub-oscillator which is here. Currently we're only using oscillator a and B, which correlates to a and B here. So notice, although let me turn off oscillator B so you can hear this. Okay? Notice a is being filtered. As I turn this on. And cutoff is essentially what frequencies are being allowed to pass through. As you move up the cutoff frequency, you're allowing more frequencies to pass through until you get to the top. So now the filter is completely open. So it's actually letting all of the sound pass through. Let's turn, actually, let's visit some of the other parameters as well. Resonance is actually what happens to that cutoff frequency. So this currently at like 740 Hertz, especially resonance is pushing up that 740 hertz frequency higher. And when we do that, it makes the filter sound a bit sharper. We call it resonant because that, that frequency is now resonating. You can pan to filter. I rarely use this though, but might be some cool sound design. I guess. Options. I turn up the drive which add some saturation or distortion to the signal. Fatness does something similar. And then the mix is just if you want to mix between the unfiltered, unfiltered signal. Although I tend to only leave the mix at 100%. Now visit the other filters as well. The main filters that I use are low-pass filters, which allow low frequencies to pass through. Or high-pass filters, which is the complete opposite, allows high, high frequencies to pass through. The payment of sand you make will impact which of these filters you choose. A bandpass allows a middle frequency of the pass-through. Peak just pushes, it's kinda like an EQ, so pushes a frequency up, notch as the opposite. Okay? Then we have some more advanced filters here which combined, for example, this one here combines a band pass and I believe yes, and a notch here. So it combines two filters with one, the phalanges, these ones combined phalange of phasor effects of your filtering. You get some interesting results. And then you have some of these here which are pretty cool. I find these kind of mimic analog filter. Select the German or French low-pass is pretty cool. I would encourage you guys to explore these on your own. I just want to keep this video basic for now. We can spend hours just going through each one of these filters. But the main thing is to learn. The main filters to learn is really the low-pass and high-pass and band-pass, but really the ones I use most Arctic low-pass and high-pass. Four bases are typically used low passes. And nationally, there are four different low-pass. I think this one maybe is just based on a different algorithm. But really each lowpass has four settings. There's a 6121824. And what that means, essentially, how steep the slope goes, right? So six is more of a slower, more gentle filter as you increase, that, would call this a pole value. So as the pole value increases, the filter is a little more steep, right? Hello, more discriminant of frequencies. The one I use the most, 18 or 24, I just find this on fat define us. Let's bring oscillator B back. That sounds pretty cool. What would happen if we turn on the filter for oscillator B as well. Interesting. Now, I'm just going to go back into envelope one and then turn off the envelope settings. So it's back to default. It says Playing one full node, operating the drive to add because it is clipping. 6. 05 Filter Modulation: Now I want to show you about filter modulation. So we talked about volume modulation, which is envelope one. Envelope one is dedicated to volume. However, envelope 23 are completely free, meaning they can be used to assign and modulates anything you want in serum. So the common thing is to modulate filter cutoff. So if you click on this cross here and drag it over to the cutoff. Now this envelope, well, will control the filter cutoff. And there's a little blue ring here indicating how this envelope will modulate filter cutoff. So if we increase the attack here, right, you can see this a lot, a blue light here. It's as, as this envelope moves up this line, this blue, we'll move up here, right on this knob, opening the filter. And you can increase or decrease the modulation amount by just clicking on this ring and dragging up or down. And of course, and try shaping the envelope. So now we're really getting into shaping and creating some interesting sounds with some basics, the synthesis techniques. 7. 06 Mono and Glide Mode: Just a few things. Some more basic features on the bottom right. So voicing. So depending if you're writing a bass sound and you want to turn on mono, what this does is that now your senses a mono synth meeting only one key can be played at a time, which is great for base because you never want bass sounds to overlap because they sound terrible when they overlap. So this ensures only one base has ever played at a time. Even if you hold two keys. One that plays later will take over. Okay, So try that and see what happens as you increase this pore to mental time. Portmanteau time, also known as glide. Essentially what it does is this is how long it takes for when you hold down a note and then hold down and the next note, how long does it take to get to that next note? So by increasing this value, you create a glide between the two nodes. Now notice, when I play, I'm going to play to each two nodes. I'm holding them down. And the second node takes over, right? But notice when I played the second note placed, the filter envelope here, restarts. By the way, you can zoom into this filter by using this magnifying glass here, right? Another thing you can click this lock icon and it will lock into, it, always locked into full screen no matter how long did the K is. Right, so that's helpful. So back to what I was saying. If you hold down to, if you play two notes subsequently, but hold it down. W glide between the two nodes. Notice the filter always Restart. Now what happens if you click legato here? So enabled legato. Okay, so now I'm doing the same thing except when I played a two nodes. The second note, notice on a filter to second note, finish off, finishes off where the previous nodes ends. So it sounds like 21. Complete sound but plain different notes. Let me decrease the ornamental time here. So that's kinda cool. This always button. If you click always, then there's always glide. When you don't have always enabled. It means that when you have two notes that are not joined together, meaning if you're not holding them down together, there will be no glide to, I guess, explain what I mean by that. If I have a note here, right. And then let's just put a note here. Notice there's no client, right, but it only glides when, when there's overlapping notes. Okay. Whereas if I turn on always, so now it glides out. It's kind of a glide. Then the note starts. Okay? Okay, and then finally I'm going to show you the LFOs. Okay, so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to turn off the envelope too. So I'm going to right-click here and remove the destinations, so the assignments to cut off. So now that there's no movement, this is not controlling the cutoff anymore. 8. 07 How to Use LFOs: So another type of modulator, there's two different modulators, envelopes and LFOs. Envelopes play once they go up and down. And that's it, right? Whereas LFOs, it goes up, down and it repeats, it goes back to the beginning and plays again indefinitely. But it works. It's the same idea. So if we, I bring the cutoff down and we click this cross hair dry Alpha-1 to cut off. See now it goes back and forth. And that's how you create the wobble base sounds. Warm gray. So there's a number of parameters for the LFO. You can change the rate that the triplet. You can turn off BPM. So now it's a free mode. So it instead of latching onto a note against your BPM, is by Hertz. If you want something that says little more *******, that's not locked into your BPM. You would use that dotted mode, so there's triplets and dotted, dotted mode is simply, for example, pointer note is essentially a quarter note, dotted quarter note plus half of a quarter note. I don't know. Then trigger just ensures your LFO always starts at the beginning. Otherwise, it's going to start anywhere. Envelope just makes it play ones. Like an envelope. In an often it just plays whenever. I usually had trigger mode on. So it starts at the same point every time. You can try different shapes here. When did the shapes I use a lot is kind of we call it the shark fin shape. So kinda like this. Well, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Alright, so that's pretty much the LFO. And again the same, the LFO, you can control the amount modulation in that experiment with that tried different cutoff Field Settings. Residents setting increasing the drive, tried different filters. 9. 08 FX Section: Then we've got to just touch on lightly the effect section. This section is where you take the second row here and then you can distort it. Alright. Let me open up the filter a little more. Hyper dimension just makes it sound a lot more wider. Now, sashay, what is does is playing, it's making it play additional voices, kinda like unison mode, Mau Mau, Mau Mau, Mau, Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau Mau, Mau, Mau Mau. You can mix between the dry versus the additional voices are wider. Detune it, retrieve it just means to start because there's four multiplier for here. So it just makes sure that each multiplier place at the same time when you hit the key. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I can increase dimension size. It just increases that stereo weapon. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. What flamed your EQ is con, to you. Wow, wow, wow, wow. Again, I'm going through these real quick because again, this is a basic video. We'll dive deeper into effects in a future video. But for now, just experiment and try just exploring effects on your own. Wow, wow, wow, what a signal is distorting. So I should bring, you can bring them master level down. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Here's a cool trick. Before we end off, is that the last note that you can always be exported as a wave. So notice that the top left hand corner, there's this little icon here when you hover, if you drag over that, she explores the last note as a wave. So this is helpful if you want to save your Saturday, you'll want to put it in a sampler and play it as I've resampled note or samples. This is quite handy. Back to here. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Wow. That's some delay to this. That's something funky. Wow. You can change the order of these effects, which is handy to order. Definitely, definitely matters. Typically have any kind of distortion or EQ effects before to delay a reverb world. Just going to turn off the glide for now, just for a straight note every time I hit it, wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Okay. 10. 09 Recreating Classic D&B Sounds: That's pretty much it. Why don't I show you some basic drum and bass sounds just so we can tie this all together. And just as a refresher on everything we've learned. So what you can do is go to, let me just save this preset for you guys so you can have it. So I'll call this serum basics 01 now. And I'll initialize the present meaning it just started from default. Okay, again, so a race is simply a sawtooth like this with unison mode around six. And then Detune, spreads it. And then you could add some distortion. You could EQ at a bit if you want. Sometimes races have some glides so we can turn on the portmanteau. And then if you want a liquid, Reese is simply turning on the filter. I usually use 24 mode. You can use the EMG or this one doesn't matter. I might turn or reduce the distortion for liquid reason. And it just turned on the drive here. For liquid racist, you may want to reduce the unison mode depending on how you want it to sound. You may even change the slope of that filter for liquid Reece, right? Simply we're only using one oscillator for a liquid Reece. You're going to have a liquid wobble Raisa, apply LFO one and then just decrease the modulation. And I like to use triplets for wobbles. Just maybe make a little more subtle. So that's a race. I'll save this one as well. Basic Sarah in 0 to. Let's do a couple more just to get the concepts down for you guys. Initialize it. This time I'm going to use basic shapes, square, square. We can make a kind of a work or school board bass sound. So simply all it is is we'll turn on the filter, set the cutoff. He's 24. And we're gonna go into envelope to apply it, to cut off. And then apply attack. I might bring the sustain down, increase the resonance. Chris, the driver who walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk. Or I might have to sustain all the way up for the filter. One Silva experiment with it, cutoff frequency and the filter amount. There we go. Just kind of like a wobble. What base? We can add a bit of a delay if you want. Just make sure you filter it and remove the bottom end using this. Now it sounds like that that dread base. I'll save that as well. Basic serum 03. What else can we do? Well to what's called jump up wobbles or disable or remove envelope to simply apply Alpha-1 to cut off and just reduce the amount here. Turn off to delay. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We can list these triplets. Depends on your tastes and what speed you want it to. 1 eighth is also fine. Okay. That's the basic serum number four. What else can I show you? I'll do one more. Let's just initialize. Here's a really basic one. Basic shapes sine wave. Now sometimes you might hear a click that's because of the randomized mode is playing in the middle of the face because it's off the zero-point. You'll get a quick, easy way. You can just bring random all the way here. So there's no randomization. Always starts at the beginning at the 0. Or you can just add a bit of a fade using this attack. Ten to 15 milliseconds should do the job. Well. You can double-click and entered a number for each setting as opposed to dragging T naught. Okay, So here's a basic sense. We can add Alpha-1 to the volume of oscillator a and then just adjust the rate. So now you get that old school wobble base. You can experiment maybe some distortion. Make it faster. Okay, I'll save this basic sharon. One thing about the sign wobble. Here's another way to do it. Initialize it Back to this. Sinewave, use two oscillators, set them both to sinewave, and that de-tune it. So make this one minus negative $0.15. So fine tune or negative 20. So now they're phasing. Remember we talked about phasing as you does this manually detuning As opposed to using this knob to detune Purdue tuning like this. The more determines the faster the phasing. Right? We can make it really drastic. Negative 75. I always do it like this. Minus and plus, or you can do plus and minus so that the center note is still the same. Add a bit of, at the time, we're getting a bit of a click here. Cool way of doing it like this. As your higher notes will face faster and your lower notes will wobble but slower. So that gives you that old-school vibe. You can again turn up the distortion here. Or another way is you can just turn on the filter. Now, Ms. share a and B are set here, set the cutoff all the way up and increase the drive. We had to bring the master down. So that's just some basic sounds that you can use and learn from. Hopefully you guys picked up, send the techniques here, wanted to just keep it to the foundations here so you can have a good start to your adventures in sound design. Once again, my name is stranger and my mission is to help you unlock your own creativity and learn music production. And really, I want to make it as easy and accessible for anyone that wants to learn. So hopefully you were able to pick it up. Feel free to leave comments down in this description. And yeah, hopefully you enjoyed this quick session on serum until then. Stay creative. Piece out.