Of course there is only so much you can show in a blog, in my online Ableton Course, I give a step by step guide into how to use every parameter in Operator as well as practical examples of sound design and shaping sounds. But, I will do my best for you here to get you going!
So what is FM synthesis ?
To understand Operator you have to understand FM synthesis. I am going to break it down, but these images will also help.
There is much math in how this works, but the main thing you need to know is that you have one oscillator that wobbles (modulates) another oscillator’s pitch, and what happens is that is wobbles it so fast that it’s out of the range of human hearing (20 to 20,000 hertz) so we do not hear the wobble.
So, FM (Frequency modulation) synthesis means: one oscillator modulates another oscillator so fast that it changes the pitch and tone of the sound so that we don’t hear the modulation itself.
The volume of the oscillator ,fine tuning which operates in cents which is really hundredths of a semi tone and you have coarse tuning. this changes the pitch but not in the same way as semi tones.
Typically by default, we start with a sine wave to begin shaping our sound. There are multiple waveforms to choose from the drop down menu and four oscillators to utilize.
The differences between the waves are the ‘fundamentals’ A sine only has one pure fundamental, a saw 3 only has 3 fundamentals for example. if you want a brighter saw, you’d go for a saw 64 which has 64 fundamentals.
There is also a user option where you get to create your own waveforms, combining them. let’s say a saw with a square, giving you endless new and exciting sounds. This can then be exported as AMS (Ableton Meta Sound) files into devices such as sampler. These 3 little buttons on the side are useful as you can micro edit those harmonics/Bands just by switching the view.
Another thing we can do that’s great is we can copy Oscillator 'D' to 'C' or we can copy envelopes or we can make all the Oscillators the same
Click on the square on the left of this box to view the envelope page, click on the square on the right you will see the oscillator page (pertains to each oscillator A.B.C.D).
We have the usual suspects, Attack, decay, sustain, release but you also have an ‘Initial’ parameter which is not available to us in the analog device. So you can reverse your starting point.
Loop: The envelope re triggers at the end of the decay phase. Used in Milliseconds.
Beat: The envelope loops in time but it un-quantized. Used in sub divisions of time.
Sync: The envelope loops in time but it IS quantized. Used in sub divisions of time.
Trigger: The note ‘offs’ are ignored and have no effect on the length of the sound (ideal for drums) Great for creating movement.
The feedback Parameter
In this example. This is only avail on one Oscillator, Oscillator ‘D’. The feedback parameter can actually modulate it self. Make sure you turn the volume high on the level parameter on Oscillator ‘D’ to hear the differences.