Creating Beautiful Granular Leads With Ableton Live

We show you how to make beautiful granular lead sounds in Ableton Live.


What does Granular mean?

Granular processing is the action of breaking down audio into the smallest (often millisecond) segments and playing them back at varying speeds! It's found its way from being a niche part of left-field, abstract music and on to more mainstream electronic music productions. From Music Concrete to Future Bass! 


A really effective and successful use of granulator processing can be founds on Flume's Grammy nominated 'Hi this is Flume (Mixtape)'


Ableton FX

Ableton Live Suite has really embraced the use of granular processing in recent years. Max For Live extensions 'Granulator 2' and 'PitchLoop89' are super powerful and easy to use engines for granulating audio and creating new lead lines and FX. The clip below from our 'Creating the Sounds of FKA Twigs' series dives in using PitchLoop89:



As we can hear, when using a sample with a strong attack sound (like a Kalimba or clap sound), we can really stretch out the texture of the initial hit, as well as the music tone. PitchLoop89 has simple parameters to control the number and range of slices we're playing from the input audio, and even the playback direction!



Granulator 2 is similar in function, but with some differences. PitchLoop89 is in essence a pitched delay unit (based on the 'Publison DHM 89', where as Granulator 2 is more focused around the scanning through of a preloaded audio file for more exact processing, and approached more as a looper. 



Creating a Lead line

As shown in the clip, we can use Granular Processing to write some beautiful, ethereal and uniques sounding lead lines (as well as pads, melodies and even experimental percussion!)

Following up an instance of a Granular sound with some delay, reverb, or (in the case above) frequency shifting we can expand on certain characteristics of our newly created sound palette! 'Rings', a preset within Ableton own Frequency Shifter, can be used to generate stronger tone and a chosen frequency, as well as adding LFO to the tone and drive.



Watch the full 'Creating the Sounds of FKA Twigs video here!