Creative Sound Design with Ableton Live’s Resonators and bcResonCtrl

February 23, 2020 0 By Bernardo Ryan

This video is part of an ongoing series exploring unique MaxForLive devices and some creative ways you can use them in your music-making. If you’re not sure what MaxForLive is, check out my video ‘What Is MaxForLive… And Why Aren’t You Using It Yet!?’ I’ll link to that in the description. The sounds you’re hearing are made with Ableton Live’s Resonators Let’s see how… Resonators is one of Ableton Live’s more esoteric devices, but it can be a really unique tool for creative sound design. Essentially Resonators responds to the volume envelope of whatever you send through it and generates tonal resonances based on the input. Let’s listen to what that sounds like… I’ll start with a dry percussive loop, and
slowly add the Resonators… You can set the Root Note that the Resonators
generate… And add additional notes above the fundamental… The Resonators have 2 modes that resonate in different ways and you can adjust the Decay and Color of the resonances… The device itself is really simple, but
the unique character comes from the different kinds of material that you send through it. Let’s try a few different loops… While this leaves us with a ton of really
cool opportunities for unique sound design, there’s one major restriction with the Resonators; the fact that you’re stuck with a single static note or chord. Sure, you could automate the Note and Pitch values, but it’s really fiddly and isn’t a very intuitive way of creating melodies and chord progressions. It’d be much more useful if there was a
way to control the notes of the Resonators using conventional MIDI Note input… This is where the free MaxForLive device bcResonCtrl
enters the picture. Here I have a MIDI Track set up with a simple
chord progression… At the moment, this is playing a regular synth
sound using Ableton’s Operator. I’ll replace the Operator with bcResonCtrl… From within the bcResonCtrl device I need to select the Track that has the Resonators device on it. Next, I’ll select the Resonators device
I want to control. Before we hear to the result, I’ll jump
back to the Resonators Track… …and you’ll notice that the Note and Pitch values are greyed out. They’re now being controlled by the bcResonCtrl device. Let’s play the MIDI notes and hear what it
sounds like… So the pitch of the Resonators is being controlled by our MIDI notes. The lowest note in the chords will be mapped to the root pitch and each note above that will add a corresponding pitch interval on the Resonators. This immediately makes the Resonators a much more exciting device for creative sound design. From here, all that’s left to do is explore
different kinds of input material. Due to the way the Resonators work, the most interesting material tends to be things with a distinct rhythmic profile. Drums and percussion obviously work really well for this… Percussive field recordings also work quite well. One particularly fun thing to do is take an entire batch of recordings like we have here, and use Follow Actions to randomly jump between different sections of the Clips. If you’re not sure what Follow Actions are
I’ll include a link in the description to where you can learn more about them. I’ll set the Clips to Legato mode… Let’s try a Quantisation value of 1/2 a
bar… And I’ll use the Any Follow Action, triggering every 2 beats… Now we have a constant chord pattern with a continually evolving rhythmic and textural feel, which forms a great basis for a sound
design focused electronica track… bcResonCtrl is available to download for free from developer bugCompass’s Selz page I’ll include a link in the description. You can also include an optional donation, which, if you can afford it always goes a long way to helping developers keep making and improving great devices like this.