As Live 10’s new flagship virtual synthesizer, Wavetable packs an impressive array of features into an elegant package – but for those unfamiliar with the fundamentals of wavetable synthesis, it may seem daunting. Take comfort in the fact that Wavetable’s routing largely mirrors that of a typical subtractive synthesizer: a pair of oscillators fed through a pair of multimode filters, all of which can be controlled by three envelopes and a pair of LFOs.
Where wavetable synthesis in general, and Wavetable specifically, diverges from subtractive synthesis is at the oscillator level. Rather than be restricted to a handful of linear, “one-dimensional” waveforms – your standard sine, sawtooth, pulse, etc. – wavetable oscillators combine a variety of adjacent waveforms on a two-dimensional plane: a wavetable.
This allows you to smoothly scroll or morph through multiple – often unconventional – waveforms, fundamentally transforming the timbre of your sound directly at the oscillator level before any filters are applied.
While you could easily just select a timbre via the Wavetable Position slider to find a core tone and leave it at that, wavetable synthesis really shines when modulating the Wavetable Position in order to create dynamically shifting tones. Thankfully, Live’s Wavetable has a highly flexible and intuitive modulation matrix to make mapping easy.
First, let’s explore one of the Wavetable oscillators a bit more thoroughly. Two drop-down menus above left of each oscillator provide, on the left, a selection of wavetable collections, and on the right, the wavetables available within the selected collection. Collections such as Complex, Distortion, or Noise provide grittier tones, while Retro and Vintage, for example, provide more classic analog vibes.
Beneath the Osc activation toggle is a Pan amount and oscillator Volume slider, which vertically scrolls through the waveforms included in the selected wavetable via interpolation. To the right of the wavetable display is the crucial Wavetable Position slider. Below and to the right of each wavetable are Semitone tuning and Detuning in cents.
Without memorizing it’s hard to know exactly what each wavetable will sound like in advance, so it’s a good idea to explore them and experiment – both in general and in context. Since all the oscillator modes are visualized, real-time, in the waveform display, Wavetable can be a powerful educational tool, clearly showing how oscillators are manipulated while listening to the results.
Further expanding core tonal possibilities are the dedicated oscillator effects. Below left of the wavetable display is the oscillator effect drop-down, providing three options, each with two freelance parameters – both of which are available for modulation.
The first Oscillator effect is FM, with Tuning and Amount controls to add harmonic complexity. Classic provides vintage Pulse Width modulation and Hard Sync for higher order harmonics. Finally, Modern mode’s Warp and Fold skew the wavetable and bend it in on itself for severe transformations.
To create a classic morphing Wavetable pad, I’ll play a simple minor chord on a 4-bar loop. Revealing the fullscreen Wavetable interface via the reveal toggle to the right of the device activator, I’ve chosen the Void wavetable from the Complex collection.
To thicken things up, I’ve engaged the Sub oscillator at the upper left of the fullscreen display, placed it at the same octave as input, dropped the gain to -13 dB, and modulated its Tone control via LFO 2. Finally, I’ll select the Noise Unison mode in the Global settings at the far right of the device view, with voices set to 4 and amount at 52%.
PRO-TIP: Try adjusting the Global Time and Amount controls, located bottom right of the modulation matrix, to speed up or slow down and increase or reduce the degree of all modulations simultaneously. Wavetable’s six Unison modes can also add a lot of character – and CPU drain too, so use with caution.
While the multimode filters can be assigned to a number of circuit models and configured in serial, parallel, or per-oscillator, I’ve fully disengaged them both to emphasize the fact that incredibly rich and dynamic tones are easily achievable in Wavetable without any filtration at all. Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t use Wavetable’s filter, as it sounds fantastic and can be easily modulated as well – but by showing what’s possible without it, perhaps you will feel inspired to explore the unique possibilities Wavetable has to offer.