Bitwig’s innovative modulator system has earned a great deal of attention, with good reason: highly flexible and seemingly comprehensive, it opens vast possibilities to beginners and power users alike. So it comes as little surprise that Ableton revamped their modulation tools with Live 10, including a fresh LFO, loopable ADSR and clever Envelope Follower as part of their integrated Max for Live offering.
Arguably the most versatile of the bunch, the new LFO device allows for cyclic modulation of any parameter; in fact, you can now modulate up to eight parameters with a single LFO instance by clicking the list icon in its upper right corner, a powerful new feature. Another notable refresh is the inclusion of range constraints: no longer confined to a global Depth dial – which still works as an overall “amount” control – each parameter assigned can be modulated within a different minimum and maximum range; these can also be inverted for opposite directionality, piggybacking divergent modulations onto a single curve.
Jitter humanizes regular waveforms and Smoothing eases stiff ones, while Phase and Offset fine tune time alignment. A performance-oriented Hold toggle maintains the current setting until released, while the R button re-triggers the waveform manually in free Rate modes. Sync-able waveforms come in the standard complement of Sine, Ramp Up, Ramp Down, Triangle, Square, Random, and Bins. Try assigning a second LFO to the rate of the first for intricately modulated oscillations.
The Envelope device provides a standard four-stage Envelope measured in milliseconds with Bezier curve shaping for each segment. Deactivating the Sustain stage turns it into a simple curve; turn one of the looping modes on and you’ve got yourself a sort of customized LFO shape. Free playback re-triggers the envelope with each incoming MIDI note, while Sync and Loop modes repeat the available stages – either at synchronized musical intervals, or at the summed duration of the segmented stage times in Loop mode. The Time parameter multiplies the total for rapid-fire at smaller settings up to quadruple the total length.
Rogue ADSR for hire
Echo mode repeats the Envelope cycle at a millisecond delay rate, with adjustable Feedback available as needed. A global Amount can be tied to incoming Velocity via a corresponding toggle, while range constraints for each of the eight possible parameter assignments allow for intricate manipulation. For those in need of extra envelope sources or disappointed that Wavetable’s modulation envelopes don’t loop, this handy modulator should be a welcome tool.
Adapting the dynamic incoming shape of any audio signal to modulate up to eight parameters, constrained as needed, opens up new horizons of sonic interactivity between elements of a track.
Gain can shut the follower off entirely or increase the average output, inflating assigned parameters up to their relative maximum. Rise and Fall soften the upward and downward curves respectively, while a synchronizable delay time helpfully offsets the timing in order to stagger a resulting modulation from its source. More interesting synchronized delay times would be welcome (along with a multiplication factor for polyrhythmic modulation) – though millisecond delay values work in a pinch. Overall, the Delay feature proves an essential component, offering a new twist to the concept of parameter sidechaining.
Envelope Follower with a kick drum as input, controlling the filter frequency of an Analog instance on a different track with an eighth-note offset
While this powerful trio might not constitute a full replacement for Bitwig’s 40-plus collection of dedicated modulation devices, they do provide the services of more than just three of them. With multiple parameters assignable for each instance, negligible resource demands and intuitive interface design, any Live user with a healthy curiosity for sound design should get plenty of mileage out of these three indispensable devices.