Synthesizers! Using Synthesis for Sound Design & Production

Using Ableton Live and Reason, we will learn how to craft sounds using any synthesizer to make our tracks amazing.
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Instructed by Jason Allen Music / Production
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  • Lectures 31
  • Length 3 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 11/2014 English

Course Description

This classes uses the same system I've used for years in my college courses for teaching sound design: Identify and master the 4 main pieces of any synthesizer, and you will be flying when you first approach any other unit in the future.

This system keeps the technical jargon to a minimum and gets you making your own sounds quick.

J. Anthony Allen is an Ableton Certified Trainer, and a PhD in Music Composition and master of Electronic Sounds. His music has been heard internationally in film, radio, video games, and industrial sound, as well as the concert hall and theater.

He currently as an adjunct professor of composition at the University of St. Thomas, Macphail Academy of Music, and the CEO of Slam Academy in Minneapolis.

Praise for other classes by J. Anthony Allen:

  • "Dr Allen does it again with his music theory for electronic musicians series. This course really opened up everything I learned from the 1st section and now I understand more about the composition side of things for music. I highly highly recommend this course to anyone!!! Really opened my eyes to many things I wasn't aware of."
  • "The Best Teacher ever, who makes you understand the ins & outs of Music Theory by all mean without giving what you don't want to know."
  • "I have never had any formal training in music at all. Trying to learn all the notes and how everything translated was a serious challenge. After going thru this class, Dr. J has totally brought down the barriers. The content was very useful and was easy to grasp for me."

What are the requirements?

  • This course uses both Reason and Ableton Live, but is designed to work on any software (or hardware) platform. So no matter what software you are using, this class will guide you through how to use your synthesizers.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Design amazing sounds using any synthesizer
  • Work in Reason to understand synthesis
  • Work in Ableton Live to understand synthesis
  • Create any sound you can imagine using whatever software is at your disposal

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is meant for anyone interested in making their own sounds to enhance their productions.
  • This course does not go into complex terminology about synthesis, so it is ideal for students just starting out (or needing a refresher) in synthesis and sound design.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction to Sound Design & Synthesis

Welcome to Sound Design Fundamentals: Synthesis! In this introductory video we will talk about the class, what we will cover, and how we will cover it.


In this class we will use a few different synthesizers (Subtractor in Reason, Analog and Operator in Ableton Live), to show how you can find all the key elements of any synthesizer, once you understand the main principals of synthesis.


For this class we will focus on 2 main types of synthesis: Subtractive and FM synthesis. What that means and why will be covered in this video.


This is it! The main key to understanding all virtual and physical synthesizers. Learn these four elements and you will be able to find your way through any kind of synthesizer and synthesis.

Section 2: Fundamentals of Subtractive Synthesis

The Subtractor is a great synth for teaching subtractive synthesis. Finding our four key elements is fairly simple, and the signal flow is easy to follow. For this first section, we will use Subtractor as our main tool for creating sounds with subtractive synthesis.


The oscillator is the main tone-generator for synthesis. It is one of the most important elements in any synthesizer. In this section, we will look at how Oscillators work, what they do, and what parameters they have for us to understand when crafting our own sounds.


In subtractive synthesis, the filter is essential. In other kinds of synthesis (as we will see later in this class) filters are always present. Understanding key elements to a filter will help you sculpt the sounds you really want to design.


The envelope is the "shape" of a sound. How it begins, how it ends, and what happens in between. Envelopes are essential for creating dynamic, expressive sounds.


Sometimes the amplifier is the most simple of our main four elements. In the case of Reason, it is just a volume knob. But there are some extra parameters you will find in other synths that are important to know about.


Now that we know the main ingredients to a synthesizer, lets start designing some sounds from scratch, but putting everything together in this video.


Just to prove my theory that understanding these four elements can get you through all kinds of different software synthesizers, here we will switch over to Ableton Live's Analog synthesizer and apply these concepts.

Section 3: The Other Elements: LFO, Modulations, and Other Key Elements

The LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) is another element we find in nearly all synthesizers. It is a great tool to add motion and texture to your sound.


Portamento (sometimes called Glide) is how long it takes from one note to glide up to the next. Adjusting it can add a new layer to your sounds.


The trigger modes of a synthesizer govern how the envelope is applied when you play a group of notes. Knowing the settings for it will help you craft a sound for better melodies and basslines.


In this section, we will look at some of the modulation possibilities using the velocity of our keyboard, or the velocty parameter in your software.

Section 4: Deconstruction, Part 1

In this video, we will take a preset in the Subtractor in Reason and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.


In this video, we will take a preset in the Analog in Ableton Live and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.

Section 5: FM Synthesis

FM Synthesis (Frequency Modulation) is a different kind of synthesis that we have looked at so far, but a lot of the same elements still work. Learning how FM works now that we understand subtrative synthesis gives us a huge headstart.


The Operator in Ableton Live is a complex synthesizer, capable of a lot of different kinds of synthesis. In this video we will take an overview look at the interface and how it works.


Making sounds using FM isn't that hard now that we understand the basic principals. In this video we will use the Operator in Ableton Live to construct some FM synthesis sounds.


We will have the possiblitiy of adding an LFO, velocty control, and other kinds of modulation to our sounds. Here we look at how to add them and their effects in FM Synthesis.

Section 6: Deconstruction, Part 2

In this video, we will take a preset in the Operator in Ableton Live and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.


In this video, we will take a preset in the Operator in Ableton Live and pick it apart. We will walk through what makes it tick, and how slight adjustments can have big effects.

Section 7: Wrap Up!

The sequal to this class will focus on sampling - creating dynamic synthesizer sounds using samples, and looking at drum sounds as well.


Thanks for watching! Hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to leave questions here for me and I'll get to them as fast as I can!

Section 8: Bonus Videos: Ableton Live's Analog Instrument

A few notes about how we will be approaching the Analog Instrument.


First, we will walk through the basic outline and signal flow of Analog, paying special attention to our "4 Key Elements."


Now its time to get down and dirty: In this lesson we will program our own sounds, and explore some of the parameters in Analog.


A few extra features available to us in Analog, that we will also find in most of Ableton's Instruments.


Here is one more synth for us to look at - just for fun. Live's Impulse Synth.


There is so much more to learn!

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Instructor Biography

Jason Allen, Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer

J. Anthony Allen has worn the hats of composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, sound designer, DJ, remix artist, multi-media artist, performer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Allen is a versatile creator whose diverse project experience ranges from works written for the Minnesota Orchestra to pieces developed for film, TV, and radio. An innovator in the field of electronic performance, Allen performs on a set of “glove” controllers, which he has designed, built, and programmed by himself. When he’s not working as a solo artist, Allen is a serial collaborator. His primary collaborative vehicle is the group Ballet Mech, for which Allen is one of three producers.

J. Anthony Allen teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN., and is an Ableton Live Certified Trainer. He is a co-founder and owner of Slam Academy, a multimedia educational space in downtown Minneapolis. Recently, Allen founded Hackademica – an innovative net-label for new music.

J. has a PhD in music composition, 2 Master’s degrees in music composition and electronic music, and a bachelors degree in guitar performance. Through his academic travels, Dr. Allen has received numerous awards along the way.

If you run into him on the street, he prefers to be addressed as J. (as in, Jay.)

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