How To Program A Bass Sound In Ableton’s Operator

Operator may not be the first synth you would consider for bass in Ableton Live (usually that’s reserve for the much fatter “Analog”). However, with minimal tweaking, you can program your own, smooth bass sounds in a matter of minutes.

Operator…I’m Looking for an Oscillator…

Operator’s 4 oscillators make it easy to sculpt straight forward bass sounds. Even loading up a copy of Operator (with it’s default Sine wave on OSC1 enabled) and playing a few notes in the C0 – C1 range can shake the house.

Ableton Live's Operator has 4 customizable Oscillators

Operator’s 4 customizable Oscillators to help sculpt your bass sounds.

However, you probably want a better starting point for your bass sounds, here is how.

Step 1.) – Drop a copy of Operator onto a new MIDI track.

Step 2.) – Bass sounds usually require mono phony (only one note triggered at a time. Do this by clicking on the “Global Shell” (1) section and in the middle panel (2) change the voice count to 1.

Changing Operator's default voice count from 6 to 1

Bass sounds are usually Monophonic. Be sure to change the voice count from 6 to 1 in the “Global Shell”.

Step 3.) – Next, click on the Oscillator #2 panel (1) and bring the level knob up to about -8.0dB and the coarse knob up to 2. Make sure to activate this oscillator by clicking on the “B” on the right side.

On Oscillator #2, bring up the level knob to -8.0dB and the coarse knob up to 2

Under Oscillator 2 bring the dB up to -8.0dB and the coarse knob up to 2

Step 4.) – With Oscillator #2 still selected, locate the middle panel and change the “Sustain” level (1) to about -20dB and the wave type (2) to Sq3.

Showing the location of sustain and wave type in Operator's middle panel

Operator’s “Sustain” and “Wave” settings.

Step 5.) – Click right above Oscillator #2 to select Oscillator #3. Repeat steps 3 and 4, only this time change Oscillator #3’s level knob to -10dB and under wave type select “Sq16”. Again, be sure to activate Oscillator #3 by clicking the “C” on the right side of it.

Operator's settings for Oscillator 3

The settings for Operator’s Oscillator #3

Step 6.) – Last, we are going to locate Operator’s “Filter” section (1) and bring the frequency knob to around 400. This helps smooth off some of the highs, allowing the bass to occupy only the lower frequency range. Don’t forget to click on the small square to the left and activate it (it will turn orange when activated).

Showing the location of Operator's Filter section

Cutting the highs with Operator’s filter section helps carve a sonic spot for our bass (400Hz and below).