Ableton Operator Talking Yoy Bass Tutorial

In this Ableton Operator Talking Yoy Bass Tutorial, I hope you’ll see how easy it can be to create this sound with virtually no processing!

The talking YOY bass is one of the signature bass sounds found in a lot of dubstep and glitch hop, as well as some electro and drum and bass.

Making this style bass can easily be achieved using FM synthesis. For this tutorial we will be using Ableton Operator, but you can just as easily make this sound if you have FM8 instead.

To begin with, load up a new instance of Operator into a new midi track.  By default, Operator is set to the FM synthesis algorithm, which looks like four different coloured boxes stacked on top of each other in the global shell (bottom right corner of Operator)

FM algorithm

This means that the only sound that will come out from the four oscillators A, B, C and D will be the sound of A. Oscillator B will not be heard (neither will C or D), but B will modulate the frequency of oscillator A. In turn C will modulate B and D will modulate C.

Also by default, oscillators A, B, C and D will be set to sine waves, and that is perfect for creating this YOY bass sound.


Next, click on the device title bar of Operator and press cmd G on a Mac or ctrl G if you are on a Windows OS. This will place your instance of Operator into its own instrument rack, which will allow us to map different parameters to the macros of the instrument rack.

Next, click on map mode and map the level of oscillator B to Macro 1.

map osc B to macro 1

In the Macro Mappings section in the top left corner of Ableton, you will see that the minimum value of oscillator B’s output level is set to –inf dB. You need to adjust this to -6 dB.

macro mapping osc b level

Once you’ve done that, click out of map mode in the instrument rack. You can experiment with Macro 1 to see how it changes the sound when you play a note. You can hear how the intensity of the sound increases with the level of oscillator B increasing, but it doesn’t have enough bite to it yet – it is lacking in the high end.

To give it more high-end ‘bite’ and grit, we need to increase the level of oscillators C and D. This will depend on your personal taste, but for me, I found that a setting of -17 dB for osc C and 0 dB for osc D works well.

The next thing to do is to bring up the course tuning of oscillator D. I found that it sounded best to my ears at a value of 38. Here are the settings I used:

oscillator settings

Now, if you play a note while moving Macro 1 you should hear a lot more of a formant style sound with a lot of high-end grit to it.


Using The LFO To Make Your Bass Wobble

To get that automated movement we need to activate the LFO.  Activate the LFO On/Off switch. The box will turn orange. Next, bring the LFO amount up to 100% and change the rate to sync using the drop down menu.

LFO settings

By default, your LFO is set to oscillate the frequencies of oscillators A,B, C and D, making them change pitch over time. This is not what we want. To change this, turn off the LFO to Osc A, B, C and D buttons in the operator display in destination A.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 3.41.55 PM


We also want to change the routing of destination B so that the LFO affects the volume of oscillator B. You can do this in the drop down menu.

osc B drop down menu


So the LFO settings in the Operator display should now look like this:

LFO routing settings

Now, when you play a note you should have that signature YOY bass sound. You can adjust Macro 1 to increase the intensity of the sound as you play the notes.

The next step is to map the sync rate of the LFO to Macro 2, so that you can control it easily when we layer up this synth to make a thicker sound.


How To Make a Talking Yoy Bass In Ableton Operator Tutorial

Layering Your YOY Bass Synth For A Thicker Sound

Once you have mapped the sync rate of the LFO to Macro 2, it’s time to duplicate your synth and make some adjustments to get a much thicker and fuller overall sound.

First, click on the Show/Hide chain list button on the far left of your instrument rack.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 3.49.34 PM

Select your operator and press cmd D (duplicate) on a Mac or ctrl D on a PC. Next, rename your new instance of Operator in the chain list to something like ‘high yoy bass’.

high yoy bass

Next, let’s take a look at this new instance of Operator. There are two simple things we need to do here to get a thicker sound:

  1. In the pitch shell, bring the transpose up to +12 semitones
  2. Bring the spread up to about 40%

pitch shell

Because we duplicated the device after setting the mappings to Macros 1 and 2, the macros will control the LFO rate and the oscillator B volume on both instances of Operator, and we have a much thicker sound now.

As a final step, you might want to reduce the level of the high yoy bass instance to about 08 dB, so that the lower bass is heard more clearly and the sound has more power overall.

Now you can start processing your bass with different effects plugins to further shape the sound. One thing that you might want to do first off is drag an EQ plugin into the instrument rack, so that it appears immediately to the right of the high yoy bass. This is to roll off a lot of the low end information in the high yoy bass, which will make more room for just the lower bass to come through in the lower frequencies, and will reduce blurring of your sound. You can solo the high yoy bass in the chain list to dial in the low cut frequency more accurately.


To add a bit more grit and dirt to your sound, you may want to drop a redux plugin outside of the instrument rack, change the mode to soft and set the downsample to something subtle like 2.8.

redux settings for yoy bass

After this stage comes the usual EQ, compressing and possibly limiting and reverb that you would expect to use when mixing most other bass tracks. But mixing bass is quite a large topic so I will save that for another blog post coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

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