Max for Live plugins are something I typically try to avoid, mainly because they add a certain degree of instability to my projects. M4L has quite the reputation of crashing Live sets now and then. That being said, there are a few gems out there that are impossible to resist – and Granulator II is definitely one of them.
I’m not even going to hide the fact that I have been abusing the fuck out of this plugin lately. It provides an endless palette of interesting sounds – from lush evolving pads to twisted groaning basses. There’s really no limit to the type of sound you can get. You can chuck whatever you want into this thing and you’re pretty much guaranteed to yield something interesting and usable from it. For the album I’m currently working on I’ve been doing TONS of experimentation with this plugin, and I want to briefly cover some of the things I have tried that ended up being successful.
Full Render Granulation:
One of my first successful implementations of Granulator came about when I was looking for an interesting way to create fill effects in a drum and bass track I was working on. I wanted something with a very similar timbre to the rest of the song, but it needed it’s own unique pitch and movement. Instead of trying to piece together existing sounds in a different way or pulling in new samples altogether, I figured it might be interesting to do a full render of the track as it was and then throw that into granulator. It ended up sounding fucking insane:
Great, so let’s jump into the process behind this sound a bit!
First of all, what you are hearing in that clip is just a few cuts of a VERY long audio clip. When I use this plugin, I approach it very differently than I do synthesis or resampling – the key is to capture tons of audio while you play with the settings in real time. To do this, I just set up a resampling track and record myself playing notes and automating shit. These are some of the knobs I find myself toying with the most:
Grain – This changes the grain size and subsequently effects the pitch of the sound. Automating this can create interesting twists and bends, but it has kind of an obvious sound. I find that this one is cool to change when you have the “Scan” panel engaged which we’ll get into later. Having a very large grain size can also create more of a sampler effect, which can be useful if you want to use some of the other effects in Granulator without giving it that telltale granulized timbre.
File Position – This knob is useful not only for determining your location within a sample, but also for creating glitch effects when scrubbing in real time. I find myself playing with different octaves and fiddling with the position – sometimes you land on a sweet spot where you can try cool things, other times just the act of looking for something interesting creates crazy glitches and ambiences.
Scan – This guy is one of the most powerful aspects of Granulator in my opinion. It provides a much more effective way of automating the file position by automatically scrubbing through the sample when you hold down a key. What’s cool about it though is that you can change the speed at which it scans at in real time, and even add a curved envelope to the time function with the “curve” knob. If you find a really nice bass section in your render, or even just toss in a bass sample, you can get incredible movements and textures by automating the time and curve knobs.
Spray – This one adds randomness to your grains which can create interesting delay effects. Spray can get messy, but I find this effect especially useful when creating pads, as the randomized grains create really nice textures when smeared out with reverb.
By playing with these specific parts of the plugin, getting good results is a very quick process. If you load entire tracks into Granulator, you’ll have an immense number of sounds at your fingertips, and that makes creating new sounds or getting new ideas simple and fun. I find that this technique is very effective to aide composition because it allows me to bring a huge array of different sounds that fit sonically with the rest of the content. That being said, I find myself spending a lot of time granulizing a lot of random individual samples as well. Basses, foley, vocals – anything really, it can all be completely transformed into unique and inspiring sounds.
Granulator II is available for free from Ableton’s site: Download Now