You’ve seen the splashy “sound just like –” headlines in various music magazines. But imitation is, after all, an essential form of musical development. Something magical happens as you try to imitate something – you begin to hear it differently. Sometimes you wind up nailing something exactly, and in the process discover how you might make your own, unique sounds. And sometimes, the process of translation falls apart, and instead of an imitation you go somewhere else altogether. But I do think you learn something by imitating, however successful you may be. You also often gain new appreciation for the track.

By popular demand, our friend and Live performance guru Gustavo Bravetti has unveiled the secrets behind a sound in his own performances, reminiscent of a tune that’s well-loved in certain circles:

How to program a “M.A.N.D.Y vs Booka Shade – Body Language” like sound, on Ableton Live’s Operator.

Note that I’m using Live8’s Operator. Fortunately all used parameters are backward compatible, so you can perform it on Live7’s Operator, and it will sound the same.

As Gustavo points out in comments, this is all about using a simple example as a window into learning Operator. And just as you might learn to solo on the piano from listening to Horace Silver over and over again, this can be a great way to sharpen your ear and learn more about synthesis.

I really happen to love the sounds from these artists and the Gustavian twist in this variation. I’m also struck, as I was when it came out, by the extent to which Ableton’s Operator is economical in its layout and synth parameters. I have other go-to soft synths, but I think Operator is remarkably fast to program – a testament to Robert Henke and the early Operator prototypes in Max/MSP.

Hope this is useful to your synth programming. Gustavo, keep them coming.

Gustavo Bravetti Blog [in Spanish]