If you still don’t know your LFO from your amplitude envelope from your square oscillator – or you’re trying to answer this for someone else – Ableton have made everything visual and playable and sonic, in a browser, for free.
Ableton’s educational tools have been uniquely popular among users, even those not using Ableton Live. And “Learning Synths” doesn’t make even the slightest passing reference to Ableton’s hardware and software products, though you will see their recent signature graphic style.
Instead, you get playful graphics and simple, clear explanations, and little in-browser toys you can play with. True to the company’s German roots, it all feels like stylish design in the nation of Bauhaus – for kids or adults. It’s a great reminder that playing synths is play – and can be friendly to total beginners, too.
It’s enough fun to mess around with that you’ll probably enjoy paging through this, and the finishing playground, even if you do know what you’re doing. If you don’t, it starts at absolute zero, holding your hands from step one – so now is the time to brush up.
You’ll get only those basics, but for oscillators, amplitude envelope, and modulation, it covers the nuts and bolts. And it should be inspiration to anyone hoping to make educational materials for more.
By the way, this is doubly relevant as toolchains for plug-ins begin to support Web development, too. It means we may soon see learning as an interactive process that happens on phones, tablets, and computers, rather than the painful method of having a PDF in one window and tabbing back to a computer screen. But it’s also important that Ableton recognize that teaching some concepts is best done without the usual chrome and knobs and widgets of the interface you use day to day. I expect we’ll see education evolve in both lines. It’s time for the interactive Web to replace the static PDF.
And personally, while this may seem basic, I never tire of returning to thinking about the basics, both as a musician and as a teacher. I think it always refreshes the brain.
Now, if someone can just teach us all to mix better… ahem. (I know that’s the question people constantly ask me.)