Ableton Operator and AMS Files

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Eagle eyed Ableton users will have noticed an option called Export AMS in Ableton’s Operator synth. Read more to find out how I discovered this feature and the sound design possibilities it offers.

Credits

I had never used AMS files until after listening to Brian Funk’s podcast featuring Francis Prève. Listening to the discussion on these files piqued my interest, so I decided to check it out.

It’s well worth having a listen to episode #98 where Francis and Brian talk about AMS files. In short, they provide the option to export user designed waveform meta data from Operator, which can be used in other instruments such as Simpler or Sampler. I will refer to Sampler for the rest of the post but you could use Simpler if you prefer.


Ingredients

  • Instruments

    Operator

    Sampler


Method

Operator AMS.gif

Creating the AMS File

1. Open a new Ableton Live set, create a MIDI track and drop in Operator

2. Click on the oscillator option and draw in a user designed waveform, adding harmonics to create your own sound (a type of synthesis known as Additive Synthesis, check out Francis Prève’s explanation covering this here).

3. Right click on the Waveform Editor and select the Export AMS option.

4. A file containing meta data on the waveform is saved to User Library/Samples/Waveforms. Rename the file to something meaningful

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AMS files are text based so presumably these could be handcrafted. For those familiar with some form of programming, it could be taken a step further by writing an app with a function(s) that randomly generate AMS files for you.

A kind of additive synthesis AMS lottery app?!

If you’re curious, the contents of the file can be viewed using a text editor and could look something like this:

 
 
 
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Dropping the AMS File Into Sampler

1. The AMS file is now available and can be put to use in Sampler

2. Create a new MIDI track and drop in Sampler

3. Drag and drop the AMS file on to Sampler

4. Expand the Zone editor and resize the range of values to make sure all notes can trigger the sample

5. From here, features within Sampler may be used to further evolve the user designed waveform

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Create and Drop Another AMS file into the Sampler

1. Create a MIDI track and drop in Operator

2. Draw in a user designed waveform

3. Right click Waveform Editor and you’ll find the Export AMS option. Select this option

4. Another file containing meta data on the wave form is saved to User Library/Samples/Waveforms. Rename it to something meaningful

5. Drag and drop the AMS file on to Sampler

6. Remember to expand the Zone editor and resize the range of values to make sure all notes can trigger the sample

7. Again, use features from within Sampler to further evolve the user designed waveform

 
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To create a more complex sound and add more layers, repeat the process and add in more AMS files into the Sampler

 
 

Below is the result of working through the above steps:


What Next

Operator is full of possibilities and it goes really deep. Work through the steps above to create sounds of your own which can be developed further in Sampler. Maybe add some MIDI devices and effects to see where it takes your creations. I’ve only scratched the surface here and will certainly be spending some more time using AMS files.

On another note, I’ve recently been tempted to buy some new gear. Since finding Francis Prève’s blog and tutorials, I can safely say that any purchase has been temporarily put on hold while I explore all the things I’m yet to discover with Operator.

Take a listen to ‘Rainy City Walk’ to see what I mean (all sounds were created by Francis using just Operator - this blew me away and is so inspiring!):

Rainy City Walk (by Francis Prève)

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