Although you might question why I would want to do this in the first place - I have been curious as to how to recreate that 'trancey' chordal stab sound as epitomized by the lead riff in LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem.

I have Ableton Live and from what I have researched so far it sounds like the core components are two or more sawtooth oscillators both slightly detuned. It sounds like historically this sound first crept in with the Roland JP-8080 which apparently used seven detuned sawtooth oscillators.

I am trying to avoid presets so my choices in Ableton are Operator or Analog. I got pretty close using Operator except there is no detune, so instead I varied the 'pitch' - is there a technical reason why Operator doesn't have detune or is changing the pitch an equivalent method to detuning? If I use Analog I get a detune option but only two oscillators..is the equivalent workaround to just have multiple tracks set to Analog?

If anyone can throw some light on the subject that would be great - or if anyone has had experience in creating this sound without presets in Ableton..



3 Answers 3


Operator and Analog are two very different synths, both using different synthesis techniques. The Operator uses FM(Frequency Modulation) synthesis while Analog uses subtractive synthesis. The JP-8080 super saw is seven detuned sawtooth waves so FM synthesis isn't the way to emulate that.

Each instance of Analog only has two oscillators so you will need 4 instances of Analog to get 7 saws. You don't need to have multiple tracks to layer synths. You'll want to use an instrument rack. Easiest way is to select the synth and group it. Then just expose the rack(second button from the top left on my image) and select the first chain and duplicate it(right-click). You can then go ahead and detune those new oscillators. I choose not to use the filter section in Analog because it needs some additional setup to link the filter cutoffs together. Its easier to drop and EQ Eight after the rack(not inside the rack as that would only end up on one chain) to manipulate the summed output of the instrument rack. I've roughed out a basic starting point in the image below so that you can take a look. Watch out for the levels of each chain in the rack as you don't want clip the output of the rack.

enter image description here

The coarse and fine settings on the oscillators in Operator affect the tuning of each oscillator so that is the "detune" of the synth. But Operator was designed for FM synthesis although you can 'hack' Operator to do the same thing its not really good to learn synthesis that way.

  • You're welcomed. FYI Operator does contain more waveforms so when you get the hang of things you can trying using the waveforms in Operator too.
    – Hector Lee
    Nov 30, 2013 at 0:23

Detune means Changing the tune, commonly by a few cents. Sometimes you have a "unison detune" wich automaticly detunes the used oscillators.

If you use operator, you need to detune the different oscillators by hand. So you use the tune/fine-tune ratio of the different "operators" in the fm matrix and detune them by hand.

I would use analoge for this kinda sound, since it has some "random" effect on the sawtooth and sound more "alive". If you need more than two oscillators -> select the midi instrument after you dropped it on the midi track -> press cmd + g to group it -> now open the chain view by clicking the 3 yellow/black buttons on the left of the group folder -> select the instance of analogue and press cmd +d -> that way you can control all analogues via one midi note on one track -> if you need filter movement -> route the filter cut-off to the makro controls of the group folder.

Good Luck

  • Great answer..thanks..think I see it now :)
    – Rowan
    Nov 30, 2013 at 1:03

Operator has detune, it's just not called "detune". And I'm sure you can figure it out by yourself... :-)

  • 1
    This is not very helpful Valium, obviously Rowan has already looked for it and didn't find the 'detune' alternative. Nov 29, 2013 at 9:31
  • @Valium - I guess I can't figure it out by myself..Im actually wondering whether for example, detune does not apply to FM synthesis due to technical reasons..
    – Rowan
    Nov 29, 2013 at 11:23
  • you don't really say detune per say in FM synthesis. Its more of changing the harmonic relationship between the oscillators. However, as mentioned in my post, you can get the oscillators to not modulate each other and just work as standalone oscillators. Then the 'fine' control will be used for detuning.
    – Hector Lee
    Nov 29, 2013 at 15:57

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