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EBM Techno Tutorial And Rack

Hello and welcome to this quick EBM techno tutorial that covers setting up and processing an EBM sequence in Ableton Live. I use Ableton Operator with tight envelopes for a plucky, detuned FM sound. Then it is treated with various distortions, and an Echo unit.

Here’s an audio clip of what it sounds like…

This is just the EBM rack, and a kick. The kick is made from this rack: Techno Kick Ableton Rack. You might also like our other EBM guide: EBM Bassline Tutorial.

EBM Ableton Rack

How To Make An EBM Techno Sequence

A lot of EBM is made on FM synths, which are a big characteristic of the genre. They use frequency modulation to get really metallic nasty sounds. Sometimes analog synths are used, and multiple oscillators are distorted against each other to get that nasty sound. Then the notes are normally cut short and tight with short decay envelopes and sequenced rhythmically.

You want to make a really nasty sound then to tame it down with the filters, I have used both FM and detuning in this rack, with 3 oscillators detuned (like an analogue synth) and another to add frequency modulation to them all. You want a plucky tight, transient-y sound. So I use short decay envelopes for the filter and FM envelopes.

This is the midi I used for the example above. In general you want short staccato notes that hit around the root note repeatedly and rhythmically. The synth should be part of the rhythm really.

Midi for EBM synth pattern
Midi for the EBM synth pattern

What The Rack Does

Here’s a quick video run down of what the rack does:

First of all you can see in the screen shots that immediately after the macro there are two chains. The sub bass one is not pictured, but it is sub-bass patch played in Operator which is low-passed and EQ’d. It is driven at the filters of both the Operator and the Auto Filter for warmth. This adds a heavy sub-bass underneath the sequence to fill out the low frequencies. The volume of this is controlled at the macros.

The first part of the EBM rack
The first part of the rack

For the main EBM sequence sound I set Operator to have 3 Oscillators routed to the output, and then one oscillator to frequency modulate them all. This way I can detune the first 3 (A, B and C) for a nasty detuned sound, and still add FM for that metallic industrial sound. The detuned amount and the FM amount are controlled on the macros.

A,B and C are all Saw waves, D is a Square wave with a tight plucky envelope for tight metallic pluckiness.
Then the sound is distorted with filter drive, and filtered down but a tight filter envelope to allow a little pluck to cut through for a tight, nasty and metallic bassline.

The second part of the EBM rack
The second part of the rack

Then the sound is distorted more by the Saturator, then a mid-range EQ boost and an Echo unit for delays and a little bit of reverb, all of these are controlled at the Macros…

Macro Controls:

Macro controls

FM Level This controls the amount of the metallic FM sound by controlling the level of Oscillator D.

FM Tune makes the sound more metallic as it detunes the FM signal, a little can go a long way and you can really destroy the sound with this if you like!

Time makes all envelopes in Operator longer or shorter, so you can open up the sound or make it shorter and pluckier (especially when the filter is down).

LP Filter controls the cutoff frequency of the filter, raise it up for a more open sound and to reveal the whole synth.

Detune makes Oscillators A,B and C more detuned by reducing the Fine tuning of A and increasing the Fine tuning of C.

Saturation adds saturation distortion.

Echo adds delay amount, delay feedback, and reverb level all at the same time.

Sub Bass the volume of the sub bass chain – it adds a driven and low sub bass under the sound for a big low end bass.

Download The EBM Rack HERE:

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