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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Sept 17 > Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, in Ableton Live - what ADSR can do for you

Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, in Ableton Live - what ADSR can do for you

Whether you’re familiar with the trusty synthesis principles of ADSR or not, you can get to work immediately using them in Ableton Live, Martin Delaney fills the envelope full of music…


ADSR is a commonly used term in synthesis, and sound design – it stands for Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. These are held to be the important characteristics to bear in mind when you’re creating a sound, whether it’s intended to be a realistic sound or some crazy new thing that could never exist in the real world.

As far as we’re concerned today, ADSR relates to what’s known as the volume envelope. You’ll see ADSR, or some elements of it, displayed throughout Live’s instruments and effects, sometimes with a graphic representation of the envelope, sometimes not. It’s a way to visualise what’s happening with a sound, whether it’s a kick, a bass or a trumpet – it works across the field.

Every sound is like a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Attack is the beginning, Decay and Sustain are the middle, and Release is the end. I’m using Simpler and Operator for this tutorial, but the concept of envelopes is universal, so you’ll be able to recycle this information later, whatever instruments or software you’re working with. For example, even within Live itself, you’ll find full ADSR controls within the Analog synthesiser, or the Max For Live Bass instrument, and attack-and-release controls inside audio-effect devices such as the Auto Filter and the Gate.

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About MusicTech

The new issue of MusicTech is on sale from Thursday 17th August and we’re honoured to be the first magazine to present a feature on the brand new studio facilities at the legendary Abbey Road studios: The Gatehouse and the Penthouse. To mark this occasion we bring you a giant Abbey Road special, featuring a studio tour, a COMPLETE gear list, an interview with iconic producer John Leckie (who begun his career at AR) as well as hands on tutorials designed to show you how to re-create the Abbey Road sound at home! We’ve also got a disc packed with Abbey Road related video content for you to feast your eyes on. Elsewhere this issue we have features looking at the history of the Korg MonoPoly, 6 ways to cheat at making music as well as our usual plethora of reviews including the Pioneer Toraiz AS-1 and Novation Circuit 1.5 and a wide range of tutorial content.