How to make a Grain Harmonizer


More often than not in your music you will want to create harmony, that can be done via layering notes in your piano roll or adding a extra synth or vocal layers using a different note. This is all great but what happens when you want something a little more outlandish.

Well we have the solution, a grain harmonizer. In the tutorial we will use Ableton’s other worldly grain delay to create a more unique way of adding harmony to your music.


The Sound

To start we will need to create some sound, let's keep it simple so we can showcase the overall effect of the grain harmonizer. For this example, lets load in Wavetable, in the basic shapes wavetable set the waveform to saw (wave position 69%).

Screenshot 2018-09-07 08.48.31.png

From there set the filter to low pass, MS2 circuit (drive it) and cutoff to around 1kHz.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 08.48.38.png

Also, lets have some movement. Set the LFO 1 to slowly modulate filter 1’s cutoff

 Ok so that’s the sound set, its not a world beater by any extent but it will give us a great source to build our grain harmonizer.

Ok so that’s the sound set, its not a world beater by any extent but it will give us a great source to build our grain harmonizer.


Grain Harmonizer

Now we are onto the fun part, load in a grain delay from the audio effects in the browser,  we want to have a small delay time so click on the sync button, this will set the time to work in millisecond’s rather than beat values like ¼ notes etc.  For now we will set the delay time to 40ms.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 08.56.48.png


From there set the frequency to 1Hz, spray to 0ms, pitch to 3 (for the minor 3rd)  and feedback to 30%.  This will give us our first layer.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 08.57.18.png

Grain Layers

Now it is time to layer the sound so we can have 2-3 harmony layers going on.  Click on the name plate of the grain delay and hit Cmd G to group the effect into a audio effect rack.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.00.38.png
Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.01.31.png

Open up the chains so we can create a range of different layers, start by duplicating the grain delay you have and setting the time to 30ms, pitch to 7 (the 5th note of the scale). Also lets pan the grains hard left and right for now.

Screenshot 2018-09-10 12.46.10.png

Its sounding cool but we have lost the main sound a little, this is simple to solve. Right click in the black space in the chains and create a blank chain. This will be our dry signal.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.05.19.png

Chain Layers & Macros

What we need now is a way to control how much dry to harmony signal we have. To do this click the chain button, this will open up the chains mapping section.Once in here drag the chains so they fill up the whole area (from 0-127)

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.06.57.png

From there create some fades, fades the grains from 0-127 and fade the dry the other way 127-0. To adjust the fade hover the mouse over the top part of the chain and drag. 

Screenshot 2018-09-10 12.48.14.png

To add the dry/wet to a macro you will need to right click on the chain selector which is the little line at the top of the chain section.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.10.26.png
Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.11.20.png

The second macro to add is the width of the grains, this will be set via the chains pan. On both grain 1 and 2 map the pan to macro 2. Now open up the macro mapping by clicking map next to the save button. While in the macro mapping window set grain 1 to C-50L and grain 2 to C – 50R.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.14.08.png

Next at the other controls to the macro, spray, frequency, feedback and random.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.16.29.png


We may also from time to time want to adjust the time of the delay, so map both grains to macro 7. Again open up the macro mapping window, set grain 1 to 20-40ms and grain 2 to 10-30ms. It is important that the are not exactly to the same to stop phasing.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.18.00.png

One last macro and then we are done, set all the chain volumes to macro 8. It is always could to have a main volume control on any rack you map.

Screenshot 2018-09-07 09.19.39.png

After Thought


Thou we have used this on a simple synth preset I would advise going out and trying it on all manor of sounds, like pianos, drums and vocals. Bellow we have shown some example of how it could sound.

So in conclusion when you are trying to create a harmony and you want it to be more Funkadelic and less Brittney Spears try the grain delay.