Sound Design with Inspired by Nature: Tree Tone

Posted by James Cullen on

This is part three of our series on the collection of Max for Live Devices contained with the Inspired by Nature pack for Ableton Live 11. So hopefully you've checked out the first couple of parts, where we cover the Bouncy Notes and Emit devices.

If not, be sure to go back to our guide on Bouncy Notes. That's the first one of the series we covered, and so it contains a bit of an overview of the Inspired by Nature concept before we dive into the specifics.

In this guide we will be looking at Tree Tone, a weird and wonderful device that uses an emulation of the way plants grow to generate sounds. 

This one can get really interesting, so we recommend loading up an instance of Tree Tone in Live as we go through this, so you can try things out as we cover them.

Hopefully you've got that all sorted, so let's jump right in!

Tree Tone

Tree Tone takes a departure from using Particles to generate sound, and instead takes its inspiration from the fractal patterns of plants. 

The central UI shows a (kind of creepy) image which resembles tree roots or branches. The way this plugin works is by growing trees, which conform to one of the patterns running along the bottom of the UI. There are several present patterns, or there is a button to generate a random pattern.

Each branch represents a resonator with different frequency, decay and amplitude values. The longer and thicker the branch, the lower and louder and more sustained the sound is. The thinner branches represent higher notes.

There's an internal noise generator to excite the resonators and create resonant ambiences or ethereal plucked tones.

What's cool about this one is that you can use Tree Tone as a filter bank for your own audio, or run the output back into the device to create some resonant feedback.

So, this plugin is a lot weirder than the previous two. Where Emit and Bouncy Notes are much clearer in their musicality, this one is decidedly more out there.

It's perfect for creating drones and unusual sounds, as the morphing tree structures randomly produce the sound using various resonators.

Using the tuning control, you can set the resonators to follow a fixed scale. This allows very musical drones. You can see in the image above I have set mine to A Major.

There are Shift options to adjust the pitch shift, while the Tuning and Spread controls offset the tuning of the resonator. 

Tuning offsets the overall tuning of the resonators to make them lower or higher.

Spread spreads out the distance between relative tunings. This means the lowest notes get lower and the highest notes get higher.

The left section of Tree Tone contains the two exciters, these are the things that make the resonators produce their sounds.

The two exciters create different timbres within the overall sound of Tree Tone. The top three knobs control the one that more resembles a woodwind instrument; it's a long and sustained sound, with various possibilities for sounds when adjusting the Noise and Wind controls. The bottom section is for a more mallet like sound, and using the Rain and Speed controls you can adjust this sound.

The first exciter is Noise, and adjusting the levels of this control determines how much the resonators are excited. You can adjust the tonal balance using the Filter Cuttoff and Bandwith controls.

Wind applies a random modulation to the noise's tones and volume, and the Speed control is adjustable. 

Adjusting these controls all change the timbre and overall sound quality of the output of Tree Tone. But we can also change this using Rain.

The Rain control adds plucky little elements to the sound. The name Rain evokes raindrops, which fits in with the Inspired by Nature theme. This gives a really nice textural overlay to the drone quality which is already coming out of Tree Tone.

The Speed controls the overall speed of the rain, while Center and Spread control the centre and the range of the frequencies at which the resonators will output their sound. 


Exciting Stuff

The beautiful quality of Tree Tone is how unique the sounds are that come from it. You can use the first exciter to create ambient drones, while the second exciter adds lovely plucky mallet like sounds. 

You can blend both of these elements in a wide range of ratios, and it's with these controls that you can largely dictate the 'musicality' of the tone you're creating.

The beautiful thing about Tree Tone is how weird it is. At first, it seems so strange that its uses are quite limited, but once you start experimenting and playing around with the control, something quite magical happens.

Much like the tree growth it is emulating, the more things you tweak, the more an organic soundscape seems to grow before you. What starts out as a rather inharmonic drone - there is even an Inharmonic control in the tuning section - can actually be sculpted into a lush and very musical texture.

As we mentioned, it's possible to create two very distinct sounds within Tree Tone, the first exciter with the Noise controls gives a drone, while the second with the Rain controls gives a nice plucky mallet lead. You can also blend the two of these together to create some really lush soundscapes.

There is also a Modulation section, but we will skip this because it is essentially the same as the other two plugins. You can route LFOs to control various parameters within Tree Tone, which is great for creating evolving soundscapes.


Inspired by Nature

As the name suggests, this is an extremely inspiring collection of devices for Max for Live. In our guides so far we've covered three of the total seven devices, and we'll cover the remaining Vector devices in future guides, so be sure to look out for those.

The biggest takeaway from this is that these are devices that work so unlike any other plugins I've encountered, that I'm pretty confident in guaranteeing you that they will change how you approach your sound design and music production.

They are great for creating ambient music, but also for creating sound beds on top of which more of your music can play. 

There's a whole host of possibilities within this collection of devices, so dig in and see what sounds you can create!


So, hopefully you enjoyed this guide, and hopefully you downloaded these devices and had a good mess around with them, it's all I've been doing for the past week or so!

As always, thanks for checking in with us here at Top Music Arts, and be sure to check out our deals on Ableton Live remakes while you're here, they're the perfect way to learn the professional production techniques that go into making a hit tune!

Don't forget to check out the rest of this series of guides once it drops for more weird and wonderful devices you can use in your productions!

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →