Software Instruments


by Ableton

Tension is a physical modeling string synthesizer capable of creating incredibly accurate reproductions of real stringed instruments or otherworldly hybrids.

Tension is a physical modeling string synthesizer. Through the use of complex mathematical models, Tension simulates each component of a stringed instrument. Tweak everything from how the string is played–with a pick, bow or hammer–to the size and type of instrument body used. Create incredibly accurate reproductions of real instruments or design otherworldly hybrids, all within Ableton Live's familiar working environment.

Tension: Never Break a String

Tension is a synthesizer that emulates stringed instruments. Created in collaboration with Applied Acoustics Systems (AAS), Tension is based on the same advanced physical modeling synthesis technology found in their String Studio instrument. Physical modeling synthesis uses complex mathematics to reproduce the behavior of the individual physical components of an instrument in real time. Tension recreates the characteristics of the strings, body, frets, fingers and pickups, as well as how the string is played--with a pick, bow or hammer--allowing you to recreate a wide variety of stringed instruments and textures. Tension is capable of modeling stringed instruments including bass, violin, viola, cello, guitar, piano, harpsichord and clavinet, or it can synthesize entirely new hybrid instruments. Tension integrates seamlessly into Ableton Live's workflow, making the possibilities convenient and nearly endless for sound designers and lovers of all things stringed.


Inside Tension

Stringed instruments vary greatly in shape, size and playing method. The vibration of a string is the main sound-producing mechanism of stringed instruments. The player sets the string in motion by the use of a pick, a bow or a hammer, similar to those found in a piano. The pitch of the string is determined by its length, which can be fixed, as in a piano, or changeable, as on a guitar. The vibration from the string is transmitted to the body of the instrument, which resonates and increases the volume of the sound, or to an electric pickup, which amplifies the string vibration. Tension gives you access to all of these elements and more, making it possible to recreate realistic and dynamic stringed instruments or mix and match characteristics of various instruments to create something completely new.

Key Features

  • Integrated perfectly into Live's workflow and intuitive user interface.
  • Expertly programmed presets ranging from a wide selection of stringed instruments to hybrid inventions that show Tension's sound design capabilities.
  • Physical modeling synthesis allows real-time tweaking and customization of Tension's individual elements and parameters:
    • The String module features Damping and Decay parameters to simulate the brightness and vibration of different types of strings, such as those made of metal or nylon. The Inharm knob adjusts the tuning of partials from purely harmonic to inharmonic.
    • The Excitator section reproduces how the String module is played. Choose from Plectrum for guitars, harpsichords or picked bass; Bow for violin or cello; or two Hammer models for striking from above or beneath the string. A Position parameter sets the spatial relationship of the excitator relative to the string.
    • The Body section allows you to select sizes from tiny to huge. The Low Cut, High Cut and Decay parameters simulate the frequency response of instrument bodies constructed of various types of material.
    • The Damper section has Mass and Stiff knobs that work together to emulate the characteristics of the felts of a piano or the fingers of a guitar player to attenuate the vibration of the string. A Position knob adjusts the position of the damper in relation to the string. The Damp parameter adjusts the overall amount of damping applied.
    • The Termination module emulates the interaction between the finger, fret and string. The Finger section features Finger and Stiff knobs to simulate different finger behaviors. The Fret section features a Stiff knob to control the stiffness of the fret in relation to the string and the pressure applied by the finger.
    • The Pickup section models the characteristics of a magnetic pickup. The distance of the pickup from the string can be controlled via the Position knob.
    • A multimode filter with 2- and 4-pole lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch and formant modes features a dedicated envelope and LFO to further shape the sound.
  • Many parameters can be modulated via key tracking and velocity for expressive, dynamic playing.

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