Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Master Class: DSI Prophet X

In just 10 years, Dave Smith Instruments has released examples of true analog, advanced digital synthesis, two DCO-based hybrid synths, and a powerhouse drum machine collaboration with Roger Linn—along with a slew of more affordable products that slide into almost any budget. While everyone pondered, “What’s left?” Dave revived a few elements from his groundbreaking Prophet 2000, packed it with 150 gigabytes of top notch multi-sampled instruments, and folded in his trademark filter and modulation tools, creating a synth that’s much more than a workstation ROMpler. The Prophet X is a new breed of hardware synth.

Having worked with the Prophet X for much of the spring as a member of the preset design team, this tutorial will cover many of the insights I’ve gleaned about its deep synthesis engine, which offers far more than just sample playback with a bunch of synthesis tools.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/gear/master-class-dave-smith-instruments-prophet-x

Pro Tip: Emulating Chaos

Among the main characteristics of true analog instruments are the subtle idiosyncrasies that occur at the circuit level. While many modern softsynths attempt to re-create waveforms and filter curves accurately, there is a certain richness that comes with the variations that occur in real-world instruments. Even Dave Smith Instruments includes a “slop” parameter for the Prophet 08’s DCOs to re-create these artifacts.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at ways to use common tools, such as noise modulation and high-speed LFOs, to add low-level indeterminacy to your oscillators and filters.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/how-to-chaos-rules

 

Master Class: Vocoders

Wendy Carlos recorded the first mainstream performance of a vocoder for her soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, using a 10-band version she developed with Bob Moog in 1970. From there, it was quickly established as a featured component for countless pop, funk, and dance hits—and is often confused with an effect known as the talk box, which is an entirely different method for embossing the characteristics of the human voice onto a musical performance.

Over the past 45 years, there have been many successful vocoders—both hardware and software. The earliest hardware units from Bode, Roland, Moog and Korg found their way into top artists’ studios. Nowadays, software versions are baked into leading DAWs from Ableton, Apple, and Propellerhead, to name a few.

Although vocoders are typically used for creating “robot vocals,” they are capable of generating a wide variety of effects. But to get the most from this unique processor, it is essential to understand how a vocoder works.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-vocoders

System-8, Roland Cloud, and Synthwave

As I said in my Ableton Loop presentation, all presets are open-source, so the best way to get inside the head of a sound designer is to examine their presets. In addition to the Korg Prologue, Ableton Live 10, and Dave Smith's new Prophet X this year, I've also been working on custom packs for synths you may already own, like AAS Chromaphone 2 and the upcoming pack for Serum - Toolkit 3.

The recent Master Class for the Roland System-8 goes into a lot of detail about the synthesis tools of Roland's flagship AIRA synth. It's worth a read if you haven't seen it yet, as it covers a lot of detail about the innovative oscillators and filters.

Since the System-8 is one of my favorite synths (combining the new AIRA engine with legit emulations of the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106), we decided to create a preset library devoted to my favorite genres: Synthwave, Synth-pop, and New Wave.

Joining forces with Jim Stout of Carma Studio—a true star of the sampling and sound pack world—we spent a solid six months creating this library. Rather than marketing-talk, I'll let the above video speak for itself. Synthtopia had some strong coverage for the library, as it's the first collection to include presets for all three of the AIRA synths with full compatibility both the System-8 and Roland Cloud. And because Jim and I wanted it to be affordable for bedroom producers, we kept the price under $20.

So if you've got a System-8 or Roland Cloud subscription, check it out :)

Buy at Carma Studio / Buy at Beatport / Buy at Reverb.com

PS: Several fun tutorials coming next week. Stay tuned!

Master Class: Roland TR-8S

 

With the introduction of the TR-8S, Roland not only advanced the popular TR-8’s sequencing tools and iconic sound, but added sample import (via SD card) and expanded its editing features to a point where it truly is an instrument in its own right. Between performance-oriented patterns and sophisticated sound design amenities, you’ll get the most from this beast once you understand how to mold its sonic resources to match your artistic identity.

I'm also testing the waters for expanding this blog to include downloadable presets and examples for selected educational material. If you already own a TR-8S, below is a link to two original kits (with patterns) based on custom analog drum samples I created last month.

Master Class Link: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-roland-tr-8s

Download the TR-8S kit/patterns  [Instructions included]

Master Class: Novation Peak

The Novation Peak has generated a serious buzz in the synth community by combining its innovative Oxford oscillators that deliver analog-grade resolution with a fully analog signal path, as well as modulation options such as polyphonic aftertouch and a pair of Animate buttons capable of real-time patch morphing.

With a front panel packed full of familiar controls, Peak gives you direct access to these and many other important functions. But digging deeper into the synth unveils a world of functionality that sets it apart from many modern polysynths. In this tutorial, we’ll investigate those options.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-novation-peak

Master Class: Physical Modeling

In honor of “Solids” - my new preset collection for AAS Chromaphone 2, available here - this Electronic Musician masterclass will cover the essentials for understanding Physical Modeling synthesis and some of the techniques I used in designing the collection.

Like FM, physical modeling (PM) is often perceived to be a complicated approach to synthesis. Fortunately, it’s much more friendly if you understand a bit about its history and familiarize yourself with the creative tools you may already be using.

For this article (link below) we'll explore the elements of PM synthesis, first, by looking at its origins and, then, comparing the different features in commonly used synths—Apple Structure, Ableton Collision, and AAS Chromaphone 2.

Master Class Link: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-physical-modeling

Purchase Solids at 50% off introductory price → https://www.applied-acoustics.com/solids/

Master Class: The Minimoog Paradigm

Make no mistake, the Minimoog Model D was the synthesizer that kickstarted our industry. Its architecture has been the basis for countless analog monosynths to follow and its sound remains so distinctive that Moog recently reissued a circuit-perfect, limited-edition version for those with a devotion to authenticity.

But the modern era has brought us software and hardware versions of the Minimoog architecture that update the synth’s essential characteristics in ways that reflect the march of technology since 1971. For example, the Arturia Mini V has modulation amenities that would be impossible to do with analog hardware alone, whereas the Roland SE-02 offers far more flexibility than the original. And ApeSoft Mood, an iOS take on the Mini, approaches the original’s iconic filter behavior while adding sampling and FM to its array of Moogish oscillators. Consequently, if you’re in the mood for a Model D but can’t afford the real thing, these hardware and software interpretations can get you there, but with greater flexibility than the original and at a price that won’t break the bank.

Here’s how to get the most out of the unique features of each of these synths, as well as from the original model.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-the-many-modes-of-the-minimoog

Master Class: Ableton Wavetable

Although Ableton Live 10 is packed with workflow enhancements and impressive new effects (such as Echo and Pedal), the biggest news for sound designers is Wavetable, an impressive new approach to wavetable-based synthesis, with an interface that lets you see nearly every design and modulation element on a single screen.

In this tutorial, we’ll examine Wavetable's features in depth, along with a few additional tips from Ableton’s Lead preset designer and soundteam member Huston Singletary.

[Full disclosure: I designed many of the wavetables that are included with this synth.]

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/review-master-class-live-10-wavetable