Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Filtering by Category: Hardware Tips

Design: LFOs as Envelopes

In last week’s post, we examined a few methods for turning envelopes into LFOs on synths that support envelope looping. This time, we will invert that process and cover the possibilities lurking within LFOs that can also operate in one-shot mode.

One-shot mode is a neat LFO trick that can be found on several hardware and software-based synthesizers. The first time I encountered it in hardware was in Korg’s monophonic Monotribe ribbon sequencer. As for software, the ubiquitous Xfer Serum included it from its first releases.

Depending on the synthesizer’s implementation, one-shot LFOs can be either basic or mind-bogglingly complex. Here are a few techniques you can use on synths that support it.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/sound-design-workshop-lfos-as-envelope

Design: Envelopes as LFOs

Without modulation resources, a synthesizer is just a sophisticated organ. Modulation breathes life into a sound, adding motion to oscillators, filters, and amplifiers. Naturally, sound designers want as many options as possible for modulating synth parameters, but as is often the case with instrument design, pleasing every user equally is a daunting task: Some users want oodles of envelopes; others want LFOs galore.

What’s more, the feature set of a synth is a core component of its overall sound. While it’s fun to fantasize about softsynths and modular rigs having unlimited possibilities, the instruments that stand the test of time have a particular sound. And that sound is partially defined by the modulation tools that are available.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at a few ways to use envelopes as LFOs. Not every synth supports this level of versatility, but quite a few mainstream products—both software and hardware—do. Here are techniques for three of the most popular synths available now.

LINK: https://www.keyboardmag.com/lessons/how-to-envelopes-as-lfos

Master Class: Korg/ARP Odyssey

Back in the early ’70s, the Moog vs. ARP “war” was just as passionate as the Mac vs. PC debate is today. At the time, the Minimoog and ARP Odyssey were the two dominant mainstream monosynths. On the Moog side, the Mini offered three oscillators, Bob’s massive filter, and ease of use. On the ARP side, the duophonic Odyssey included lowpass and highpass filters, hard sync, ring mod, and incredibly sophisticated modulation resources.

Korg’s ARP Odyssey re-issues are available in a tabletop version, a module version, and the Odyssei app.

Even now, the classic Odyssey’s features are capable of textures that we normally associate with modular gear, which makes sense as the Odyssey was basically a slimmed-down version of the 2600—arguably the synth that first brought modular to the masses. So with Korg’s reissue of the Odyssey available in three formats (keyboard, module, and the Odyssei iOS app), it’s high time we took a closer look at its vast capabilities, using the tabletop version as our frame of reference.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/how-to-korgs-arp-odyssey

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

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: 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