Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Filtering by Category: Production

Masterclass: Soundtoys/Modular

While it’s only been a few years since Soundtoys 5 was introduced, the package has grown considerably and now encompasses 21 distinct processors. Fourteen of these effects can be found in its Effect Rack, which lets you mix and match devices and save the entire setup as a single multi-effect preset.

This product’s sonic authenticity is a big part of why producers such as Dave Pensado and Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) have so enthusiastically endorsed it. Soundtoys plug-ins sound and behave like actual analog gear, and over the years, ongoing refinements have made these plug-ins fairly considerate in terms of CPU usage.

With that in mind, several colleagues have urged me to take a closer look at the creative possibilities of this suite, which is capable of going well beyond basic hardware emulations. In fact, certain processor combinations yield results that are reminiscent of modular synth gear, specifically West Coast-style systems (e.g., Buchla and Serge), but with the ability to easily save and recall your patches.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/masterclass-soundtoys-effect-rack

Recreating the 10CC Choir

In the pantheon of legendary productions, 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” ranks among the most respected tracks of all time. In fact, it reached a new generation of fans, thanks to its inclusion on the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 1 soundtrack.

Consisting of minimal instrumentation, a lead vocal recorded in one take, and a bass-plus-music-box middle section, its arrangement was incredibly risky for a radio hit, even by modern standards. The element that glues the track together — keeping it transcendentally beautiful even after over forty years — is the song’s centerpiece: A painstakingly multi-tracked set of vocal loops, consisting of 48 tracks of voices per note over the chromatic scale. These multi-tracked vocals were then repeatedly bounced and re-recorded as eight-second tape loops that were then played via the mixing console, as sampling hadn’t even been dreamed up at that time. [Diehard fans can pick up the original choirs as multi-sampled instruments at Sampletekk.com.]

Nowadays, the elaborate production technique for creating these vocals can be replicated much more easily using 21st century tools. All that’s required is a good microphone, a DAW, ample hard drive space, and an endless supply of patience. From there, it's quite straightforward.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/how-to-recreate-10ccs-choir-vocals

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

Pro Tip: Understanding Paraphonic

If you have an old digital polysynth that you no longer use because you’re unhappy with the sounds, here’s a way to bring it back to life with some analog attitude.

If you own a monosynth that includes an external-audio input jack, you can use its filter and amp to process the output of the other synth. The term paraphonic is used to describe this scenario, where a polyphonic instrument is running all of its voices through a single VCF and VCA. Modern analog monosynths with an external-audio input include Korg Monologue, the Arturia Minibrute and Microbrute, the Novation Bass Station 2, and all of the recent synths from Moog Music.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/how-to-redemption-throug-paraphonic

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]