Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Filtering by Category: Tutorials

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: DSI OB-6

It’s no exaggeration to say that Dave Smith Instruments’ OB-6—a true collaboration with Tom Oberheim—has quickly become one of the most sought-after analog polysynths of the 21st century. By combining elements of Smith’s own Prophet 6 with the filter topology of the Oberheim SEM, the OB-6 is capable of textures that are unlike any other analog poly to date.

For this Master Class, I won’t be rehashing the generalities of analog synthesis. Instead, the focus is on programming tricks and techniques that highlight the possibilities lurking within the OB- 6. It’s also worth noting that several of the tricks in this Master Class also apply to the Prophet 6, thanks to its similar architecture, so proud owners of that synth may find a few tidbits they can use as well.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/master-class-dave-smith-instruments-ob-6-tricks

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

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: 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: 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