Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Filtering by Category: Pro Tip

Mixing Pads

Pads and chord stabs are essential components in all musical genres, whether they’re used subtly as reinforcement or as the main focus of a track. While some pads are heavily treated with lowpass filtering to help them blend into the background of a track, some mixes benefit from highlighting the pads. In the latter case, the pads’ note clusters, especially when using bright sawtooth waveforms, often result in a loss of valuable frequency space in a mix.

Here, we’ll look and listen to three different approaches for sculpting your pads so that they sit better in a mix (both in live performance and studio contexts), allowing the other tracks to breathe without losing the impact of clearly defined chordal elements.

LINK: https://www.keyboardmag.com/lessons/know-sound-design-mixing-pads

Don't Fret: Synthesizing Rock Guitars

While working on a project recently, I realized that I needed a metal guitar riff to round out the arrangement. As fate would have it, my go-to guitarist, Shreddward (from the Bright Light Social Hour), was on tour. Since the deadline couldn’t wait, I realized I had to whip up the parts by hand using synths and effects. Naturally, I could have turned to a sample library for this, but I’m always up for a sound design challenge. So rather than rely on loops or a multi-sampled guitar, I decided to start from nothing and see what was possible. Within a few hours, I had some remarkably convincing parts that worked perfectly in the project. Here is the technique.

LINK: https://www.keyboardmag.com/lessons/dont-fret-synthesizing-rock-guitars

Create Additive Synth Sweeps in Ableton

Ableton’s Operator is incredibly powerful when it comes to FM and basic additive/subtractive techniques, but like several other additive softsynths, there’s no way to animate the harmonics for morphing effects. Fortunately, there’s a workaround that lets users create their own smoothly morphing harmonic structures. It just requires a few extra steps, but the result is shimmering, animated textures that are well-suited for unique pads and leads.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/how-to-create-additive-synth-sweeps-in-ableton

Pro Tip: Soloing for DJs

 

One of the hottest trends for clubs and festivals is incorporating drum machines and synths into DJ sets. Tastefully approached, adding live elements to recorded tracks is a great way to stand apart from the pack.

That said, I’ve seen some sets that just didn’t work because the DJ hadn’t thought their live strategy through. For one thing, the tracks in a set are already complete productions, often without much room for added parts. Another pitfall lies in attempting to be rhythmic with these live elements. Dance music is so tightly sequenced that unless you have Prince’s keyboard chops or zero latency on your arpeggiator, the new parts just won’t align.

Based on my experiences performing with a Roland System-8 with DJ/guitarist Cloudchord, I’ve discovered two key approaches to seamlessly blend additional instruments with recorded tracks.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/sound-design-workshop-soloing-for-djs

Program a Supersaw in any Synth

Despite the fact that the Roland JP-8000 was released more than 20 years ago, its supersaw waveform is now a true staple in every synthesist’s arsenal. Electronic music historians may know that it first rose to prominence in the late 90s trance scene, but it became truly indispensible during the EDM era and can now can be found at the core of countless pop and future bass tracks. As a college professor, I’m always amazed that this is the first sound my students want to learn in their introduction to synthesizer programming.

LINK: https://www.emusician.com/how-to/program-a-supersaw-in-any-synth-dec

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

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