Francis Preve

Sound designer. Producer. Professor. Journalist. Author.

Filtering by Category: Sound Design

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: 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

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: 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