In this post we will be checking out in depth synthesis in Serum. We will design a sound and look at the various parameters that we chose to modulate to achieve the sound. We will have visual representations that show the changes that were made as the sound was created. We already know that serum is probably the most powerful digital synth on the market, so lets take a closer look at how it works!
First we start out by selecting wave tables for the oscillators. These two that I have chosen sound pretty coo l together, but we need to do much more to make a great synth patch. The oscillators generate the tone that the synth will be modulating when you add other elements. It’s basically the base of the sound. If you start out with a pretty bland oscillator or set of oscillators, you might not be able to get much power out of the sound unless you are doing some sort of abstract atmospheric thing.
Next we can go ahead and play around with some of the oscillator parameters to make some pretty cool effects. Modulating the detune and wavetable positions are some of my favorite things to do. Playing around with these parameters can produce some pretty cool effects
Next, we will jump over to the FX tab. Serum offers a variety of cool effects to throw on top of your sound. I’m a big fan of the hyper/dimension effect, but they are all great.
The matrix is where we set the LFO, ADSR and other automatic modulation amounts. I tend to stick with using LFOs, but you can use any source to control the parameters you assign the sources to. Based on where you set the amount fader, the source will modulate to that level. A high amount will create a drastic change, while a low amount will create a much more minute adjustment.
You’ll have to assign and map out four LFOs and other sources before they do anything to your sound. We’ll go ahead and throw some LFOs on a few parameters to make a pretty neat morphing sound. That’s pretty much how you create a basic sound in serum. There are many more in depth techniques to using serum, but these methods alone can give you some really intense sounds.
We’re going to take a look into what ADSR is and how it works. ADSR stands for Attack, Sustain, decay and release. Each element of ADSR determines the shape of a sound for lack of a better word. Producers will tweak the ADSR of different elements of a sound to make a synth sound like it is in motion. Without ADSR, most sounds will feel flat and constant.
Attack determines how quickly a parameter comes to its maximum designated point of modulation from the starting point. A fast attack will cause the parameter to almost instantly reach its maximum, while a slow attack does the opposite. A slow attack on the gain or volume of a synth will produce a slowly rising sound that progressively gets louder and the attack reaches its maximum.
Decay is what sets the level prior to the sustain of a parameter. Often decay is unused, but it is still an important part of ADSR. If you want a parameter to max out to a certain point and then drop down to a lower level before the sustain, then you would have the decay decline to a lower level.
Sustain determines how long a sound remains at it’s parameter value after the decay ends. A short sustain will quickly segue into the release. A long sustain will cause a sound to ring out until the sustain ends. The length of the sustain you choose will vary based on the desired effect.
Release will determine how a parameter phases back to the base point. A fast release should be used if the desired effect is an immediate stop after the midi information for a note ends. A slow release will cause the parameter to slowly return to the original starting point.
Overall that’s the simplest way to understand ADSR. Try using the ADSR in your favorite synths to see what kind of sounds you can get!
Today we will be checking out LFOs in a little bit more detail. LFO stands for Low Filter Oscillator. LFOs are my favorite sources to modulate synth parameters. You can use an LFO to make a simple wobbling effect in a sound, or a slow morphing feel. LFO is a common term used in electronic music production because they are so often used. Lets take a closer look at how the LFO works.
An LFO has a shape. It can be simple like a triangle or sine wave, or it can be more complex with different peaks, valleys and plateaus. You will want to use different shapes to achieve different effects. A simple sine wave thrown onto a low pass filter can give a cool continuous wobbling sound this is something you hear in dubstep all the time. Some good oscillator additive synthesis with a simple sine wave LFO and some distortion over it can create a really gnarly effect.
Once you select the shape of your LFO, you can assign it to the various parameters of your synth. Filters are the most commonly chosen destination for an LFO, but you can throw them on things like wavetable position, phase and pan. You can assign an LFO to pretty much any parameter, and you will find that you have your favorites as you learn more about your main synth.