My Thoughts on Blogging

I am new to blogging. I didn’t think it was something I would find interesting, but I was slightly surprised at how freely the words flowed while writing about a topic that I enjoy. It’s a good outlet and a great way to help yourself grow your knowledge about your own topic. I found that there were some things that I liked more than others with WordPress in particular and blogging as a whole.

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Lots of upkeep

You really have to keep up with your blog to utilize it effectively It’s a took not only for your audience to learn, but for the user to learn as well. Keeping up with the blog teaches you a lot about your own topic that you didn’t know. It’s cool to be able to grow with your blog experience, but you have to be dedicated to achieve that. I learned that I can use this in the future to help further my own personal interests in a subject.

Dos and Don’ts

Avoid unoriginal use of multimedia in your blog. I didn’t always use the tools properly in my posts and it showed sometimes. A bad photo can make a post seem lame when it’s actually very informational. Be sure to strategically use the feature that WordPress offers to achieve maximum effect. If you intend on using a blog to further your personal career be sure you keep these things in mind.

My Stats

I didn’t get many views, but my most popular week was the week of February 26. I got eight views on that day. my most popular post was the one called “Digital Synthesizers”. I think it was the most viewed because it gave the general outline of what the blog was going to be all about. I was surprised that I got even eight views on my busiest week. I didn’t think anyone other than my lab instructor would take a look at my blog.

I’m not sure that I am going to continue blogging, but I value the experience I had while keeping up with this one. It has shown me a way to direct my interests towards something constructive.

What else do we use Synths For?

Synths are amazing instruments…

…but they are used for more than just music. A lot of the special effects you hear in movies were made using synthesizers. The transformers series in particular is one where you can hear a predominant use of synthesized sounds. Most people think of crappy 80s tunes when they hear the word synthesizer, but they probably don’t realize synths can be used for things other than music

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EDM

As previous discussion indicates, electronic music is all about synthesizers. It’s all about bending and morphing the sounds to make really powerful and emotional sounds. EDM is where synthesizers are pushed to their maximum. A crunchy synth over a sub line on a 100,000 watt sub bass system sounds like nothing else. It’s something that has to be experienced to understand why people love the sounds these synths make so much.

Radio

Lots of radio hosts use their own person synths for special effect during their shows. A lot of what you hear on a stations tag is from a series of preset sounds these radio operators have set up to either a keyboard or beat pad of some sort. Shock jock radio hosts use these special effects to add suspense or humor to their shows. In this way, the synth is used as a tool to play pre-assigned recordings that aid the quality of the show.

There are many different ways to use synthesizers. These are just a few. Try to come up with your own uses for synthesizers that others may not have thought of!

 

Creating a Simple Patch in Serum

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!

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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.

ADSR

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.

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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!

LFOs

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.

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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.

Check Out Greatsynthesizers.com

If you’re interested in analog synthesis, greatsynthesizers.com is a great place to poke around to look at some cool stuff. You can find a wide variety of synth related things in their blog. They’ve got it all covered from synthesizer convention details to product reviews. Just scrolling through the first page of their blog words like “Moog” and
Prophet” will jump out to the average synth fanatic. Theres no doubt that the team behind greathsynthesizers.com knows what they are doing.

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A Look Into Analog

Greatsynthesizers does a good job of bringing interesting and relevant content to their synth fanatic audience. They are constantly updating their blog with new information about the hottest analog synths. They have some great links to articles about new concepts in analog synthesis. They also provide information on the various things you can do to keep your synths in good working order. You can find links to different product services like professional repairs and maintenance.

I myself gravitate towards digital synthesizers due to their compact nature and relative ease of use, but I do love a great analog synth. I learned some of my first lessons in synthesis working on an old Prophet that we would use in our projects at Houston Community College. Analog synthesizers were around long before digital synthesizers, and you can learn the core concepts of synthesis much more easily than if you tried to jump right into something like Serum or Massive. One of my favorites is the Mini Moog, and greatsynthesizers has tons of information on the Mini as well as other great synths. You will find awesome stuff on all of the best synth manufacturers like Moog, Oberheim, Roland, and many more on their blog.

Logic’s ES2

One of my personal favorite digital synthesizer is Logic’s stock instrument, the ES2. The ES2 is a pretty basic digital synth. It has a pretty straight forward layout, and it’s great for beginners. Sure, you can do some advanced stuff with the ES2, but it is not considered among the most in depth and detailed synths. It is, nonetheless, a powerful sounding synth with a very unique style.

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Simple but Powerful

The ES2 has three oscillators in which you can choose from a few basic wave shapes. You can assign the amount of signal from each oscillator by positioning the assignment square between the three nodes in the assignment triangle. There are two filters to choose from, and you can use a combination of the two by adjusting the fader under the blend section. The router section allows the user to assign modulation to different parameters of the synth based on the source you assign to control the modulation. There are three envelopes with the basic ADSR setup to choose from that can be used to control the shape of the sound. All in all, it has all of the basic things a synth needs to function.

The ES2 may be a simple synth, but that does not make it any less powerful and unique. Some of the coolest sounds that i have cooked up have been in the ES2. It is one of my favorite synths for making pad type patches. It just has a very nice flow and transitioning sound that I haven’t been able to find in other synths other than perhaps serum. It goes to show that just like a book, you shouldn’t judge a synth by its appearance.

Check it Out

Take a look at the ES2 as well as the other plugins that come with Logic Pro X here!

Native Instrument’s Massive

In this post, we will be taking a look into Native Instrument’s Massive. Massive is right up there next to serum when it comes to customizability and fine detail. While Massive might fall short of Serum as far as the overall power of the synth, it is second to none when it comes to control of the finer details of the sound design. Many people argue that Massive is the best synth there is. Some people use Massive exclusively to all other synths because it’s just that great.

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The Power of Massive

Massive has a total of 3 oscillators. This allows the user to select up to three different wavetables to generate the tones of the oscillators. This allows for a seemingly infinite number of possibilities for the additive synthesis aspect that massive brings. With the oscillator generation type selection between spectrum, bend and formant, each of the wavetables can be used in a different way to create very unique tones.

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The assignable LFO system in Massive is also very useful. You can choose between a basic LFO shape, a performer and a stepper. Each oscillator can be designated to either of the two LFOs. The basic LFO allows you to choose from simple wave shapes that the filter will follow. The performer takes this idea to the next level. It literally allows you to design the pattern you want your parameter modulation to follow. The stepper is similar to the performer, but it only allows you to designate interval sections of one value definitions for modulation position.

Until I found Serum, Massive was my most used synthesis. I used it in every project, and i still use it in most of my projects today. It is no doubt one of the best digital synthesizers on the market. Anyone who knows anything about sound design will know a thing or two about Massive. There is a lot more to massive that we didn’t look into in this post, but we will be taking a closer look at some more advanced sound design in Massive in due course.

Serum

In this post we will be checking out XferRecords’ Serum. Serum is easily my personal favorite synth, and many would argue that it is currently the most versatile and powerful software synth that has been developed. The wavetables alone are enough to make any good producers heart skip a beat when they discover how incredible they can sound. I recently purchased a copy of this software, and I have used it in just about every project I have started since. You can check out my use of this synth in one of my most recent projects here.

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Why Serum is so Great

What makes Serum so great is the raw power and sheer strength that is contains. Every wavetable has an intense presence and energy that is almost unmatched by any other synth. When added together using both oscillators, these wavetables can create sounds that were unprecedented until XferRecords unleashed this monster into the music production community. The slightest turn of a knob can create very diverse changes in a sound. Another added bonus to this fantastic piece of software is that you can even import wavetables from other synthesizers into serum. This means you can take your favorite sounds from all of your other synths and bring them into the powerhouse that is serum!

LFOs

One of the greatest things about this synth is the assignable LFO. LFO stands for “Low Filter Oscillator” and they can control the movement and speed of position changes for all the different variable parameters on the synth. What is so special about the LFOs in Serum is how customizable they are. You can literally design them in any way you couple possibly imagine. You can use something from a simple triangular shape as scene in the picture above, or go in depth and create intricate patterns as seen in the image below.

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While I wouldn’t recommend attempting to master this synth to a beginner, I think every producer should work toward adding this mammoth to their arsenal. There’s no arguing with the fact that you can create some of the heaviest and electric sounds with this digital synth!

Connecting to the Community

You can take a closer look into the serum users community on the official software forums!

Digital Synthesizers

My name is Dan Hutchison, and this blog is going to be all about digital synthesis. I will cover things from my favorite software synths to sound design. I chose this topic because I am a self taught music producer, and digital synthesis is very much a part of the music producer’s lifestyle.  There’s nothing quite like creating raw and powerful sounds on a good synth. Any producer will tell you that the digital synthesizer is an integral part of any professionals toolkit.

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We will be taking a look at some of the best digital synths on the market as well as how they work. I will cover things like ADSR, additive vs granular synthesis and how to automate synth parameters in a DAW. We will be investigating these synths closely and discuss how each one approaches synthesis. Every synth is different and has its own features that make it unique. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced producer, you’re bound to find some cool stuff covered in this blog if you’re into synthesis.

In the future I may expand these discussions beyond wordpress in order to expand my audience to a wider range of music producers and synthesis lovers. I will be sharing all of the posts on my twitter account, but I may start a facebook page covering this topic as well. This would open the opportunity for further interaction with the synthesis enthusiast community. We will most definitely be taking a look into my new favorite synth, Serum, in my next post. Keep an eye out for new stuff on the page as I will be adding much more throughout the coming weeks!