Sound Design Workshop: Monster Patch - EMusician

Sound Design Workshop: Monster Patch

Learn how to stack oscillator waveforms to makes small synths sound huge.
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Hypersaw and Supersaw patches gained notoriety in the late '90s with the Roland JP-8000 line of synthesizers. Most modern synths have stacked sawtooth waveforms in their sample sets, but those are just one sound designer's interpretation of that signature sound.I'll show you how to build stacked sawtooth patches from a variety of basic single- or dual-oscillator waveforms. I'll then extend the concept by applying it to other sampled waveforms. I've used Digidesign's free Xpand plug-in for my examples, but I could have achieved similar results using almost any multioscillator synth.Tune 'em InStart with a simple lead waveform like Xpand's Mono Saw from the Basics category, and assign it to each of the four parts on the Mixer page (see Web Clip 1). Vary the Fine controls between plus or minus 5 and 20 cents. Keep the value for each pair of parts roughly symmetrical around zero so that the patch plays in tune (see Fig. 1). For added effect, increase the Detune parameter by different amounts for each part.Adjust level and pan settings to spread the parts across the stereo field and to give the patch a sense of depth and space. Assign reverb and delay or chorus to the two FX slots and use more-moderate send-level settings for parts in the center of the stereo field (see Web Clip 2). Apply time delay and modulation effects conservatively so that the patch maintains its definition. Discretion is the better part of valor when setting effects parameters, but you might experiment with higher values for more-extreme effects.If your synth has random-pitch, analog-feel, start-offset, or random-panning features, apply these in varying amounts to each part. If necessary, you can simulate such effects by applying slow but varying modulation amounts and rates to each part's pitch, pan position, and attack time. Modulation rates of 7 to 10 seconds work well. Modulating filter attack and decay rates will also add to the effect. Try different parameter combinations, and always turn off key tracking and LFO delay.In Xpand, click on the Mod tab to bring up the Modulation page and use the Mod Wheel Control section to apply varying small amounts of pitch modulation to each of the four parts. Set the Depth to less than a third of a semitone (about 300 cents), and remember it's the differences between the four parts that count. Increasing the relative rate and depth offsets between parts will widen and deepen the effect. You can affect that globally with the Mod Wheel (see Web Clip 3). Experiment to find your own signature sounds.Stack 'em UpNow try substituting preset stacked-sawtooth waveforms for the single-oscillator waveforms in the stacked patch. Assign Xpand's Saw Stack in the Hard Lead category to one or more of the parts, and you open the door to a whole new set of sound-design possibilities. Transpose one or more parts by an octave up or down to create a wall of sound (see Web Clip 4). Experiment with octave and sync waveforms for even bigger sounds.Stacking brass and string waveforms is a fast and inexpensive way to expand and upgrade your sound palette. Try mixing and matching Xpand's Soft and Hard Tenor Sax parts with the Solo, Soft, and Hard Trumpet parts in the Brass + Woodwinds category to build your own killer sections. Use higher parameter offset values and effects levels than you typically would with synth waveforms to make your section sound wide and large.With synthesizers that have deeper editing features, you can modulate LFO rates and delay times across different parts and then trigger the effect with Aftertouch to simulate ensemble vibrato. You can also make small variations in the pitch-bend range for each part for added realism. You'll achieve more realism by progressively panning pitched instruments across the stereo field.Jon Engel spends way too much time programming patches for his original compositions (www.soundclick.com/malaren) and his live gig (www.mushmouth.net).

BONUS MATERIAL
Web Clips: Listen to audio clips of stacked waveforms, patches, and oscillators

BONUS MATERIAL
Web Clips: Listen to audio clips of stacked waveforms, patches, and oscillators


FIG. 1: You access parameters such as fine-tuning for stacking waveforms from the Mixer page in Digidesign''s free Xpand plug-in.

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