Sound Design Workshop: Tril-o-Sphere

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FIG. 1: A few simple modifications to Layer B of this VIP Library patch adds a bass rhythm to its original ethereal sound.

Spectrasonics'' Trilian bass module and Omnipshere synth module are outstanding instruments in their own right, but owning the pair significantly expands your sound-design options. Omnisphere can access any Trilian sound source, patch, or multi, and that lets you apply Omnisphere''s advanced synthesis techniques to Trilian patches. You can combine Omnisphere and Trilian sound sources in Omnisphere''s A and B patch layers, as well as layer Omnisphere and Trilian patches in a multi.

The version 1.3 upgrade for both products includes enhanced performance and programming features, along with an expansive new Omnisphere library of 150 patches and 33 multis called the VIP Library. Each of those combines Trilian and Omnisphere sounds and techniques, and I''ll use them as the basis for my examples.

One of my favorite randomly evolving, ethereal VIP patches is Aleatoric Surrealism. It combines a bowed, spinning bicycle wheel with fingered harmonics from an electric bass. Both sounds feature a slow attack and granular processing, and are fed into their own deep, long-tailed reverb. The bass is transposed up two octaves and sent to a tape delay with high feedback. The result is a purely ambient, Waterphone-like sound with no hint of bass.

With a few quick tweaks, you can bring back the bass and add a little rhythm while maintaining the patch''s ambient essence. Start on the bass (B) layer by dragging the amp-envelope attack slider to minimum, changing the transpose to zero, and turning the Mult tab''s granular processing off (see Fig. 1). You''ll now hear a pronounced bass with a long echo and deep reverb. Adding MIDI controllers for bass-echo feedback and A-layer amplitude gives you even more control over the ambiance (see Web Clip 1).

At the other end of the spectrum, you can use Omnisphere''s sample-processing options to craft unusual chord and lead instruments from Trilian sound sources. The Timbre slider in Shift mode (also available on Trilian) shifts and transposes the sample map, causing the formants to change without changing the tuning. That''s used, for example, to produce the clavinet and electric-piano patches Jangly 12-String Clav and Knockin'' Rhodes.

Omnisphere''s pitch-tracking option for the modulating oscillator lets you create playable instruments using ring and frequency modulation. Start with the VIP patch Picking the Harmonic Belltones, remove the modulation routings of LFO1 to ring mod depth and velocity to sample start, change the Wheel routing from ring mod frequency to ring mod depth, and click the routing''s Invert button off. That yields a very playable sound in which the mod wheel controls the timbre—morphing it from the string-harmonics source to a more bell-like sound.

The Strumming Harmonics Drive patch uses bit-crushing ring modulation and waveshaping to modify a string-harmonics source. To create a playable organ-like patch from that, change the Timber mode to Shift, increase the amp attack slightly, and turn the arpeggiator off. Applying LFO modulation to filter spread adds a Leslie-like effect.

Finally, don''t overlook the many sampled classic-synth sounds included as Trilian sound sources. They make great starting points for Omnisphere patching, either by themselves or layered with bass sounds (see Web Clip 2).

Len Sasso is a freelance writer and frequent EM contributor. For an earful, visit his website,