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Synth Programming Tips/Techniques Megathread.
Old 19th November 2009
  #1
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Synth Programming Tips/Techniques Megathread.

This was a response to an OP (seemed to be pretty novice) in the hip hop forum who wanted to know which synths were "more hip hop".

In this thread, post and discuss any advice/tips about synth programming + preset tweaking that you have.

Tales of epic patches and adventures in sound design? Post em I'm still pretty new to synth programming myself, and a lot of us probably are, so hopefully the experts can give us a lot of great advice.

And I've figured out what to do with 2 detuned oscs, so please none of that. heh

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lrmusic View Post

OP: Learn how to PROGRAM those synths OP, or at least TWEAK the HECK out of those presets. You should fully understand envelop ADSR (it's really easy anyway), LFOs (more difficult), filters (easy), how to use detuning, pulse width, and phase shift to scuplt sounds, portamento (really easy), and modulation matrices (anything goes, route whatever to whatever). It's all basic stuff, from a technical standpoint. You should be able to take every single pad you have and make it a lead, every single X and make it a Y (from just a technical perspective - it's different whether it sounds usable or not). Even if it's unusable, you're still no worse off than you were at the start when 80% or whatever of your presets wouldn't fit into the track, and you'll get some useable presets. (SAVE THEM). You should learn how to use these things to soften any "trance-someEDMgenre-weirdness" in all of your presets and make it more "hip-hop/commerical". Figure out what weird modulations are causing the weirdness and decrease the effect or change them. You should be able to recognize the effects of a weird pitch LFO or excessive detuning or odd oscillator tuning and change them. You should be able to at least recognize when weirdness is caused by excessive delay or reverb and lower the wet signal. FM or RM weirding up those sounds? Turn them off.

Presets are presets. And then there are degrees of modification. 1 degree of modification might be changing ADSR in some way. Then you can change a few LFOs, and you are up to 2. Don't like the sonic character, change a few oscillators, filters, or fx, that's 3. It might take 3 minutes, tops. (Save it as a new preset). You might have only 200 presets or whatever in your synth, but within a few degrees of modification, you have like 40,000 sonically distinct 3-modsets. (official coining this phrase, and I don't know the number but it's huge).

Exercise number one: Try turning off arpeggiators or trance gates to turn GAT/ARP presets into LED presets.

The artistic side is of course a lot more difficult, but you should have the technical side of synth programming down (as much as you need, since you aren't training to be a pro sound designer), within a week tops of study and practice.

If you aren't paying people to make your sounds, and you aren't satisfied with your sounds, learn to make your own sounds.
Old 19th November 2009
  #2
Oli
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Hi,

Have a look at this pure genius sticky thread. It has enough tips, theory, and tutorials to last at least 6 months of deep programming.
Old 19th November 2009
  #3
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Thanks lol.
Old 19th November 2009
  #4
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I am sorta stuck with patch-making at the moment, so far I know all the basics of a subtractive synth, but my repertoire of patches is very small, I know how to make ambient pads, cheesy saw brass, a few different kinds of basses, PWM strings e.t.c. I feel limited when I start with just an init saw patch, before I used to tweak presets because I couldn't take the sound as far as presets do, but now I'm trying to learn how to be creative from scratch.

The most recent thing I figured out is modulating a LP filters cutoff with square wave (audio oscillator not lfo) with resonance set very high with the cutoff also being controlled by an envelope with a long decay, makes a very epic sci-fi kind of sound, kind of like a spaceship landing or something...

I wonder if there's any sites that have a list of different synth patches so you have maybe a list of songs that feature memorable synth sounds and how to make them...
Old 19th November 2009
  #5
Who needs to program patches, just buy a Virus Ti bahahahaha


But if you really must, I always point newbies to Audio Tuts, has a lot synth programming tutorials along with loads more general recording stuff.



.
Old 20th November 2009
  #6
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I couldn't think of an answer to the OP's post because I couldn't take my eyes off his avatar.
Old 20th November 2009
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msl View Post
Who needs to program patches, just buy a Virus Ti bahahahaha


But if you really must, I always point newbies to Audio Tuts, has a lot synth programming tutorials along with loads more general recording stuff.



.
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Old 4th October 2010
  #8
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My first reply to this thread, since it's referring hip-hop... I think it's safe to say that hip-hop producers usually don't do sound design (there are SOME exceptions)... but in general it is presets and pre-made hip-hop drum kits and an 808 kick. Everybody I know who does hip-hop (ppl i know personally) knows near to nothing about sound design... They focused more on playing the piano and drum pads... whereas I focused more on processing and sound design... but I do glitch-hop and dubstep, so I couldn't really use a lot of presets if i wanted to. i took a midi class, and we had a sound design project using Reason, ever person in the class who did hip-hop used the same exact drum kit (factory bank hip hop kit in Redrum, the teacher failed them all). Note that more than 3/4 of the class was making hip-hop beats too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kupiti View Post
I wonder if there's any sites that have a list of different synth patches so you have maybe a list of songs that feature memorable synth sounds and how to make them...
get Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook... by Fred Welsh... it goes through synth concepts, then into reverse engineering sounds, then the whole second half of the book is just patches... how to program them. I recommend taking a quick look at the book on amazon, under the photos there a page from the patch section (i think it might be a bagpipe patch)... check it out! The patches almost all sound really accurate but sometimes you have to mess around with them a little bit to get the sound (using a filter to shape timbre can be very sensitive for some patches)

i got this and it took my synthesis to a whole new level... After looking at this book, you will know how to do a LOT more... I never knew you could do some much with just two waves and filter. VST users get spoiled with all the synth capabilites, and never learn how much you can do with the most basic parts of a synth if used correctly.
Old 15th December 2013
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isturite View Post
get Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook... by Fred Welsh... i got this and it took my synthesis to a whole new level...
Hi Isturite,

Glad to meet another user of Fred Welsh's book. I was wondering, do you know what the author refers to when he writes a patch that says to set the filter cutoff to 9.5khz (89%) and then set the envelope to 40%? Incidentally, that's actually the value for the "Digital Alarm Clock" patch on page 105.

Thanks!
Old 15th December 2013
  #10
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One of the things that confused the hell out of me at first was what waveforms were associated with what sounds. For example Say I wanted to make a string sound. I had no clue why I should use a saw wave instead of a square...yet a pulse worked great. Of course, it all comes down to understanding the root basics of synthesis (and I am still firmly on the lower to mid end of that understanding). But at first, it's overwhelming.

The one thing I learned from reading various threads was to use preset analysis. Take a softsynth like Z3ta that has plenty of oscs and a variety of presets available; and start deconstructing/reverse engineering it. Start with something like a basic bloop/bleep sound and study up on what waveforms are used, filters ect. Then puck another sound you like, say a violin patch. something a bit more complex than a bleep. Repeat the process. Next, move to a more complex string pad and note what is added compared to the basic fiddle sound.

Same for a woodwind or brass or whatever else. Soon, you start to see patterns in these 'progressions', even if your mind has not yet grasped the why. And it's filing that info away for later use.

The more you do this (even a patch or two a day helps dramatically) the faster things start to click. When you see something that confuses you, look up that particular point and learn about it. Then move on to the next.

Yes it's a long process. But I never found a magic bullet ... and there are none. And it's only as boring as you make it.

IMO/FWIW
Old 15th December 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isturite View Post

get Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook... by Fred Welsh...
I haven't got that yet but I do have Rob Papen's book/DVDs and they are great as well. Highly recommended and well worth the money for anyone who really wants to learn.
Old 15th December 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulfood357 View Post
do you know what the author refers to when he writes a patch that says to set the filter cutoff to 9.5khz (89%) and then set the envelope to 40%?
Synthesizers can express their values in different ways. Sometimes it's a number between 0 and 127. Percentages are pretty neutral since you just have to multiply.

However, the lowest and highest positions of controls may be scaled differently. The lowest cutoff achievable on one synth may be higher than the lowest on another. So, the actual frequency is supplied.

To find out which position coincides with which frequency, run white noise through the filter and crank up the resonance. Use a spectrum analyzer to find the peak and read the frequency for that value.
Old 6th January 2019
  #13
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I can spend hours playing with routing the LFO to different destinations. Select a pulse or saw VCO and route a LFO triangle to slowly modulate the decay or release of the filter envelop.
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