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9.1 Advanced Synthesis: Time

Once you have generated your original sound, there are many ways to sculpt your instruments. The following pages are devoted to Advanced Synthesis techniques for Bass, Leads, Synths, Strings or Pads, and is not directed at a specific software tool or hardware synth. Any modern synth, either VST or Hardware can be used to create professional quality sounds, if they are used correctly. Ensure that you understand the full functionality of each VST or hardware synth. They are all based on the same principles of synthesis but utilise them in a variety of ways.

Modulation With Multiple LFOs to Achieve Infinite Tonal Variation
When modulating filters e.g. Phasers, Flanger and Chorus or modulating synthesis attributes e.g. Pulsewidth or Modulation Depth etc, ensure that modulation speed or LFO value is slow. This will create motions that interact with each other to create a more organic and less static sound. If you set each LFO to slightly different rates, you can achieve a tone that never repeats.

Fig 1: Using multiple LFOs assigned to various parameters, the tonal variation is almost infinite.

Every acoustic sound has an 'envelope', which is a representation of amplitude over time. Many acoustic instruments, e.g. guitar and piano start instantly and reduce slowly over time. A violin starts sounding slowly but sustains at a relatively constant level as the instrument is bowed. When the bowing stops, the sound dies away very quickly.

The Attack Sustain Delay and Release (ADSR) introduced in Chapter 7 is an example of an envelope with 4 elements. All synths and samplers offer envelopes of the simple ADSR which can be adjusted to create the a variety of tones.

A more complex Envelope can be used to create sweeping pads that morph over time between a multiple number of envelope points. In more advanced VSTs and synths, the envelope can be assigned to any parameter using the Modulation Matrix.

Fig 2: The horizontal axes refers to time and the vertical access determines the value of the destination filter, e.g. cut off frequency.

Track Automation
Track Automation is another example of envelopes which can be used to apply effects to an entire track, e.g. adjust pan, volume or filter intensity at specific points of the track. For example, when applied to cut off, they can create regular, controllable rises and falls in cut off, either recorded in real time using MIDI controllers or the mouse, or programmed into the sequencer using a graphic interface (i.e. drawing lines).

Fig 3: An example of a cut of filter frequency recorded over time using Track Automation.

Bounce to Audio
There are so many tricks and techniques to apply to a basic sound that it is tempting to tweak and change a sound many times. To avoid the trap of constraint adjustment to a synth, optimise the sonic quality as much as possible in one session and then bounce the sound down to audio. Bypass the instruments and effects to save processing power, and leave the option of returning to your instrument open. Working with audio will add a sense of completion to a particular layer, and allow you to move to the next.