Let’s continue showing you how artists we all know and
love use the many synthesizer soloing sounds, concepts, and techniques
we’ve been exploring over the last 19 columns—20 counting last month’s
analysis of George Duke’s favorite approaches. Up this month: Jordan
Rudess. Jordan shared his main lead sound, programmed on a Korg Kronos.
I’ll break it down so the concepts are more universal, and please do
check out the online audio examples, which turn the words into audible
Jordan uses a Combi (Korg-speak for a multi-program sound)
to bring together his main lead sound, and a separate sound programmed
to simulate the guitar feedback tones which are brought in by pushing
the four-way joystick upward (away from you, called JS+Y) and downward
(towards you, called JS-Y). I’ve taught you how you can use additional
oscillators to produce these pure pitches, but by using a secondary
program Jordan is able to use the oscillators in each program for some
cool applications I’ll go over.
Pitch-bend is set up for a whole-step up (joystick right)
and a full octave going down (joystick left). There’s no controller
assigned to vibrato, nor to LFO-based modulation of pitch; Jordan does
that by wiggling the pitch-bend direction of the joystick. He has a
switch set up to transpose the sound up an octave, which he can use to
play repeated note figures and toggle the octave range up and back down.
The switch also toggles the octave of the feedback tones. Jordan
explains how he uses these controllers in our Web video supplement to
this month’s column.
The Main Lead
The body of the sound is produced by the AL-1 engine in
the Kronos: a virtual analog synth modeling engine with dual
oscillators, a sub-oscillator, and a very robust complement of filter
choices, complex envelopes, LFOs, and modulation capabilities. Jordan is
using the effects to get the distortion/overdrive, chorus, and delay,
but we’ll turn those off for now so we can concentrate on the main tone.
So if your synth has these basic elements (and what good synth
doesn’t?) you’ll be able to follow along.
The two oscillators are set to sawtooth waves and are
detuned +3 and -3 cents, respectively, to produce a nice slow-rolling
detuned character. This is further fattened by setting the sound to
unison mode, using three stacked voices with a detune of five cents—the
detune is the critical parameter that fattens up the sound. The sound is
set to play in mono legato mode, with last note priority so that the
most recent notes played will always sound. This also means you can use
all the techniques I covered in the December 2012 and January 2013
columns. [We’ve re-linked those at keyboardmag.com/october2013. —Ed.]
A sub-oscillator (an oscillator set an octave lower) is
set to a square wave (the AL-1 only offers square or triangle waves for
the sub-oscillator). This can easily be recreated on any synth that
offers at least three oscillators if you’re synth lacks a dedicated
sub-oscillator. It’s brought into the mix using the Kronos’ ribbon
controller—modulating the amp volume from zero up to 99—so it can be
added to a sustaining note when desired. Jordan doesn’t have a way to
lock the ribbon to keep the sub tone in the sound without holding the
rightmost edge of the ribbon, but if you were to use a slider or knob to
bring it in you could achieve that. It’s all about how close you need
physical controllers for other “moves” like pitch-bend and feedback. On
the Kronos, Jordan can hold the sub level in place while still reaching
all those controls, plus do any needed octave-switching, so he’s
Filters, amp and more
The filter is set to 24dB-per-octave lowpass mode, with the cutoff at
about 75 percent and a slight resonance bump (a value of 40 out of 99).
There’s no filter envelope control. The amp envelope is set to sound
instantly and then rapidly decay down to a middle-level sustain,
producing a punchy transient to the sound. See Figure 1 for a
generic recreation of the shape. The sound also uses two special Kronos
parameters: first up, a Drive stage that adds saturation and overdrive
per voice, so it sounds the same regardless of polyphony. As discussed
in the July 2013 column, this is a real benefit compared to using an
overdrive effect. This may be recreated by any saturation stage your
synth has, as discussed in the June 2013 issue. A Low Boost parameter
works in conjunction with the Drive to add body to the sound by
increasing low frequencies. It’s a tonal shaping tool for the
saturation/overdrive circuit, not a general-purpose EQ, so it’s more
specific to the Kronos engine.
The Effects Chain
The real distortion character is still coming from an
effect, although the amp Drive parameter certainly helps. Jordan is
using the “Guitar Amp Model + Cabinet” algorithm as an insert effect,
set to “UK Blues.” The input gain is up full, delivering as much
distortion as the effect can deliver, and then blended in with the clean
sound with a wet/dry mix of 68 to 32. The effect offers tone controls
and he has boosted the bass at +78 and the mids at +65, with treble
sitting flat, warming up and thickening the tone. He’s also using the
Cabinet Simulator set to “Tweed-1x12” with the virtual mic positioned
rather far away to add some “air.” As I discussed in the July column,
the speaker simulator sucks out a lot of frequencies, which in this case
adds great character to the sound.
Moving on to the master (or send) effects, he has a
slowly sweeping Stereo Chorus (LFO set to 0.64Hz) with a depth of 40
(depth controls the amount of pitch variation in the effect). The chorus
is set to a 50/50 wet/dry mix. The signal is then chained into a Stereo
BPM Delay with the main repetitions (L) set to eighth-notes, with a
medium feedback, so they repeat in a nice decaying curve. The secondary
repetition (R) is set to a quarter-note, with only one hit occurring.
What, no reverb? That’s right. Since Jordan plays in some of the biggest
halls and venues around the world, the venue is already providing
plenty of general ambience to his sound.
More To Come
Next month I’ll cover the feedback tones and some cool
extras Jordan has programmed into the sound to add variety to his
performance. This sound is a perfect example of so many of the
techniques we’ve learned in these columns, but it’s still only a sound.
When it comes under the hands of a powerful and expressive player like
Jordan it really becomes something magical. So don’t think that getting
the sound is the whole picture—there’s plenty of practicing needed to go
along with it.