By JERRY KOVARSKY
LAST TIME, WE STARTED EXPLORING
SYNCED OSCILLATOR PATCHES, one of
the classic sounds of lead synth playing. This month, let’s get into
some other programming
ideas for adding variety to your sync lead sounds. Remember, our goal in this
is to give you ideas and techniques for varying the sound, adding expression,
going beyond the notes to exploit all the capabilities of your synth when
1. Getting ready to add velocity modulation to a basic envelope-modulated sync
patch in Predator.;
As you explored the presets of your chosen
synth looking for sync sounds, it’s highly likely
that you found at least one patch where your
touch changed the sync character. This is usually
achieved by routing velocity to the pitch of
the slave oscillator, which is usually oscillator
2. Combining this velocity modulation with an
envelope sweeping the pitch can produce a more
expressive sync patch. When you do this, each
note still gets swept to produce the signature
sync sound, but your touch determines the range
of the sweep.
2: Both envelope (left) and touch (right) modulate the pitch of Osc
The trick here is the interaction between the
amount of envelope modulation and the amount
and direction of the velocity modulation. I’ll assume
that you have a patch called up that already
has an envelope set to sweep the pitch of the
slave oscillator as we described last month.
In Figure 1, we see that in Rob Papen Predator,
Osc 2 is set to Sync (yellow circle), and that
we have a “free” envelope set to modulate Osc
2’s semi-tuning for a medium sweep range (blue
rectangle). Notice in the middle bottom that we
have velocity routed to modulate Osc 2’s pitch as
well (red rectangle), but currently it has no intensity.
So as I play, I get the classic sync sweep
sound but my touch has no effect on the range
of the sweep. As I increase the
3. Negative pitch modulation via velocity (right), with the amount of envelope
modulation increased (left) to compensate.
of Osc 2’s pitch, my touch extends the
range of the sync sweep, adding to what it was
previously producing. So I can go from the basic
state I started with and get more range as I play
harder. That’s nice, but I prefer to turn down the
amount of envelope modulation slightly when
I use the velocity modulation, so I can get less
sweep when I play softer, get the basic sweep
range when I’m in the middle of my touch range,
and get an extended range when I play hardest.
So dial back the envelope modulation and increase
the velocity modulation to taste, or feel,
as in Figure 2
Another way to vary things based on your
touch is to set the velocity modulation to a negative
value. This way, as you play harder you decrease
the amount of sync sweep, so your sound
becomes more “straight” as you dig in, which is
likely to happen when you play faster licks and
phrases. When you do this you’ll want to increase
the envelope modulation of Osc 2 back to a higher
value so your softer playing gets the range you
want, as in Figure 3.
4. In Predator, choosing velocity as the “amount control”
modulation source and setting a negative value will have the same effect.
5. For stepped sync select “arp free” (instead of
“velocity” as before) as the modulation source for the
destination “semi 2.”
Notice that Predator has an “amount control”
for the free envelope I’m using, and this could
have been used to route velocity modulation
instead of the previous modulation routing. I
chose not to use it so you could more clearly see
what I was doing, but it will produce the same
result—it’s shown in Figure 4.
How you go about
it depends what synth you are using, what modulation
capabilities it has, and what modulation
routings you have free.
So far we have been using smooth sweeps of Osc 2
to produce our sync sound. But you can use different
types of modulators to get discrete values for
each step of your modulation, which is a different
and tres cool effect. Try routing a sample-and-hold
LFO to the pitch of Osc 2 for a sound similar to
ELP’s classic “Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part
intro, although that was actually filter modulation,
not modulation of the pitch of a synced oscillator.
But you get the idea: timbral change! If you’re doing
this within a DAW, sync the LFO tempo to your host
and the effect will be in the groove of your tune.
Since this is such a dramatic effect I like to be
able to turn it on and off , adding it to the previously
described sync sound as desired. To do
this you’ll need to be able to modulate the LFO
amount on your synth, and then set up a switch
to toggle between a value of zero (no LFO modulation)
and a higher value set to taste.
6. Like in Predator, you can turn on sync for the second oscillator in Arturia
Jupiter-8V and then modulate its pitch in rhythmic steps using the onboard
Even cooler is choosing exact values for a
rhythmic sequence of modulation amounts.
Some synths have step sequencers; others have
an arpeggiator that can output modulation values.
Either way you can get a rhythmic series of
timbral changes that are each exactly as subtle or
dramatic as you specify. Again, you can sync the
timing to your host tempo. Check out Figure 5
for how it’s done in Predator; Figure 6