The first few milliseconds of a sound define a lot of its character. Back in the ’80s, when sample memory was expensive, Roland took advantage of this phenomenon to voice the popular D50 synth (pictured). The D50’s unique sound came from splicing sampled attack transients onto synthesized sustaining tones, a process Roland called Linear Arithmetic (LA) synthesis. You can use this technique to punch up your own patches. Simply layer one sound with a fast attack, quick decay, and zero sustain with a sustaining sound that fades in more slowly. One of my favorite lead patches combines a trumpet attack with a female "ooh" vocal sample. General MIDI patches are also a good source for attack transients.
Key Secrets is our recurring mini-blog about new and creative ways to get the most out of the gear you already own. -Ed.