Fakin' the Funk in Electronic Dance Music

February 19, 2014
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Last month, we covered the technique for creating filter swells for classic '80s and '90s R&B grooves. This time out, we'll take a closer look at soulful leads and supporting riffs that rely on the time-honored technique of using the mod wheel to inject vibrato into accented notes. 

The secret to performing with this patch relies on playing sparse staccato riffs, then, when you want to get greasy with the sound, extend a note ever so slightly and flick the mod wheel. While it’s possible to get similar results by using delayed vibrato that fades in on each note, with this technique you have a lot more control and can tinker with the subtleties via automation.

 

Step 1

 

Reset Subtractor to its default settings then zero the velocity modulation to the filter envelope. Since Subtractor's default patch uses a sawtooth, we'll stick with that – though you can experiment with other waves like square or pulse for a slightly different flavor.


Step 2

 

Start by setting up a gate envelope for the amplifier, with instant attack, full sustain and quick release. Handily enough, the default patch filter envelope settings are well-suited for this particular sound, though you may want to tinker with the decay time slightly to suit your playing. From there, set the filter cutoff to 40-50% and increase the filter envelope amount to about 60-70%.


Step 3

 

The key to this sound is using the mod wheel to apply vibrato to the oscillators, emphasizing specific notes in your riff. Start by selecting a triangle wave LFO, apply it to the oscillators, then adjust the LFO amount in Subtractor's mod wheel section. Setting this knob to about 1 or 2 o'clock usually does the trick.  Once that's done, experiment by playing a simple funk-inflected percussive riff and quickly flick the mod wheel to add that wiggle to accented notes.

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