Last month, we learned how to create dramatic pitch rises usingsoft synths. This time, we’ll add rises to audio from beatboxes or drum loops. Drums that rise? Hell, yeah! This is a fantastic trick for constantly increasing the energy of a track. It can be subtly integrated into the track’s main percussion parts, or done dramatically during a big breakdown.
Below are some effects from Ableton Live (similar ones are included with most DAWs), any of which you can use to create a rise so long as it has an LFO. Set that LFO to an upward sawtooth wave and the slowest possible rate. This gradual ramp-up eliminates the need for tricky automation moves. As a starting point, slowly raise the effect’s LFO amount to about 50%. Once you hear the rise kick in, start tinkering with parameters. Some effects create amplitude peaks, so slapping a limiter after the effect will help tame any spikes. Scroll down for audio examples.
Flangers. This is the most direct approach to imparting a killer rising whoosh to your percussion elements. My own track “Caboose” relies heavily on it. The key parameters here are delay time (shorter times impart higher pitches) and feedback (the more you apply, the more the pitch rings).
Phasers. These are subtler. Again, feedback is key to increasing the overall intensity. You can get chime-like, metallic effects if the phaser includes a resonant mode, such as Live’s phaser’s “Space” mode.
Highpass filters. While these may not be the most obvious choice, using one can be quite effective during breakdowns, especially when the resonance is set very high. In our online audio example, the resonance is at maximum and the cutoff frequency is swept with our sawtooth LFO. Be careful not to set the cutoff too high or your effected part will disappear as the rise reaches its apex.
Editing. Render your new rise as audio, then create an eight-, 16-, or 32-measure loop in your DAW’s arrange window, and move the loop points as you listen. Once you’ve found the section that has exactly the pitch sweep you want, crop the rise and place it accordingly.
- The Rise, Part II audio examples
Synthesist, producer, remixer, and DJ Francis Preve authors our monthly column on electronic dance music production techniques, contributes to Beatport.com, and just signed to Josh Gabriel's Different Pieces record label. He was also a founding employee of NemeSys, the company that originally created GigaSampler. His remixes have hit Billboard's top 100 dance charts numerous times. See what he's up to at www.fap7.com.