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Envelope, Basics

In sound design, an ADSR envelope modulates the sound and sculpts its timbre thus changing its sonic character. ADSR is an acronym that stands for its four stages Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release. The contour of the ADSR envelope is specified by three time-parameters and one level-parameter like this:

(A) Attack time is the time it takes for the signal to go from minimum to maximum when the key is pressed.
(D) Decay time is the time for the signal to drop to the designated sustain level (if it is not set to maximum, then decay time has no meaning).
(S) Sustain level is the level of the signal while the key is hold.
® Release time is the time taken for the signal to fade out after the key is released.

Note that the signal will jump to the release stage when the key is released no matter where it is in the envelope. Hence if a short note is played, the signal might not had time to rise to the maximum in the envelope, therefore release will be relative to the level reached in the envelope.

Envelopes can be applied not only to volume, but also to filter frequencies or oscillator pitches.

To correctly tune the pitch envelope modulation range:

  1. First turn the modulation/envelope amount knob down.
  2. Press the key and set the desired minimum with the pitch knob (offset for modulation).
  3. Turn sustain level all the way up, press the key and let the signal reach maximum.
  4. While on sustain, dial the modulation knob to the maximum pitch.

About cutoff modulation, the cutoff knob is the starting point of the modulation, that means that the sound will not be altered if cutoff is set to maximum.

Moreover, it is sometimes possible to inverted the envelope and reverse its behavior.

Envelopes, Basics

In sound design, an ADSR envelope modulates the sound and sculpts its timbre thus changing its sonic character. ADSR is an acronym that stands for its four stages Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release. The contour of the ADSR envelope is specified by three time-parameters and one level-parameter like this:

(A) Attack time is the time it takes for the signal to go from minimum to maximum when the key is pressed.
(D) Decay time is the time for the signal to drop to the designated sustain level (if it is not set to maximum, then decay time has no meaning).
(S) Sustain level is the level of the signal while the key is hold.
® Release time is the time taken for the signal to fade out after the key is released.

Note that the signal will jump to the release stage when the key is released no matter where it is in the envelope. Hence if a short note is played, the signal might not had time to rise to the maximum in the envelope, therefore release will be relative to the level reached in the envelope.

Envelopes can be applied not only to volume, but also to filter frequencies or oscillator pitches.

To correctly tune the pitch envelope modulation range:

  1. First turn the modulation/envelope amount knob down.
  2. Press the key and set the desired minimum with the pitch knob (offset for modulation).
  3. Turn sustain level all the way up, press the key and let the signal reach maximum.
  4. While on sustain, dial the modulation knob to the maximum pitch.

About cutoff modulation, the cutoff knob is the starting point of the modulation, that means that the sound will not be altered if cutoff is set to maximum.

Moreover, it is sometimes possible to inverted the envelope and reverse its behavior.

Happy New Bass

If you’re reading and following this blog you ought to be interested in bass. And because of that, I’m giving you two – not so obvious – techniques on how to accentuate your synth bass sound.

Using the high-pass filter to boost bass

Okay, so you know what a high-pass filter is right, and that its cutoff frequency is the point at where the filter limits the low frequencies and lets the high pass.

You also know about resonance, and that it’s generally used to give a brighter/thinner sound. (And when the resonant setting is cranked to max, some filters go into self-oscillation and which make them scream.) But when high-pass resonance is added, the note and overtones near the cutoff are boosted – in other words, this is lifting the bass.

Just use keyboard tracking to make the resonant peak follow the pitch of the note and cutoff to follow the keyboard. The fundamental note will now be boosted while the surrounding spectrum is unaffected.

Use two filters in series if possible, set the other to low-pass filter and reduce harsh elements of the sound.

Get bigger bass by focusing on midrange

To get louder bass it’s not always necessary to pump up the level or to boost the lower frequencies, no you could just draw more attention to the bass element. Add midrange to it – it’s almost a mindtrick, and it shouldn’t make the bass any muddier.

So saturate the overtones of the bass or sculpt the thud of the kick drum. This is also valuable when there are several sounds competing for room in the low end.

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212763639/stream?client_id=3cQaPshpEeLqMsNFAUw1Q?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Last evening I made 16 drum sounds on the microKORG. This synth is okay and offers quite a few possibilities with up to four separate envelope generators, four noise generators layered multi timbrally, and a multi mode filter (with resonance able to self-oscillate and to be used as a sound source). Also, complex made easy with the modulation routings on the microKORG.

Some external compression and effects where added to these four drum patterns.

It is what it is. Truth be told, I don’t really remember why I bought the microKORG. They say it’s Korg’s best selling synth ever, maybe I wanted to know why.

Seq / Arp

Another post about the mighty MiniBrute. Here’s a tip how to hack the arpeggiator to act as the sequencer like on the newer SE model.

Just send the SysEx command: F0 00 20 6B 04 01 75 01 3E 01 F7  to your MiniBrute to enable the sequencer. And if you what the arp back, or if you have a SE version, then send F0 00 20 6B 04 01 46 01 3E 00 F7.

This information was published on one of the developer Yves Usson’s personal sites. You may also wanna visit for more information about how you can send SysEx et cetera.

Speaking of the MiniBrute. Right now I’m in the beginner’s phase, that is, messing around and making lots of noise, but not any songs. I experiment and come up with many sounds that are good enough, but there’s no saving patches on the MiniBrute. (I could take pictures of the knob settings, but I know I would never look at them.)

So it’s a different approach and workflow from what I’m used to, it’s more about improvising and jamming. Now I need to find a way to capture ideas and process them into compositions. I guess it has to do with some kind of multitracking. 

Anyway, it’s fun and I’ve hooked up the MiniBrute to my volcas (sample, bass and keys). The whole band is playing, I don’t even have to start any DAW.

P.S. About the image, well I had no printer at home, just my mad skillz.

Et tu, Brute?

image

So I finally got an Arturia MiniBrute Mk I today. (I actually got both the MiniBrute and the MicroBrute for what it’s worth, but I’ll return the latter to the store tomorrow.)

It wasn’t easy to decide which one to pick, the Micro, the Mini or any of the SEs. But I looked around, checked Gearslutz, reddit and other forums and came to the conclusion that the MiniBrute seems to be the best choice, at least for me. Perhaps the SE would fit better – because I’d rather have a sequencer than an arpeggiator, but when it all comes down, I need neither of them.

The Micro

While I prefer the size of the MicroBrute, I think the MiniBrute feels sturdier, more heavy duty. The keys are nice, but I don’t mind mini-keys, and I really don’t need another full-size keybed portion (I’m obviously not in the target group for this synth).

Other advantage the MicroBrute might have over the MiniBrute – besides the price – is the patch bay. Although you’re able to do most things on the MiniBrute with its extra encoders; except CV Out LFO and envelope and such, but I don’t have, and I’m not planning to get, any modular system.) Actually, I think the MiniBrute has more modulation options and flexibility than the MicroBrute.

Okay, the overtone control that allows pitch changing and that could be modulated via the mod matrix, would of course be nice. But I’m good with the sub oscillator of the MiniBrute – and it does cover another octave and offer both sinus and square wave.

The Mini

So the reasons to choose MiniBrute wasn’t the semi-weighted keyboard with aftertouch. No, what appealed to me were: separate ADSR envelopes for filter and amplification, an extra filter type (notch), white noise, three additional LFO waveforms, an extra LFO and maybe MIDI Out. I think these things make the MiniBrute a greater, and more versatile synth.

I chose a Brute synth from Arturia because I’ve heard that they have a distinctive voice and filter character, and this purchase was supposed to complement my other gear. Also, I wanted an analog synthesis that couldn’t be found anywhere digital roams.

A microKORG Growl Bass

Hi, here’s how to make a dupstep wobble/growl bass on the microKORG. Or at least a good starting point. The raw sound is pretty standard, still full and with some fine overtones, that you should be able to take a step further with compressors, saturation and effects outside of the microKORG. Just resample an process.

You can manually change (or automate) the wobble speed with LFO 2 > Frequency, which is tempo synced to the BPM set on Arpeg. A > Tempo. Alright, start with initializing a program on the synth and follow the money.

Edit Select 1
Voice: SYT, SGL, MON, SGL, –
Pitch: -24, 0, 0, 2, 5
Osc 1: DIG, -, 61, -, –
Osc 2: SAW, OFF, 0, 0, –
Mixer: 127, 100, 10, -, –
Filter: 12.L, 38, 53, 0, 0
Filter EG:  0, 64, 127, 0, ON
Amp: 127, CNT, ON, 0, –
Amp EG: 0, 64, 127, 8, ON
LFO 1: TRI, OFF, OFF, 10, –
LFO 2: SIN, VOC, ON, 1.3, –

Edit Select 2
Patch 1: LF.2, CUT, -40, -, –
Patch 2: LF.2, PTC, 0, -, –
Patch 3: LF.1, CUT, 0, -, –
Patch 4: LF.2, CUT, 0, -, –
Mod FX: ENS, 20, 12, -, –
Delay: STR, OFF, 40, 0, –
EQ: 60, 7, 1.00, 3, –
Arpeg. A: 140, 1.16, 80, UP, 1
Arpeg. B: OFF, 0, OFF, 8, –

Doubleretro

Recently I got an original microKORG. It’s something like a modern classic, first released in 2002, and is still in production. While you don’t by a book by its cover, the microKORG has a distinctive vintage look. Now 13 years on, it’s retro in a new sense – it’s meta- or doubleretro.

image

Anyway, it’s hugely popular and not without reasons. The microKORG is a DSP analog modelling synthesizer/vocoder from Korg, and one of its best-selling synthesizers ever. It’s pretty well covered on teh internets so I shouldn’t delve further into details here.

Inspiration

Usually I’m abusing softsynths for my productions, so to sum up what I now was looking for was some inspiration by stepping outside the software ecosystem. For that I wanted some hardware that could produce both warm rounded and cold sharp tones, had a reasonable deal of oscillators, a sharp filter section and MIDI controller functionality. Among others, the microKORG matched this.

Moreover, it also has an arpeggiator and a patch system that let you assign different modulation routings. And it’s possible to run external audio source via the microKORG and process it with filtering and effects.

The microKORG’s signal path is straight forward and easy enough to follow, but programming a sound is a little bit muddled, due to all diving into the menu system to find the right parameter to edit. (When hooked up to a computer, there’s this software, the SoundEditor, but its interface is simply awkward.)

Two-thirds of the stock presets are bad, but it’s alright because these encourage you to make new, own and better sounds. So far I’ve made like 10 usable sounds.

Limited Space

Because my home studio is very small, I needed something compact that I would be able to squeeze in. First I had some trouble with noise interference and hum. It was probably ground loop, which I manage to solve by re-arranging some gear. (And no, this time I wasn’t looking for any rack versions or modules like Nord Rack 2X or Mopho, even if both of them are terrific synths.)

In this case, the microKORG suited my setup, mostly because of its size. The mini-keys didn’t bother me. If I ever need to play live, I’d anyway use my full size master keyboard with semi-weighted keys (Axiom Pro 61). By the way, I think the microKORG’s design is overrated and its build could be more sturdier.

Compared to the microKORG XL+ or R3, I prefer the raw sound of the MS2000 engine to the MMT analog modelling.

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