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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.

FM à la Analog Four

One of my favorite synths is the Analog Four, and with the OS update 1.22 a while back, Elektron added new LFO synchronization modes and destinations and made this synth even more awesome. (If I only could take one of my synths to a deserted island, it would be the Analog Four.) Anyway, in short that means I’m now able to apply pitch tracked LFO FM behavior.

Here’s a way to start (not rules):

  1. Set triangle (as a substitute for sinus) waveform on an oscillator.
  2. Open up both filters.
  3. Set the LFO speed to any multiples of 16.
  4. Set the LFO multiplier to over 512 and synchronize it to the oscillator you’re working with.
  5. Let the LFO restart when a note is played on Trig Mode.
  6. Choose sinus as the LFO waveform.
  7. Set frequency or pitch modulation to the oscillator as LFO destination. (Also try different destinations later, like the filter frequency.)
  8. Set depth of the LFO modulation (or, if you’re using the first oscillator, let the second assignable envelope control this).
  9. If you use Depth A in the step above, then try to fade in or fade out the modulation.

Also, there’s a few videos on YouTube describing these methods, like this, which is a good walkthrough, even though it’s a bit unfocused and lengthy.

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.

The Final Countdown of the microKORG

I thought the microKORG was okay sounding and quite fun even to program, but it was hard to find the right sonic spot in my productions for it; it competed with major league players, like the analog Minitaur and the Juno-106, or some great softsynths like the Thor. So I sold it (and by selling it, I made room for another purchase).

Still, just because there wasn’t any obvious place for the microKORG in my personal setup, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad or redundant synth for everbody.

Anyway, before I sold it, I printed down two generic bass sound designs, very basic but still good sounding.

The FM Bass

The first sound is a FM-esque bass, though it doesn’t try to mimic the style of the classic Yamaha DX7 of the 80s (for that, choose sine waves for both oscillators, carrier and modulator, and bypass the filter section entirely).

You can use a LFO as the modulation source for the oscillator, but in this case I’m using another oscillator to achieve a fairly complex overtone structure with only two operators. So by definition, the bass is actually a Cross Modulation (X-Mod) bass type. Let’s start by breaking down the oscillators:

Osc 1: SIN, 25, 0, -, –
Osc 2: SQU, OFF, 24, 0, –

The first oscillator (carrier) is set as a fundamental sine wave with no overtones. Some depth of cross modulation is added (in the patch below, adjust this with the modulation wheel).

A square wave is used for the second oscillator (modulator), with the oscillator modulation turned off, and detuned two octaves upward for harmonic-component effects. Also, try tweaking the tuning for different sounds.

Here’s the full program (another timbre was layered to fatten the sound up a bit):

*The default factory value, just skip to next setting.

Timbre 1
Edit Select 1
Voice: SYT, LAY, MON, MLT, –
Pitch: -12, 0, 0, 2, 0
Osc 1: SIN, 25, 0, -, –
Osc 2: SQU, OFF, 24, 0, –
*Mixer: 127, 0, 0, -, –
Filter: 12.L, 37, 41, 23, 34
Filter EG:  0, 31, 0, 0, ON
Amp: 127, CNT, OFF, -16, –
*Amp EG: 0, 64, 127, 0, ON
*LFO 1: TRI, OFF, OFF, 10, –
*LFO 2: SIN, OFF, OFF, 70, –

Edit Select 2
Patch 1: MOD, 1.CT, -8, -, –
*Patch 2: LF.2, PTC, 0, -, –
*Patch 3: LF.1, CUT, 0, -, –
Patch 4: LF.2, PAN, 23, -, –
*Mod FX: FLG, 20, 0, -, –
*Delay: STR, OFF, 40, 0, –
EQ: 320, 5, 6.00, 0, –
*Arpeg. A: 120, 1.16, 80, UP, 1
*Arpeg. B: OFF, 0, OFF, 8, BTH
*Global: 40.0, 0, CRU, PRE, OFF
*MIDI: 1, ON, INT, -, –

Timbre 2
Edit Select 1
Voice: SYT, LAY, MON, MLT, –
Pitch: -12, 0, 0, 2, 0
Osc 1: SIN, 0, 0, -, –
*Osc 2: SAW, OFF, 0, 0, –
*Mixer: 127, 0, 0, -, –
Filter: 12.L, 25, 11, 29, 42
Filter EG:  0, 31, 19, 0, ON
Amp: 127, CNT, OFF, -16, –
*Amp EG: 0, 64, 127, 0, ON
*LFO 1: TRI, OFF, OFF, 10, –
*LFO 2: SIN, OFF, OFF, 70, –

Edit Select 2
*Patch 1: LF.1, PTC, 0, -, –
*Patch 2: LF.2, PTC, 0, -, –
*Patch 3: LF.1, CUT, 0, -, –
*Patch 4: LF.2, CUT, 0, -, –
*Mod FX: FLG, 20, 0, -, –
*Delay: STR, OFF, 40, 0, –
EQ: 320, 5, 6.00, 0, –
*Arpeg. A: 120, 1.16, 80, UP, 1
*Arpeg. B: OFF, 0, OFF, 8, BTH
*Global: 40.0, 0, CRU, PRE, OFF
*MIDI: 1, ON, INT, -, –

The Juno Bass

The other bass is merely a sawtooth, yet beefy, virtually analogish with emulated drift and such. It’s straight forward, yet powerful, and I think it showcases the strengths of the microKORG’s MS2000 sound engine.

There’s a number of ways to enhance this sound. For example, you can turn up the second oscillator, detune it a bit, add some chorus, and get a lead-like sound. Or you can modulate the cutoff slightly with a LFO to make subtle movements in the sound.

Anyway, here’s the program of the punchy single sawtooth bass:

*The default factory value, just skip to next setting.

Edit Select 1
Voice: SYT, SGL, MON, MLT, –
Pitch: -12, 0, 0, 2, 5
*Osc 1: SAW, 0, 0, -, –
*Osc 2: SAW, OFF, 0, 0, –
*Mixer: 127, 0, 4, -, –
Filter: 12.L, 35, 12, 50, 45
Filter EG:  0, 25, 6, 30, ON
Amp: 127, CNT, OFF, -14, –
Amp EG: 0, 33, 101, 0, ON
*LFO 1: TRI, OFF, OFF, 10, –
*LFO 2: SIN, OFF, OFF, 70, –

Edit Select 2
*Patch 1: LF.1, PTC, 0, -, –
*Patch 2: LF.2, PTC, 0, -, –
*Patch 3: LF.1, CUT, 0, -, –
*Patch 4: LF.2, CUT, 0, -, –
*Mod FX: FLG, 20, 0, -, –
Delay: STR, OFF, 40, 0, –
EQ: 320, 6, 6.00, 5, –
*Arpeg. A: 120, 1.16, 80, UP, 1
*Arpeg. B: OFF, 0, OFF, 8, –
*Global: 40.0, 0, CRU, PRE, OFF
*MIDI: 1, ON, INT, -, –

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.

Synth Farm on Facebook

I’ve started a new group on Facebook where people can post sound examples and patches of different synths, and discuss pros and cons of certain gear. For both hardware and softsynths. Do join the Synth Farm, https://www.facebook.com/groups/synthfarm/.

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