In this article, Studio Slave will lift the lid on the techniques used by pro producers to help you build your own unique effects. From risers and sweeps right the way through to atmospherics & pitch drops, read on to discover how to create them.
Most of you will be more than savvy with how to create a standard white noise filter sweep. But we want you to go one stage further. Try modifying the amplitude of the filter swept white noise with an unusual LFO shape. To further accentuate this modulated sound set the filter resonance high to really make the sound stand out.
Another method of adding motion to your sweep would be to place a compressor on the white noise track and set it to side-chain mode. Then set up another track with a rhythmical pattern such as a 16th hi-hat pattern. This can be muted as we will only need it to trigger the side-chain. We can then play with the attack and release settings to add interesting textures to our otherwise lifeless white noise build. Slightly different results can also be achieved by using a side-chained gate instead of a compressor.
USE THE WRONG PLUGINS
Try to use plugins that you wouldn’t use in normal circumstances, or even just use them in an order that isn’t logical. This can help you to create completely unorthodox FX chains that can be saved as presets.
Take any random sample and try time stretching it to the extremes whilst using one of Ableton’s warping engines such as tone or texture, you could also try transposing the sound as well, this method can be used to create gargling atmospherics, sweeps, risers and builds from the simplest and more boring of sounds.
Once you have a few ideas for your own custom effects, try building them into racks and setting some macro controls up to give you a more diverse range of possible effects.
You can now hit record in your DAWs arrangement and play around with the macro controls. This will enable you to record the automation and bounce down any effects builds that you like the sound of.
Another way that we can add an unusual flavour to our effects is with the use of randomising devices. We can make use of sample & hold LFOs set to modulate certain macro controls to give our effects and atmospheres textural movement over time. Useful macros to map could be anything from stereo width, right through to phaser, flanger or chorus amounts. Experimentation is key here and be sure to set your LFO modulation amount to low and slow values. Remember we want this to be subtle modulation to keep the subconscious brain occupied rather than an in your face effect.
Something that the human ear doesn’t hear very often in Nature, is sounds that have been reversed. These can be used creatively as sound FX to pull the listener into the next section of the song. This cis easily achievable in Ableton by reversing the audio in clip view, or if you have a bit of cash to splash then check out outputs ‘Rev’ plugin which has been built around the whole concept of reversed sounds.
If your trying to create dissonant or metallic sounds then ring modulation is the perfect tool to give you those inharmonic sounds. Ring modulation is the process of multiplying two waveforms together. When we do this the result is the sum and difference of the two waveforms frequencies, which also generates extra sidebands that will often be at inharmonic frequencies. This is similar to the sort of sounds that we can create using FM synthesis set to non-integer ratios.
These are often overlooked as being used solely as an effect. However they are very powerful tools. We can set the multi-tap delay times to create interesting rhythms. A good example is logic pro’s delay designer. This allows control over every aspect imaginable including volume, filtering, panning and resonance. We can run a single sample through these delays and cause all sorts of filtered, pitched and panned carnage.
When designing sound effects it can be very easy to accidentally make a sound that would be impossible for you to recreate again. To combat this try to keep a track recording in the background for resampling purposes. this ensures that any happy mistakes can be trimmed and resampled.
RESONATE TO APPRECIATE
If we turn the ‘Q’ right up on many filters we can get them to self resonate. This means that they will be producing a tone completely on their own. This tone can then be pitched to a certain note using the frequency cutoff and we can turn up the key tracking so that the cutoff changes as we play different notes on the keyboard. We can then play in a long sustained note and edit the pitch envelope to rapidly move the frequency down in pitch to give us futuristic laser sounds.
PANNING AND TREMOLO
Use panning to keep your FX dancing throughout the entire of the stereo field. In Ableton we can also set the phase, offset and spin to help widen the stereo image of our FX by changing the speed & phase of the right channels LFO in relation to the left channels LFO. If we set the phase to zero and increase the pan amount we can also create a tremolo effect.
GRANULAR AND FM SYNTHESIS
These two synthesis types can be very confusing and so many producers will shy away from using them, however in the case of effects & sound design we can get away with being a bit more wreckless than usual, so dive straight in and have a play around to see what sounds you can come up with. Granular synthesis will pull sounds apart into tiny grains which can be pitched, scattered, delayed and modulated, whereas FM Synthesis can be used to create harmonically rich sounds by modulating carriers. As a general rule of thumb the more you modulate a carrier the more harmonically rich the sound will become. If you push this modulation too hard, eventually you will end up with a full frequency spectrum which is white noise.
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