About a year ago I embarked on a mission to write some multitimbral compositions using some of my more capable digital hardware synths. The first – ‘JV80’ was written and sequenced using Reason, with a single MIDI cable sending all of that lovely MIDI goodness into the Roland JV-80 (my first synth!). I often feel the need to explain what ‘multitimbral’ means today, and why it’s so awesome – since it’s something I feel that we (myself included) take for granted in DAWs and modern music production, but if you’re curious read a little bit about it in my previous post here.
More recently, I used my Yamaha MU5 tone generator for a similar composition, this time using Logic as the sequencer running 10 MIDI channels. The MU5 is an inexpensive sound module – using mostly GM type MIDI sounds but it’s handy size makes it great for noodling on the go, and using for multitimbral compositions such as this.
- the MU5 is super compact but still boasts full MIDI – as well as a PS2 port for old-school hosts. As you can see on the right of this pic… the Zoom TacR2 Interface generates lots of system exclusive MIDI messages which were cluttering up my event list! I had to delete all these manually…
As you can see in the picture, Logic is being used to sequence this song – which was created all in one morning. There are no FX on the MU5 so it might sound a little dry… but I think it makes up for it in character!
- The MU5s rubber buttons are fun to press – but this isn’t really a keyboard lets be honest…
Whilst the MU5 is 16 part multitimbral, it does only have 28 note polyphony so you’d probably not ever use all the 16 channels simultaneously – that said it would be useful for keeping things interesting in a song, especially if you include some programme change messages as well. If anything, this forces you to be a little more creative and I find limiting myself during writing and recording often tends to be beneficial in the long run.
Next in line for multitimbral duties will probably be my Roland D5 but this will probably be in a few months (hopefully not a full year again!). I really enjoy working in this way and it’s very rewarding if you can handle the odd polyphonic headache!
I’ve recently started the third year of my degree here in Manchester so I’ve been a little lazy here on my blog it has to be said. I’ve been busy working on a few projects which I’ll be posting soon, as well as starting my ‘Major Project’ for my degree which will no doubt be quite a welcome challenge! More news on that soon!
For this post however I wanted to share a sound I’ve created for a new sample pack I’m working on for the Zapsplat sound library website. It’s worth checking out as they have some excellent contributors and all profits go towards Deaf Child Worldwide.
My pack will contain around 200 designed sounds I’ve been working on for a month or so, and the one below is a small taste of whats in store. It was an interesting sound to work on trying to mimic a motorbike engine using entirely synthesis. I’m pleased for the most part, however it does get a little strained at higher RPM’s! Have a listen below.
I’ve been on a bit of a science fiction fix recently, after working on my latest sound redesign (find it here) I’ve been constantly thinking about designing sounds for use in sci-fi games and for post production purposes. I’ve also been getting well acquainted with Spark, an ensemble for Native Instruments Reaktor. It’s a powerful synth, and really well suited for sound design purposes too.
I wanted to create some alien aircraft / spaceship sounds that could be used for flybys and such so I opened a fresh Logic project and got cracking.
Obviously working on science fiction sound elements means you can get a little extra creative with the sounds that might emanate from alien aircraft and this is always lots of fun. Spark offers lots of modulation possibilities and automating these along with more standard parameters such as pan, EQ and gain was the majority of the work in these sounds.
I created a patch which sounded a bit engine like and features lots of grumbly noises and used automation to move between this and a screamy noisey layer created using the ring mod / filter.
As well as Spark I loaded up my ‘DATACompiler’ tool that I created in Reaktor (read more here)
DATACompiler is great for strange textures with a digital edge, I opted for the ‘Doom’ preset I’d created and used the cycles control to modulate some internal LFOs via some automation as you can see in the picture above. This gave the craft a bit of a ‘whirring’ character.
Final touches included gain automation, convolution reverb and some pan automation to establish the aircraft’s location relative to the listener. Listen below!
After a rather long hiatus from work on DATACompiler I’ve finally got round to finishing version 2 and implementing some of the changes that folks had mentioned along with a few GUI tweaks. It will be available on the new downloads page soon.
Version 2 Updates:
- MIDI Input Modes (Pitch / Gate / Note / Velocity
- Hi Pass output protection
- Relabelling of some controls
- 10 New Presets
- Overall improvements in some of the control functionality and resolution.
- PDF Manual
Here’s my latest Reaktor ensemble in Logic giving us a little demo… great for big 80s pads and rhythmic bass parts. I’ll have this up for download soon if anyone is interested in giving it a go!
I’ve been working on another Reaktor ensemble to compliment my other projects ‘DATACompiler’ and ‘Cyberdyne’ and this time I’ve been focussing on pulse oscillators in particular.. with some other more unusual additions sonically and limiting the synth to only 4 note polyphony. Mostly the DS-250 focusses on the use of modulation and some added FM synthesis which achieves some interesting, if slightly broken sounding textures and sonics.
So basically we’re looking at three pulse / square wave oscillators with adjustable pulse width and an additional FM section (OSC+). Two of the pulse waves have fine tune (+/- 50 cent) and three have transposition of up to two octaves either way. The controls are a little fiddly for this but that makes it (in my opinion) a little more fun trying to get it in tune!! It may not be a go-to plugin for conventional songwriting however…
I’ve started putting together a custom soundbank but sound design is fairly straightforward – there is a simple AMP ENV in the form of attack, decay and release options and a full ADSR for filter envelope duties. The modulation section of the synth is where things get a little more interesting and as usual I’ve annotated the controls with rather vague labels for extra ‘fun’. There is also a useful oscilloscope with adjustable range and even a 5 segment LED meter for output level monitoring.
As with my previous projects the DS-250 will be available to download for free so I’ll post it up soon with a demo video for those that are interested.
During my sequencing module at Point Blank I spent a lot of time researching about MIDI – the one stop communications protocol for musical instruments and other fun equipment! It was whilst researching that I truly started to grasp how powerful it is..
I’m a bit of a synth collector, although I can’t afford the more expensive (and more famous) analogue synths so I lean towards the digital synth era, from the early 80s onwards. A lot of my synths are MULTITIMBRAL which I never quite got my head around until I looked into MIDI further. WIthout boring you… multitimbral instruments can play more than one ‘patch’ at a time – a patch referring to a particular preset, drum bank etc. This differs from polyphony as that is the maximum number of notes a synth can play simultaneously.
Anyway – I’ve hooked up my Roland JV-80 which has a multitimbral mode and used Reason to sequence 7 channels of MIDI. I then sent them directly out to the synth using a single MIDI DIN cable, where I selected the appropriate patches, adjusted levels and mixed in chorus and reverb to boot!
REMEMBER everything you hear is coming from one synth! 🙂
DATACompiler 2000 is the first in a series of ‘lab machines’ that I’m currently making within Reaktor and is based on an FM synthesis engine. Below you’ll find a test run of some of the patches / snapshots included with the ‘synth’
DATACompiiler 2000 features an evolving FM synthesis design, which allows the user to create a large range of digital textures and sounds. I could explain what all the controls do but it will be much more fun for you to find out yourself…