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Additive Synthesis in Propellerhead Reason – Part 2

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This post is part of a series called Additive Synthesis in Propellerhead Reason.
Additive Synthesis in Propellerhead Reason – Part 1

In the second part of this tutorial we will look at how modulation can make our organ patch more interesting and realistic, and how further modulation of the individual overtones in our additive patch can create different sounds and textures.


Step 1

Load up your patch from the previous tutorial. It would be a good idea to save the patch under a different name so that you can return to the basic organ patch at another time should you wish.

Just to recap our tone should sound like this:


Step 2

We are going to use the programmer in the Combinator to apply some modulation to the sound we have created, to get a more authentic organ sound.

Click the 'show programmer' button in the Combinator. Click 'Subtractor 1' on the left hand side of the panel, which will bring up the modulation routing options for this Subtractor device. Choose the target for Rotary 1 to be the LFO1 rate, leaving the minimum and maximum values where they stand, at 0 and 127.

The panel should now look like this:


Step 3

Assign rotary 2 to the LFO1 Amount, again leaving the minimum and maximum values as they are. The panel should now look like this:


Step 4

Repeat steps 2 and 3 for all eight of the Subtractors in your Combinator patch. This means that when you turn Rotary 1 or 2 it will affect the LFO1 rate and amount controls on all of the Subtractors which make up your organ tone. All of the LFOs should already be set to affect the pitch of the oscillators, so turning up Rotary 2 should set the pitch wobbling wildly. It will be helpful at this point to label the two rotary controls as I have done below:


Step 5

Now all we need to do to get that authentic organ wobble would be to adjust the 2 rotary controls to suitable values. For this audio example I have set the rate to 81 and the amount to 15, for a nice subtle wobble in the notes.


Step 6

For some further modulation ideas here are some suggestions:

Try modulating the volume of the notes as well as, or instead of the pitch. You will need to connect LFOs to the rotary inputs on the Combinator manually achieve this.

Instead of using the programmer in the Combinator and the global rotary controls to modulate the pitch and volume, try setting different values on each of the Subtractors, this can create really interesting sounds, though it can get a bit messy!


Step 7

Now we are going to start to play with some different sounds from our additive synth patch. The first sound we can create will be a bell type sound, so save the organ patch and then re save it under a new name for the bell sound.

With a bell type sound the sound rings on with some decay after a note is pressed so firstly if you are triggering your notes from a sequencer track make sure the notes are very short, as demonstrated:


Step 8

Our bell sound will not need any modulation, so turn off any pitch or volume modulation that you added for the organ sound. The bell sound we are going to make is characterised by the lower harmonics ringing on whilst the higher ones die away very quickly, giving the initial 'attack' on the sound. To achieve this we can alter the release times on the amp envelopes of each Subtractor.

To make the main body of the sound ring out I have increased the release time of the first four Subtractors at the top of the pile up to about 55.


Step 9

We are starting to get there now, but the higher frequencies still die away a little too quickly for my liking so I have increased the release time on the other four Subtractors to about 22. At this stage you can also get away with increasing the volume on these higher frequencies as well, to make the attack on the note more pronounced.


Step 10

You can now hear our completed bell sound. This should give you a good idea of how manipulating the different sine waves that make up our tone in different ways you can get a huge range of different sounds. If you wish to continue to experiment with other sounds here are some ideas for you to try out:

Try making a long, pad type sound, remember that we don't have to always try to replicate real world instruments. For this sound you could experiment with modulation on individual overtones, delayed LFOs, and sounds with a big gap in between low and high harmonics.

Remember that white noise is made up from an equal blend of all frequencies, so if you layer up enough sine waves in one patch you could start to filter it out and create percussive and drum type sounds.

Adding effects such as reverb, chorus and delay to your sounds can really bring them to life.

The track below is made entirely from additive synth patches and sine waves. Every element including the drums has been constructed from individual sine waves to create richer, more interesting tones. I have used effects in Reason to add some depth and interest.

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