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Quick Tip: Create Engine Sounds Using an Analogue Synthesizer

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Read Time: 3 min

Today I will show you how to create engine/vehicle sounds using an analogue synthesizer. For this tutorial, I am using the Digidesign Vacuum instrument in Pro Tools, because it offers a nice tube saturation to the sound with its vacuum tube synthesis, although its not different from any of the analogue synthesizers in operation.

You may use any of the available synthesizers for this sound as the process remains the same. The tube saturation feature might not be available in every plugin but that can be added externally as an effect using a saturation plugin. Let's begin!

Step 1

Load Vacuum as a new instrument. There are two Vacuum Tube Oscillators (VTO) labelled "VTO One" and "VTO Two". Let's change VTO One's range to 32 semitones and the shape just between Sawtooth and Triangle. For VCO 2, bring the range down to 16 semitones with the shape set to Noise. At the moment it sounds like nothing but a sawtooth wave with noise.

Now, let's bring up the Ringmod and set it to 100%. Ringmod outputs the sum and difference of the two waveforms, as sawtooth and noise here. The sound instantly changes to something that is very much machine-like. Also, you may add a bit of drive which adds distortion to the signal.

Listen to the audio clip below.

Step 2

Now that we have an initial sound setup, let's tweak it further to get a more polished sound.

First of all, lets increase the attack time to 5 seconds to make the start a bit smoother. The attack time can be increased/decreased depending on the kind of sound you want, but let's leave it at 5 seconds for now.

Now its time to tweak the filters:

  • HPF: We bring the cutoff to 15% with resonance to full, chage the slope to 0 dB/octave and the saturation to about 45%. It gives the sound a boost in the low end.
  • LPF: Let's bring the cutoff to 100% or anywhere between 95-100%, the slope to 0 dB/octave and the resonance to 10%. The saturation knob should be turned to 100%. This will give a high end boost, creating a grittier sound.

Listen to the audio clip below.

Step 3

Here's the last step. In the Vacuum Tube Amplifier section (VTA, top-right), we increase the amp shape to around 60% to have a warmer sound.

In the modwheel section, let's change the destination to tremolo. This means that modwheel will control the tremolo. Let's bring the rate up to get a fluttery sound when the modwheel is pushed all the way up. The rate can also be automated to get that transformers kind of sound but since we are not aiming for that here, lets leave it this way.

That's it! We have our machine/engine sound that can be used in a variety of ways as a vehicle, generator or airplane sounds.

The Final Sounds:


Octave below

Two octaves below

Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked this quick tip.

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