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  1. Music & Audio
  2. Ableton Live
Music

How to Create a Track With Synth1

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

About Synth1

Synth1 is a well known, freeware software synthesizer, which is famous about its minimal system requirements. It is modelled on the Clavia Nord Lead 2 Red Synth. There are thousands of presets, on the internet, and it has a large user base.

Synth1 VST instrument by Ichiro Toda
This is the interface of Synth1

Features

  • Two VCO (square, saw, triangle, sine, noise)
  • One sub VCO
  • Frequency modulation
  • Ring modulation
  • Sync
  • Modulation envelope
  • Five types of filters (including LP12, LP24, HP12, BP12, LPDL)
  • Two LFOs
  • Arpeggiator
  • Tempo delay
  • Stereo chorus
  • Flanger
  • Legato
  • Portamento
  • 16 notes polyphony
  • 128 presets
  • Minimal CPU usage
  • Automation
  • 32-bit and 64-bit versions

The song

This is the music piece that I am about to make.

Project settings

I used the following settings and key for this short electronic downtempo track.

  • Tempo 70 BPM
  • Time signature 4/4
  • Key C-minor

Synth settings

I used the Initial sound preset for every new sound I needed. You can find that browsing the banks in the popup interface of the VSTi. That setting resets the instrument to the basic settings, with a nice saw patch.

Init patch
To start programming choose the Initial sound in the synth interface

Lead

This part was the initial idea and the first track designed in Ableton and Synth1.

Synth:

  • VCO1 square
  • VCO mix set to VCO1
  • Filter frq 81, res 14, LP24
  • Filter ADSR A 0, D 64, S 32, R 64
  • Amp ADSR A 64, D 64, S 0, R 60
  • Voice set to mono
  • LFO1 spd 21, amt 96, p/w
  • No built-in effects
Lead patch
Settings for the lead

DAW effects: Simple Delay, feedback 27%, dry wet 33%.

Bass

The bassline is basically a saw wave with a plucky, attacky feeling. The notes are C, F, D# and D.

Synth:

  • VCO2 saw
  • VCO mix set to VCO2
  • Filter frq 47, res 0, LP24
  • Filter ADSR A 0, D 64, S 32, R 64
  • Amp ADSR A 0, D 64, S 107, R 54
  • Voice set to mono
  • No built-in effects
Bass sound
Setting the bass properties

DAW effects: EQ Eight, low cut at 55 Hz.

Pad

I created the chords section using a pad sound.

Synth:

  • VCO1 square
  • VCO2 saw
  • VCO mix set to middle
  • Filter frq 81, res 14, LP24
  • Filter ADSR A 0, D 64, S 32, R 64
  • Amp ADSR A 79, D 64, S 107, R 64
  • Voice set to poly
  • LFO1 medium spd, zero amt, osc1/21
  • LFO2 medium spd, medium amt, p/w
  • No built-in effects
Pad patch
Settings for the pad sound

DAW effects: group fx with lead2 are Reverb (maximum size, maximum stereo, medium decay) and EQ Eight (4x low cut at 148 Hz).

Lead 2

This is a great little techy/electro sound, which is popular nowadays in progressive trance musics. In the piano roll the same C-4 note is repeated in a 1 bar loop.

Synth:

  • VCO1 triangle, FM set to 92
  • VCO mix set to VCO1
  • Filter frq 64, res 64, LPDL
  • Filter ADSR A 0, D 64, S 32, R 64
  • Amp ADSR A 0, D 64, S 0, R 0
  • Voice set to mono
  • no built-in effects
Lead 2 patch
For the second lead, the most important setting is triangle wave set to FM modulation

DAW effects: EQ Eight, low cut at 360 Hz.

Snare

Here comes a plain, noise based snare sound using VCO2 as the sound source. The Filter is playing a big part in how it behaves.

Synth:

  • VCO2 noise
  • VCO mix set to VCO2
  • Filter frq 81, res 34, LP24
  • Filter ADSR A 0, D 64, S 32, R 64
  • Amp ADSR A 64, D 64, S 0, R 0
  • Voice set to poly
  • no built-in effects
Setting up the snare sound
Setting up the snare sound

DAW effects: Ping Pong Delay feedback 46%, dry wet 26%, EQ Eight low cut at 204 Hz.

Hihat

The hihat is a short sound (as a short decay on the amp ADSR) using the noise VCO. The Simple Delay is used in a way to give it a wide stereo spread using the Haas-effect.

Synth:

  • VCO2 noise
  • VCO mix set to VCO2
  • Filter frq 127, res 14, LP24
  • Filter ADSR A 127, D 30, S 0, R 0
  • Amp ADSR A 0, D 35, S 0, R 0
  • Voice set to poly
  • no built-in effects

DAW effects: Simple Delay L 1ms, R 10ms (both are in time mode and dry wet 100%), EQ Eight low cut at 1 kHz.

Fx

The sound effects channel is a white noise track, for which I automated a filter cutoff frequency. The frequency rises and falls, depending on the song sections.

Synth:

  • VCO2 noise
  • VCO mix set to VCO2
  • Filter LP12, res 0
  • Filter ADSR A 127, D 30, S 0, R 0
  • Amp ADSR A 0, D 64, S 30, R 64
  • Voice set to poly
  • tempo delay and chorus is on
Automating the wind FX track

DAW effects: Reverb, max size and max stereo, medium decay, 40% dry wet. EQ Eight, low cut at 200 Hz and high cut at 9 kHz.

Mixing and Mastering

I removed the low information with EQ of the tracks where I didn't need them. On the master channel I put a Fabfilter Pro-L brickwall limiter with a setting of -0.2 dB ceiling, +1 db gain (just a tiny amount to be a bit louder) and 2x oversampling (for better quality). I also monitored the frequency spectrum with Ableton Spectrum and Fabfilter Pro-Q2.

To control the space properly in the track, I panned the Lead 2 to right 30 and Pad to left 30 and lowered their volume.

Session view of the channels
Mixing the tracks in Ableton session view

Render settings

For the last step I exported the song with these settings.

  • WAV
  • 44100 Hz
  • 24 bits
  • No dither
Rendering the session
Setting the file type, sample rate, bit depth and dithering

Conclusion

Multiple Synth1 instances
Finishing screen in Ableton

So this was our session of creating a downtempo song using just the Synth1 software synthesizer. In this tutorial, I programmed the two leads, the pad, bass and other tracks. I also recommend this fun little challenge using just one synth for making a complete track. 

This is useful for both beginner and expert stages of level and you get more ideas on the fly making your own presets. Tell me about your preferred workhorse soft synth in the comments, below.

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