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  1. Music & Audio
  2. Sound Design
Music

Making Sounds With Zebralette

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

About Zebralette

Zebralette is the minified version of Zebra2 and it is freeware. Zebra2 can use the sounds created in Zebralette. I downloaded it from the u-he developer website.

Features: - one oscillator with wavetables and additive mode - two LFOs (one per voice, one global) - multi-stage envelope - on-board effects (chorus, EQ, delay) - dual spectral effects - up to eleven voice unison - resizable interface with gamma settings (can be darker or brighter) - VST2 and AAX support - 32 bit and 64 bit modes - PC and MAC version

Project Settings

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I used these settings and key for this short composition. - tempo 125 BPM - time signature 4/4 - key C-minor

Synth Settings

I used the initialize default preset for every new sound I needed. You can find that at the end of the built-in preset lister. The init preset resets the instrument to the basic settings, with a nice and simple saw patch (using wavetable 5 wave).

Starting Point

I made a drumbeat using a KJ Sawka drumkit which can be downloaded from the packs section of the Ableton website. The drumkit features several acoustic kicks, snares and hats.

I programmed a four-bar loop with a broken beat using the same kick and four snares with variable decay and reverb tails.

Kick and Snares

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For the first listening the basic beat was pretty weak sounding. To help this I set a healthy amount of parallel compression, which effect was coming from the built-in instrument rack.

I used low cut on each of the snares, then used EQ cuts on the group as well to make space in the mix. I put a limiter to catch any peaks.

You can check the beats here:

Effect on each snare: EQ Eight, 200 Hz low cut

Group effects: - Parallel compression -5 dB (rack effect) - Utility, +2 dB gain - EQ Eight, 40 Hz low cut, 18 kHz high cut - Limiter, default settings

Hats

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I programmed the hats using 1/8 notes and another hat at different places to vary the beat up a bit. I used a delay with different timing on both sides to make it stereo.

The hats are here:

Effects: - Simple Delay, sync 4 left, sync 6 right, 23% feedback, 37% dry wet - EQ Eight, 1.2 kHz low cut, 15 kHz high cut

Bass

This is a simple saw patch with the default wave using a shorter decay and release. The notes are 1/8 notes. They are in ascending order, using C2, D#2, F2, G#2 and A#2.

From the spectral fx1 section of the synth I chose filter with a setting of -60 which gives us an LP filter with a rollof at around 500-600 Hz. The Redux effect gives it a sharper tone with a background noise. I sidechained the bass to the beat to help sit in the mix.

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This is our bass sound:

Synth: - saw wave (wave 5 from default set) - fx1 filter -60 (which is a low pass filter) - attack 0 - decay 16 - sustain 80 - release 15 - vca volume 190

Effects: - Compressor, sidechained to the beat, ratio 1.92:1, medium attack, auto release, -18 dB threshold - Redux, 8 bits, 3.8 soft downsample - EQ Eight, 35 Hz low cut (4x slope), 3 kHz high cut - Utility, +3 dB gain to compensate sidechain compression

Lead

The main lead melody consists of notes around C3. For the oscillator I selected a thin square wave and added a turbulence effect with an LFO to move it in time.

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Listen to the lead here:

Synth: - thin square (wave 14 from default set) - fx1 turbulence 100, lfoG1 30 mod - attack 0 - decay 50 - sustain 80 - release 15

Effect: EQ Eight, 200 Hz low cut, 8 kHz high cut

Lead2

The second lead uses the C5 notes only which is the root note of our track. For making modulation I used the fractalz fx at -50 and gave the global lfo with a setting of 30.

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You can check the lead2 sound here:

Synth: - square-saw hybrid wave - fx fractalz -50, mod lfoG1 30 - attack 0 - decay 50 - sustain 80 - release 15

Effect: EQ Eight, 762 Hz low cut with a Q of 0.27, 12 kHz high cut

Pad

The pad is playing chords between C4 and C5. The main idea for this section is using the root chord C-minor and modified versions for example a sustained chord and playing neighboring notes for the second note of the triads.

For the oscillator I made a custom additive wave.

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You can listen to the sound here:

Synth: - custom additive wave in spectroblend mode - attack 44 - decay 100 - sustain 100 - release 49

Effect: EQ Eight, -3dB shelving cut at 1 kHz, 7 kHz high cut

Electric1

For this section I used 1/16 notes at C6. The sound contains a thin square-saw hybrid wave and is hard panned left.

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This is the sound clip:

Synth: - square-saw hybrid wave - fx1 fractalz 60, mod 60 lfoG1 - attack 0 - decay 23 - sustain 0 - release 15

Effect: EQ Eight, 200 Hz low cut, 12 kHz high cut

Electric2

This is similar to the electric2 but hard panned right and uses different spectral fx.

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This is the sound clip:

Synth: - square wave - fx1 expander 38, mod 36 lfoG1 - attack 0 - decay 23 - sustain 0 - release 15

Effect: EQ Eight, 200 Hz low cut, 12 kHz high cut

FX

The FX reminds me of an overly distorted guitar sound. The base of the sound is a saw wave in the initalize preset. I used a lot of distortion using two pieces of Overdrive effect and a Saturator. Then I filtered it heavily with EQ Eight using low and high cuts.

I used a Filter Delay to make it interesting and stereo. At the end of the chain I used a Limiter to catch the peaks and attenuate the signal.

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Listen to the FX here:

Synth: - saw wave - attack 0 - decay 50 - sustain 80 - release 15

Effects: - Overdrive, 1.25 kHz frequency, 6.5 bandwidth, 100% drive, 100% tone, 0% dynamics, 100% dry wet - Overdrive, same as previous one - Saturator, 36 dB drive, hard curve, color on, -6 base, 639 freq, 94% width, -9 depth, clip on, 0 dB out, 100% dry wet - EQ Eight, 1.1 kHz low cut, 3.1 kHz high cut - Filter Delay, default settings with 3 dB left, -4 dB center, 3 dB right, -5 dB dry

Send Channels

I created a Reverb and a Delay send channel to use them with the mid-range instruments.

Channel A

  • Reverb, 12 size, 3.6s decy, 120 stereo, 100% dry wet
  • EQ Eight, 250 Hz low cut
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Channel B

  • Simple Delay, left 4 sync, right 3 sync, 69% feedback, 81% dry wet
  • EQ Eight, 208 Hz low cut
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Using Sends

I mixed using these settings for adding effects. It is very easy and practical to use processing in this way, I can recommend it very much and it also saves a lot of CPU.

Mixing sends: - Lead, A -9 dB, B -10.5 dB - Lead2, A -6 dB, B -5 dB - Pad, A -10.5 dB - Electric1, -10 dB - Electric2, -10 dB

Master Channel

The first EQ is cutting out unnecessary low and high and in stereo. The second EQ is making everything mono below 200 Hz in mid/side. The Utility is turned off, because I used it only to check mono compatibility.

The Limiter is always the last in the master chain and is used for catching peaks, I didn’t add any gain on it, because the mix was already loud enough.

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The chain I used: - EQ Eight, 40 Hz low cut, 17 kHz high cut in stereo - EQ Eight, 200 Hz low cut from the sides in mid/side - Utility, 0% stereo width, switched off, after checking in mono - Limiter, 0 dB gain, -0.3 dB ceiling, default settings

EQ Workflow

I used EQ a lot for low and high cutting on individual channels. This is for making space in the mix. For this process I listened to the given channel and tried out adding or removing the filter and listening to the channel.

If something becomes thin or weak or dull then it is the sign that I went too far. This is the point where it needs to set it back a bit.

Finished track

You can listen to the composition here.

Conclusion

In this tutorial I showed you how to create sounds using with the Zebralette software synthesizer. I programmed the bass, leads, pad, fx, and electric sounds.

For the beats I used a drumkit and programmed it in MIDI. I also recommend using just one synth for making all synth sounds of a complete track for practising.

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