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Sound Design: Growling Pad

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Top Sound Design Tuts.
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Hi everyone. In this tutorial we are going to create a growling pad that has a slow but sharp attack and has motion in the sustain and release. For this tutorial I will be using FL Studio's Sytrus but any FM synth can work as long as it can have tempo based envelopes. Here is an example of what we will be creating...


Step 1: Creating the Base Sound

First reset your synthesizer to the default patch so you have nothing but a basic sine wave. Go to your first operator (FM synthesis version of an oscillator) and create a saw wave. Offset the shape of the saw so its slightly skewed on the ends; a value of 45% in Sytrus. For those of you who do not have a shape value the saw should start to become a triangle wave. The volume envelope should be set to tempo based time and the attack, decay, and release are as follows...

  • The attack should end at beat four with a peak volume of 75%. The tension point should be at 9%
  • Decay should end at beat four with a volume of 25% with a tension of 6%. This point at 25% will be your sustain. If you are using Sytrus make sure you right click the control points and designate them it decay and sustain. See picture for placement.
  • The release point will end at the first eight note of the second bar at 0% and have a tension of 20%

Here is what it should sound like thus far...


Step 2: Creating the Modulation Sounds

In this next step we will create the two sounds that will modulate our original and help give it some motion. The settings for operator 2 are as follows...

  • Shape -60%
  • Tension -85%
  • Skew - 70%
  • Pre-Filter - 4% (or 7 harmonics)
  • The remaining values will be at minimum

This is what operator two should sound like...

For operator 3 start with a sine wave and bring the noise fader up to maximum so its complete white noise. The frequency ratio should be set to 1.000 instead of the standard 2.000 The volume envelope for operator three should be set to tempo and is as follows...

  • The attack should end at beat two with a peak volume of 50%. The tension point should be at 18%
  • Decay should end at beat three with a volume of 15% with a tension of 20%. This point at 20% will be your sustain. If you are using Sytrus make sure you right click the control points and designate them it decay and sustain. See picture for placement.
  • The release point will end at the first eight note of beat four at 0% and have a tension of 20%

Here is what this operator should sound like on its own...


Step 3: Modulation and Universal Effects

Next we need to apply our operators 2 and 3 to our base sound in operator one. Operator 2 going into operator 1 should have a value of 47% and operator 3 into operator 1 should have a value of -12%. Make sure you turn off operator 2 and 3 from going to output; they are only suppose to modulate operator 1 and not be heard. In the main menu turn down the master pitch down 12 semitones (one octave). In the main tab turn the unison on with an order of 4. Leave the values as is if you are using Sytrus. If you do not have Sytrus the values are as follows...

  • Pan - 100%
  • Volume - 75%
  • Pitch - 50%
  • Sub - 0%
  • Phase - 13%
  • Envelope Variation - 0%

This is what we have so far...


Step 4: Filtering Stage One

Now that we have crafted the core of the sound we need to filter it to change the timbre. Send operator 1 to the filter 100% and turn on the filters output (make sure the output of operator 1 is shut off now). Next set the filters envelope control to 100%, the cut to 10%, and the resonance to 100%. Adjust the Low, Medium, and High bands so that the Low and Medium are at 100% and the High is at 0%. This is what are sound should sound like at the moment...

Kind of boring right? That is where envelops and LFOs on our filter come in!


Step 5: Filtering Stage Two

To make the sound more interesting we are going to give the cut a little envelope and a tiny bit of LFO at the same time. Let's start with the envelope by setting it to tempo based time and using the following values...

  • The attack should start at 0% and end up at beat 2 with a value of 42%. The tension should be at 14%
  • The decay needs to end halfway through beat 4 with a value of 0% and a tension of 20%
  • Finally the release needs to end on the next eighth note of beat two with a value of -100% and a tension of 2%.

Here is what it sounds like and what we have so far...

Now we need to add the LFO to the cut as well. To do this we are going to use a LFO and envelope combination to control how much and when the LFO will act. Once it is set tempo based time use these values...

  • The attack will be a three stage attack with a control point at the beginning, beat 3, and a control point at the first 16th of beat 4. The first and second points will have a value of 0% and a tension of 0 while the third point will be at 28% and a tension of 14%

  • The decay point will be set at the first 16th of the second beat of the second bar (confusing I know, that is what pictures are for) and have a value of 0%.
  • Make sure the end point is declared the sustain in Sytrus and the second control point is declared the loop. This will make sure the little LFO peak loops.

  • Next turn the LFO speed knob 90 degrees to the left, the tension to 25%, and the pulse width to -25%

Here is what we should have now; notice the little movement from the LFO.


Step 6: Filtering Stage Three

The last part of our filtering will involve using a envelope controlled LFO for the resonance. Just like before, using a envelope controlled LFO will help us create more motion and when the LFO actually occurs. Per tradition at this point, set the LFO to tempo and follow these values...

  • The attack should end at the beginning of beat 3 with a value of 100% and the tension should be at 100% for an exponential curve
  • There will actually be no decay and the sustain will be at 100% and last till beat 4
  • The release will return to 0% at the beginning of the second bar and have a tension of 0%
  • Lastly change the speed of the LFO to the far right so it is as fast as it can go


Step 7: Adding the FX

Now that we have some good motion in our sound we need to really flesh it out with some more effects. Start by sending the filter to the FX channel 100% and bringing down the main filter output to about 65%; this way we blend a little bit of the filtered sound in. Under our FX select the chorus and make sure it is a four voice chorus. For Sytrus users, the default settings for chorusing are fine, and for those of you who are who are using another synth here are some guidelines...

  • Depth should be approximately 50%

  • Speed needs to be around 75%

  • Delay should be 5%

  • Spread needs to be 100%

Next under the delay tab we need to enable the delay and set it to tempo based delay. For the delay set the feedback to 50%, set the time for 5 seconds, and set the volume to 45%. Move on to the reverb and set it be a warm dark reverb and adjust the length to taste.

Here is what we have now...


Step 8: Final Touchs

Now that we have created our sound we should create more control over it. To do that go to the resonance and set it so that it can be controlled by the modulation matrix on the X-axis. Next select the cut and set it so it can be controlled on the Y-axis of the modulation matrix. Now by shifting the location of the modulation matrix we can achieve different sounds. Here is one example...


Conclusion

Well that about does it for this sound. Play around with the effects and the modulation matrix as well as the tempo of your song. Remember we tempo based almost everything so a lot of it will change with the tempo of your song (for the reference I was working at 90 BPM). I hope you enjoyed creating this sound and learned a little more about the process of creating a pad!

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