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  2. Sound Design

Sound Design With FMMF Synth


FMMF is a freeware FM synthesizer made for the KVR Developer Challenge 2009. It is 32-bit and Windows only, so you will probably need a wrapper for running. 

I used jBridge for using it in Ableton. You can download it from the De La Mancha website. 

FMMF synth
The synth with the pad patch


  • 4 operators
  • FM synthesis
  • 17 algorithms
  • 11 different waveforms per operator
  • 7 multi segment envelopes
  • amp, pitch and effects modulation
  • 3 LFOs for pitch and effects modulation
  • arpeggiator
  • resonant low pass filter
  • distortion effect with 18 flavours
  • delay with comb delay option
  • harmonics can be adjusted from 1 to 256
  • adjustable polyphony
  • portamento
  • 64 presets by brian botkiller

The Idea

The music I made with the FMMF synth consists style elements from:

  • house
  • breakbeat, and
  • trance genres

The core of the drums is a breakbeat loop I chose from a sample pack. I designed the basses first.

Project Setup

I used these basic settings for the project

  • tempo 120 BPM
  • rhythm signature 4/4
  • C-major


I progressed with the track in this order:

  1. basses
  2. pad
  3. leads
  4. fx sounds
  5. drums
  6. mixing fine tuning
  7. mastering

I started with making ideas in the session view, then added layers and layers. I finished the drop part, then copied the patterns to the arrangement view.


I started the track with this sound. The notes are: C1, E1, G1, D1, A1, E1, G1, D1.

Bass C1 patch
I used a peak wave for the sub bass


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • peak, octave 0
  • sine, octave 1
  • triangle, octave 2
  • sine, octave 0

Effects: Utility, +9 dB


The notes are almost the same as before, but all are an octave higher and there is an extra octave jumping note at the end of the beats.


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • square, octave 0
  • sine, octave 1
  • triangle, octave 2
  • sine, octave 0


  • Utility, +9 dB
  • EQ Three, mids +2 dB


This layer consists of 4-5 notes spanning 2 bars. All notes are C3.


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • square, octave 0
  • sine, octave 1
  • triangle, octave 2
  • sine, octave 0


  • Utility, +9 dB
  • Auto Filter, low pass mode, freq 2.9 kHz, resonance 65%, amount 30, rate 1 beat, shape sine
  • Ping Pong Delay, freq 2 kHz, bandwidth 2, feedback 33%, dry wet 33%
  • EQ Three, mids -1 dB


The pad has these triad chords in order within 8 bars:

Pad chords
I used basic chords from the C-major scale
  • C4 - E4 - G4
  • E4 - G4 - B4
  • D4 - F4 - G4
  • C4 - D4 - G4
  • E4 - G4 - B4
  • C4 - E4 - G4
  • C4 - E4 - G4
  • D4 - G4 - D5

The character of the chord sequence goes around the basic C major chord (C - E - G). There are reversed chords and suspended chords as well. But these are just for a bit of variation.


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • octava wave, octave 0
  • amp envelope set with 5 points, long attack, long release, full sustain


  • Ping Pong Delay, freq 1.9 kHz, bandwidth 3.42, feedback 33%, dry wet 33%
  • Reverb, size 165, stereo 120, decay 6.5 sec, pre-delay medium, dry wet 52%
  • Utility, +4 dB
  • Auto Pan, amount 80%, rate 1/4, phase 0, shape 0, offset 45, LFO wave triangle
  • EQ Three, mids +2 dB


The lead used in the C4 range uses the Cluster1 wave type as a basis for the sound.

Lead patch
I used the init algorithm with the cluster wave for the Lead C4 track


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • cluster1, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • default settings for envelopes


  • Utility, +5 dB
  • Reverb, size 156, stereo 100, decay 3.4 sec, pre-delay default, dry wet 48%
  • EQ Three, highs -1 dB


This lead is in the C5 range and supports the previous line with a Ramp wave (a version of saw wave).


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • ramp, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • default settings for envelopes


  • Utility, +4 dB
  • Ping Pong Delay, freq 1.4 kHz, bandwidth 3.42, feedback 54%, dry wet 44%
  • EQ Three, mids +1 dB


This is the first effect type sound. It has got both tonal and atonal character.

Abst C4 LFO page
I used the Fx Lfo1 tab for setting a tempo synced modulation for the sound


  • algorithm 1+2+3+4
  • saw, octave 0
  • square, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • sine, octave 0
  • amp for operator 1 set to 10 stages consisting of 5 ups and downs
  • fx lfo set to attack - decay phase with 3 points
  • filter freq set to 15 with resonance 3.9


  • Saturator, drive +33 dB, type Hard Curve, output -12 dB, soft clip on, base 10, depth -4.5
  • Chorus, feedback 47%, dry wet 40%, amount 1.9 ms, rate 1.01 Hz
  • EQ Three, mids -1 dB


This is an octave higher then the previous sound and is a different version of it.

I copied and pasted and modified some bits.

Synth: this is a copy of the previous but with an added fx LFO stage.


  • Overdrive, freq 1.25 kHz, bandwidth 6.5, drive 50%, tone 50%, dynamics 50%, dry wet 90%
  • Flanger, dry wet 29%, LFO amount 100%, delay time 2.5 ms, feedback 0.9
  • Utility, +4 dB
  • EQ Three, highs +1 dB


The breakbeat was the starting point for the drums. It has an agressive character, with big kick and snare. I also made it even hotter with Saturator.

Breaks clip view
I pulled a breakbeat loop to make the core of the drums


  • Saturator, drive +5 dB, type Soft Sine, output -2 dB
  • EQ Three, highs +2 dB
  • Limiter, default settings


The first shaker part of the song. I panned it to left.

Effect: EQ Three, highs +1 dB


The second shaker instrument. I panned it to right.

Effect: EQ Three, highs +1 dB


I automated a percussion track with Flanger and Auto Filter. Both create great interest in the mix on this sound.


  • EQ Three, lows cut completley
  • Flanger, LFO amount 100%, dry wet 36%, rate default
  • Utility, +2 dB
  • Auto Filter, low pass mode, freq 3.5 kHz, resonance 41%, LFO amount 30, rate 1.5 beat


I made the sound of the congas more agressive with Saturator.


  • Saturator, drive +16 dB, type Analog Clip, output -4 dB
  • EQ Three, low -2 dB, mid 0, high +1 dB
  • Limiter, default settings


I created four groups for each category type. I mixed along continously as I created the track. I made space for the bottom end with EQ low cuts.

Mixing tracks
I used 4 groups for all channels
  • drums: Limiter, default settings
  • bass: Compressor, sidechained to Break beat
  • mids: EQ Eight, low cut at 200 Hz
  • fx: EQ Eight, low cut at 200 Hz, Limiter, default


I used several effects to season the sounds:

  • EQ Three
  • Chorus
  • Saturator
  • Flanger
  • Delay
  • Reverb
  • Auto Pan
  • Auto Filter

I didn't explain exactly all settings, because I went for feel and taste. I encourage you to experiment and use your ears and ideas for this phase.

My tip for this is to allow yourself an extra day spending time on the mix. Then you can re-evaluate the overall sound and possible dial back the settings, if something is too much.

You can also use reference tracks to help tune the dry wet ratios as well. The reference track can be any good sounding music you like in the given style or genre.


For finalising the track I checked mono compatibility with the Utility width set to 0% then changed back to 100%. After that I made a low cut at 35 Hz (mids) and 200 Hz (side), then used a default Limiter to catch peaks.

Master channel
I used Utility, EQ EIght and Limiter on the master chain

I already mixed with high volume levels so I didn't need to boost with the Limiter input level.

Effects chain:

  • Utility
  • EQ Eight
  • Limiter


I used these setting for rendering the music:

  • WAV file type
  • 44100 Hz sample rate
  • 24 bits bit depth
  • Triangular dithering
  • Normalize turned Off


That was my tutorial for creating a song with making sounds using the FMMF instrument. I designed the basses, pad, leads and effect sounds as well.

There is a lot more you can do with FM synthesis. Try out several algorithm types and the multi stage envelopes.

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