Synth Sound Design

HarmonyCore

Active Member
Hey Everyone,

I want to know from sound experts how much time do you spend creating new sounds from synths. I mean, the possibilities of creating a sound is insanely and overwhelmingly endless. I am now teaching myself Absynth 5 and I can say that it has so many waves and oscillator types, not to mention the different filters, waveshapers, modulators, and effects that you apply in the signal path to manipulate the sound.

The concept is easy but the tremendous amount of time that someone spend in this stuff is unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I am not being overwhelmed or anything but just don't know from where to start. Are you just selecting random wave or osc. type and start experimenting for hours until you get the sound you want? It seems to me a patience game as fishing. I've been using synths in a very traditional way by depending on their included presets until I realized that I am severely limiting myself by depending on what is available. In addition, I am losing the opportunity to create my own cinematic wooshes, risers, etc.. and save myself bucks to buy these from vendors. I believe most of these wooshes sounds come from synths. Where else? :)

With that being said, I decided to pause composing for a while and spend some time designing my own sounds and learn more synths.

My questions for you, sound experts .... !!

1) What tips to give to a beginner sound designer?
2) What is your workflow when designing your sounds?
3) How much time do you spend in designing?

Thanks in advance :sad:
 

doctoremmet

Senior Member
Most important tip:

Really learn and understand what the architecture of any given synth is and what each component does. Once you wrap your head around modulations and what they do to the sound, you will be able to really look for a sound and build it purposefully, in stead of just twisting knobs.

Now, there are probably many roads to achieve this purpose. I’d start with a good book or video tutorial on BASIC subtractive synthesis concepts, and try and create simple sounds as you go along.
 
OP
H

HarmonyCore

Active Member
Most important tip:

Really learn and understand what the architecture of any given synth is and what each component does. Once you wrap your head around modulations and what they do to the sound, you will be able to really look for a sound and build it purposefully, in stead of just twisting knobs.

Now, there are probably many roads to achieve this purpose. I’d start with a good book or video tutorial on BASIC subtractive synthesis concepts, and try and create simple sounds as you go along.
Yes sir, I am using Groove3 for this purpose. Many decent tutorials in there. And yes, you're right. I think it was a mistake to begin with an additive semi-modular synth like Absynth. Will check which subtractive synth NI offered me in their Komplete 12 ultimate bundle. :) thx
 

Dombaeb

New Member
My 2 cents:

There are basic fundamentals that can be applied to all synthesizers on earth. Of course, you know it and it's not so hard to learn but there is the most fundamental thing - waves and how they actually sound :)

Use spectral monitor (or visual equalizer) when you playing with synth and watch what happens with the sound visually. For example, take a simple sine wave and discover modules one by one watching how the picture is changing (and how it sound).

You can use the same algorithm to learn any module or modulator. When you'll realize how each of them works visually you can finally experiment without headache :)
 
OP
H

HarmonyCore

Active Member
My 2 cents:

There are basic fundamentals that can be applied to all synthesizers on earth. Of course, you know it and it's not so hard to learn but there is the most fundamental thing - waves and how they actually sound :)

Use spectral monitor (or visual equalizer) when you playing with synth and watch what happens with the sound visually. For example, take a simple sine wave and discover modules one by one watching how the picture is changing (and how it sound).

You can use the same algorithm to learn any module or modulator. When you'll realize how each of them works visually you can finally experiment without headache :)
Great point there but in that case I am going through thousands of wave shapes that my brain could handle visually and that's only for a sine wave. Multiply this with another thousands of shapes when we throw saw or triangle or any other wave type into the mix. :laugh:
 

Dombaeb

New Member
I'm talking about the principle. If you know how the module will change the wave - you can predict how it will be sound empirically (brighter, duller, hollower, etc.).
 

Smapti

New Member
IMO the best way to learn is to find presets you like and study them. What is it you like about that sound and how was it created?

My other recommendation is to work "forwards" instead of "backwards." That is, when starting out programming synths, it's overwhelming to start by thinking of a sound you want to make and then working backwards to try to get it. Instead, begin with no goal in mind other than creating something that sounds interesting to you, and start out by restricting your options since option paralysis is usually what makes programming synths difficult.

Eg: if you're using a wavetable synth, intentionally restrict yourself to just one wavetable chosen at random, one filter type (low pass, band pass, etc), and one modulator (LFO, envelope, etc). Work within arbitrarily chosen -- and simple! -- constraints until you find a sound you like. Then, do it again with different constraints, and keep doing this process until you have a rough idea of which tweaks create various output timbres.
 
Aim for a sound. That can save you hours, or years. That is something that most schools won't teach you. Maybe industry veterans will laugh at me for this, but it's something I didn't learn when I took a Sound Design course. Unless you want to create experimental music, have a goal for the final sound, a kick, a wobble, a brass sound, a supersaw, whatever, just don't meddle randomly with the synth.

That being said, I was surprised when I did a song with sounds from scratch and when I remade it with an Access Virus, some of the presets were very similar to what I had done in VSTs... Also, if you make cool sounds by accident, stick with them, no problem with that.

It's not that hard, but I can tell with fair certainty that you're complicating your life by using Absynth. That and FM8 are amongst the hardest to use VSTs out there. Massive is a bit outdated, but Monark is good in your NI pack. There is probably more, I'd look into the Reaktor offerings maybe, although Blocks looks difficult since it's modular. Serum is today what Massive was in 2014, that might be worth learning, but the synth itself is expensive. If you're willing to spend, I'd look into that.
 

synthesizerwriter

Bits and bites of sound and silence...
@Dombaeb makes a very important point that a lot of people miss. Don't look at the waveform - instead, look at the spectrum. The correlation between a waveform and what you hear is tricky, whereas your ears work on spectra internally, and your brain then gets that spectral information and you 'hear' it.
 

Zero&One

Senior Member
@HarmonyCore Both Massive and Massive X are excellent. Most synths are, you just need to dig in.

Pick one, make an entire song with it. Don't worry if it'll be the next top 10 hit.
Make a kick, snare, hats. Then bass, layer that bass 3 times for ultimate bass.
Make a lead that fits with your track

See where this is leading? You'll get to know what that synth is doing and why. You'll also fly through future 'bangers' as you've done this before and you know exactly where to tweak your patches.

Also, most of the principles you have acquired through this translate very easily to other synths. You just have to learn their new features, routing etc.
 
What about Massive X? Would you recommend it for beginners?
I don't feel like diving into Massive again, and the Internet feedback has been generally negative...

What do you think of iZotope Iris2? It's for $10 now.
it's granular synthesis, which is complex, but good sounds come out of it. To be completely honest, I'm gonna grab the Iris deal too, I'd say get it. Not for the granular synthesis, but for the sheer quality of sounds that you'll get... I use Breaktweaker from izotope and I'm absolutely amazed by it.

Tweaking sounds is important and you seem to have a good time doing it. But don't forget to work on your music theory and arrangement skills too. That's way more important IMO. There are about 5 million. I said million, commercially available presets for the major synths... 10% or less are good, but my point is, there are enough ready made sounds for you to use.

Many say, do some tweaking at least if using a preset, and they got a point, but a lot of pros just use fancy hardware out of reach to begginers for their songs... We never know. Dominating sound synthesis is a very valuable technique though, just don't forget the other aspects of making music.
 

Smikes77

My Avatar looks just like me
Hey Everyone,

I want to know from sound experts how much time do you spend creating new sounds from synths. I mean, the possibilities of creating a sound is insanely and overwhelmingly endless. I am now teaching myself Absynth 5 and I can say that it has so many waves and oscillator types, not to mention the different filters, waveshapers, modulators, and effects that you apply in the signal path to manipulate the sound.

The concept is easy but the tremendous amount of time that someone spend in this stuff is unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I am not being overwhelmed or anything but just don't know from where to start. Are you just selecting random wave or osc. type and start experimenting for hours until you get the sound you want? It seems to me a patience game as fishing. I've been using synths in a very traditional way by depending on their included presets until I realized that I am severely limiting myself by depending on what is available. In addition, I am losing the opportunity to create my own cinematic wooshes, risers, etc.. and save myself bucks to buy these from vendors. I believe most of these wooshes sounds come from synths. Where else? :)

With that being said, I decided to pause composing for a while and spend some time designing my own sounds and learn more synths.

My questions for you, sound experts .... !!

1) What tips to give to a beginner sound designer?
2) What is your workflow when designing your sounds?
3) How much time do you spend in designing?

Thanks in advance :sad:

Try out Syntorial, they have the first few lessons free, it`s very much worth it. I haven`t used a preset since, and then for practise I would pull up a horror film soundtrack or whatever and then try to copy the sound like ear training for synths.
 

José Herring

Senior Member
IMO the best way to learn is to find presets you like and study them. What is it you like about that sound and how was it created?

My other recommendation is to work "forwards" instead of "backwards." That is, when starting out programming synths, it's overwhelming to start by thinking of a sound you want to make and then working backwards to try to get it. Instead, begin with no goal in mind other than creating something that sounds interesting to you, and start out by restricting your options since option paralysis is usually what makes programming synths difficult.

Eg: if you're using a wavetable synth, intentionally restrict yourself to just one wavetable chosen at random, one filter type (low pass, band pass, etc), and one modulator (LFO, envelope, etc). Work within arbitrarily chosen -- and simple! -- constraints until you find a sound you like. Then, do it again with different constraints, and keep doing this process until you have a rough idea of which tweaks create various output timbres.
+1

The biggest strides I've made in synth sound design are just finding a preset that I thought sounded cool and then studying what was done.

The next biggest stride was to learn about each type of synthesis, subtactive, additive, wavetable, FM, ect.. And studying how the best hardware synths used these techniques, then I tried to get soft synths that was like the hardware.

The next biggest stride I made was that until I had the money to actually hire people to program custom presets that my time was limited and that at least 90% of my effort should be in tweaking already existing presets. I mean if the line is really important and I need to create something from scratch it could take days to get it right but worth it. If not, then some preset tweaked takes minutes to hours.

So you have to be smart about it.

Another that I do though is if I have a week is just spend that week programming sound design. Then the actual writing takes a lot less time as I don't have to stop everything to look for presents or design my own sound.

The thing with a lot of softsynths as you know is that if you're starting from a blank slate the possibilities are endless. That's good and bad. So, I bought hardware and even built a modular so that I would be limited and would have to use my imagination and musicality. Especially with the modular I can afford. There's only so many modules and I often run out of wires to plug in so it forces me to stick to good basics. I mean a lot can be done with just two osc, filters evenlope and lfo's. It lead me to getting attenuators and mixers and then after all that I'm now looking into those special modules that do weird things :)
 

AmbientMile

Active Member
Try out Syntorial, they have the first few lessons free, it`s very much worth it. I haven`t used a preset since, and then for practise I would pull up a horror film soundtrack or whatever and then try to copy the sound like ear training for synths.
For someone just starting out with synth programming, I agree, Syntorial is a gold mine.
 

José Herring

Senior Member
Try out Syntorial, they have the first few lessons free, it`s very much worth it. I haven`t used a preset since, and then for practise I would pull up a horror film soundtrack or whatever and then try to copy the sound like ear training for synths.
I'd love to give it a shot. I hate using presets so I need to find time to take the time out of programming. I mean it took me 5 days to get one sound to sit right and I don't always have that kind of time.
 

el-bo

Active Member
I actually love Massive X and as a synth noobie I found it quite easy to get into.
That's one of the benefits of being a noob i.e No real preferences for or against certain synth workflows etc. Much of the negativity surrounding MX seemed to come from those who had certain expectations from having used many synths, over many years, not having been realised. A noob, on the other hand, is more likely to take things as given and enjoy the journey.

I reckon if the OP likes the kinds of sounds that it offers, and feels drawn to the UI, then there's no reason why learning it should be too difficult.

That said, Syntoral seems to be a good idea whichever direction one decides to take.