Exercise C: Making a Sound Change Over Time

One of the best things you can do to make your sequences interesting is to have Instrument parameters (settings) change as the sequence plays. This keeps your sequence from sounding too mechanical and static.

What we’re trying to do

What to turn in

What to do

First review and practice the techniques described in Automating Instrument and Effect Parameters.

Then do these things...

  1. Create a one-minute sequence that uses automation to make slow, gradual changes in the sound of the patches used in your sequence. The style of the music should be “ambient” — slowly evolving, without pulsation from drums or other strongly rhythmic instruments.
  2. Use SubTractor, Malström, or Thor instruments, and avoid ID8, which doesn’t allow you to adjust enough parameters.
  3. Use patches whose envelopes allow the sound to last as long as you have the keys down, rather than coming to an end quickly like a snare drum does. These are sometimes called “pads,” because they can provide an unobtrusive harmonic background to support other, more foreground instruments. If necessary, set the amplitude envelope to make the sound fade in and out slowly (long attack and release times). Hold down a note or chord for a long time.
  4. Automate the lowpass filter cutoff frequency.

    This parameter is called different things in different instruments, but look for Filter 1 (or A) Frequency, and be sure the filter is set to lowpass (LP). When this parameter has a low value, the sound will be soft and muted; when it has a high value, the sound will be louder and brighter.

  5. Automate LFO Rate and/or LFO Amount parameters.

    The LFO creates cyclical changes in some other synthesis parameter (such as pitch). In order to hear these changes, Amount must be greater than zero. Rate determines the speed of the changes.

  6. [Optional] Automate the Mod Wheel, if it does something interesting in the patch you’ve chosen. Sometimes the Mod Wheel is set up to control several synthesis parameters at once (e.g., in SubTractor “Clean Xfade Pad”). Automating the Mod Wheel will work well in such patches.

Please note that automating pitch bend, while a worthwhile technique, is not what we’re talking about here.

Here are some patches to try (all from the Pads folder).

SubTractor: Ambivalent, Clean Xfade Pad, Dark, FeedAche, Minimalism (LFO2 Rate), Organic, Twinkle Pad.

Malström: Alien Strings, Mars Choir, Moist, Stringy Things, ToneWheel Pad, Vocal Space.
All these pads respond to frequency changes on both filters A and B.

Ambient Music

There is a long history of ambient electronic music.

Copyright ©2015-2018 John Gibson