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doing ambient on synth
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author doing ambient on synth
How do you do ambient sounds WITHOUT reverb and/or delay?

Just curious.
Well, I guess blending continuos sounds (mixing some distortion) would be where I would start. And working with varying frequencies would help, especially sub oscillators. But a world without delays is one I would not want to live in...
Delay is powerhorse, isn't it?

Also like 70% of "beautiful" sounds from synths were sounding with help of it (or reverb). So that makes me to look for opposite as experiment.
My last recording I tried to work entirely without reverb, that really was fun and kept things much cleaner sounding. But not having delay would have been tough for depth and spatial placement. Plus I use delay for rhythm typically as I avoid drums. I think it would be interesting to remove all delay.
Maybe granularizing some textures you like (Absynth aetherizer produces some godly sounds) or creating subtle dynamics across the stereo field, like having one LFO move both a filter cutoff and a panning knob in unison.
You don't need a delay module to do delay, just have a second voice and delay the sequence. I'm not sure this leads always to "ambient" but it does open up a world of possibilities. Besides using a different timbre, try transposing/inverting the second sequence. Try simple enough sequences, repetitions of 2-4 notes where it's not clear anymore which is leading/following.

Reverb, similarly, can be mimicked using layered tones. The second is like the first but with a slower release (and slower attack as needed). Both play simultaneously. But this opens up possibilities where there is some variation in the second sequence, maybe some notes are duplicated, left out or randomly delayed.

Another idea is to use delay and reverb, but rhythmically gate/filter the sends, also apply dynamic filtering to the returns. This can establish a space of sorts (kind of a cubist space), but it keeps things from being too muddy or washed out.
If your ambient is more drone-oriented, you can get pretty far with modulating waveshapers, mixing between oscillators, overstimulating resonant filters, phasers, feedback, distortion, and overlaid arpeggiations. That said, one big reason to add reverb and delay into that is just to smooth things out.
Really slow attack and decay with some degree of polyphony to accommodate overlapping notes. Anything else is icing, such as slow timbral shifts, portamento, etc.
cycad73 wrote:
You don't need a delay module to do delay, just have a second voice and delay the sequence. I'm not sure this leads always to "ambient" but it does open up a world of possibilities.

First thought I had too. And use volume pedals to do fades. Simple stuff works.
Run yr synth through guitar amps and play with mic placement. Yes, there's reverb there but it's natural real and not manufactured. Similar to the sound ambient artists get when recording natural sources. Listen to Eno's Ambient series. Read about Eno protoge Daniel Lanois' recording technique, especially the early 80s recordings. Not synth or specifically ambient, but Rick Rubin's American recordings with Johnny Cash and also Tom Petty make ample use of room ambience. Records by Steve Albini have no reverb on them just the room. He has a long essay on the subject online. If you think about approaching the output of the synth in alien ways, you may find something creative that gives you a sound that inspires you.
Manually ride your levels & other knobs in smooth fluid motions. Pace everything to calm slow breathing.
Slow attack and a nice warm distortion would work if reverb/delay aren't possible.
Also using pink/white/etc noise-based modules helps.

I often have very low frequency lfo's, with added modulation from patched settings to essentially modulate from already set lines...
You could compare to feedback (or complex feedback loops), but I also like to have my synth set up so the timing consistently changes (slowly) and large amounts just consistently modulate other parts....

I don't like patching my synth as if each line from beginning point (generally lfo) to the output is just a copy of an analog keyboard... I feel a heavy need to complex it and confuse it, often adding in prime number dividing and a multitude of modulation.
Keep lpf closed.
Modulation is the key when you do not have/want delay or reverb. A module like the Telharmonic is an instant ambient machine. and it's all about the rhythm, arpeggios, phrasing etc. JD Emmanuel is a master when it comes to this, there are early recordings with just two Pro One.
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