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How to get that "synthwash" sound.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author How to get that "synthwash" sound.
mattcolville
I have been wanting to ask this question for MONTHS but I've learned that most stuff I figure out given time. But this ignorance persists!

I realize "synthwash" is not a well-defined term. You can hear it in this video, especially at the 60s mark. But the dude apparently just loaded a pre-arranged sample into a Morphagene. I want to know how to do it live so to speak. Doesn't necessarily have to be in Euro, if there's a synth that's good for this, so be it.

Or the opening to this song.

I don't know, is this the same thing as an ambient drone? I'm unclear on the terminology.

I've experimented with filters and reverb and I feel like that's the right direction but I'd appreciate any advice. I guess a big part of my ignorance is that I can't hear the process these artists went through, so I can't reverse engineer it. So not only do I not know "which modules," if someone told me which modules, I wouldn't know why.
dubonaire
https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/creating-using-synth-pad-sound s

In the case of the example, I only listened to it through Macbook speakers, and on those it sounded like a sustained string chord - you can use loops, long delays and reverb. Get any string sample, or string synth, in a DAW just use long notes - in a modular use a sampler or a chord producing module and filter, delay and reverb to taste.
cptnal
I'm also hearing filtered noise for texture in that clip. Their trick in that case seems to be loads of polyphony, which would be difficult in modular off the bat. Like dubonaire says, the best way to achieve that would be some sound-on-sound looping to layer the notes, and with delays and reverb to mush it up.
joskery
I think it's all in a good reverb.

Z-DSP or similar, with some shimmer type stuff... then anything is an ethereal pad smile Of course, the source material, uh, matters, too.
hawkfuzz
Chord, slow envelope for amplitude and modulation, reverb.
mskala
mattcolville wrote:
I don't know, is this the same thing as an ambient drone? I'm unclear on the terminology.


This kind of sound is called a "pad" - dubonaire's link mentions that but so far I don't think it's been said directly in this thread.

From a spectral point of view, what you want is a harmonic spectrum in which the harmonics are spread out, independently, into little bands instead of being sharp peaks. There are a number of ways to achieve that.

With acoustic instruments it'd typically be a large string section - many violins or whatever playing at once. Because no two have exactly identical tuning, their harmonics coincide nearly but not exactly, which makes each harmonic a tight cluster of different frequencies instead of just a sharp peak.

In a synth, reverb helps achieve this effect, especially in combination with a small amount of frequency modulation, because it allows different time segments of the note to interfere with each other. A "chorus" effect can be even better. Using the pulse output of an analog oscillator with a relatively narrow pulse and moderate pulse width modulation is useful - a pulse wave is basically the sum of two sawtooths, and modulating the width causes them to change phase relative to each other, so the result sounds like two instruments in unison.

An important musical aspect of this sound is to play two notes a fifth apart, that is, one at 1.5 times the frequency of the other, like G and C. Making it a suspended chord by throwing in the second, fourth, or ninth (either F or D in that example - a note an additional fifth from the two you have) can be fun but you don't usually need or want a complex chord with much more than those notes in it. Although others mentioned "polyphony," you mostly want to use that for doubling the two main notes in unison or up or down an octave. Note that orchestral strings are usually tuned with the strings a fourth or fifth apart and so you'd tend to get these kinds of note combinations by playing the strings open. I think that may be part of why people expect to hear them in stringy synth pad sounds.
1n
Radio Music and/or Chord Organ give you a chance at a reasonably priced way to achieve this effect with sampling.

Or use an iPad synth as audio in.

Or a harmonically rich audio source saturated with reverb, delay, chorus, etc.
mattcolville
Ahh polyphony, this explains why I was having a hard time getting there AND having a hard time finding a module to do it. Man I have a lot of research to do, which is like half the fun of modular for me.

That article is going to take a while to absorb. Mskala's explanation is great. Thanks everyone!
BenA718
If you use a really long delay and a really long reverb, you can play a note with a very slow attack, let it ring out, and then play the next note and they will overlap is fun and wacky ways. smile
dooj88
the more into modular i get, the more building blocks i take on and purge convoluted function type modules.

in terms of getting hands on experience, mskalas examples are the building blocks for achieving this sound. not necessary knowledge in practice, but certainly you'll learn them on on your own through experimentation.

but pads are hard in modular due to their complexity.. restraints in space, money, whatever make them specialties. look at the shapeshifter in detuning chord mode and the e352 in cloud mode (or it's antecedent component effect module the cloud generator) for starters.
mattcolville
I was looking at the e352! In fact I posted this as a sort of antidote to ordering one because I want to really understand my need first so I don't end up with a new module to do This One Thing when I really should just understand the principles so I can get more, simpler modules that also do other useful things.
GGW
There are many components so it is hard to know what detail is catching your ear specifically, but it sounds like there is shimmer reverb on those sounds. There are many companies that make this effect, and it is usually one setting with other reverbs, but see if this is getting there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1gVTXCCwPY
brandonlogic
mattcolville wrote:
Ahh polyphony, this explains why I was having a hard time getting there AND having a hard time finding a module to do it.


For polyphony in this sense all you really need is a single oscillator and a controller/sequencer and a module that can do sound on sound looping. Like the 4ms dual delay. Start a loop, play in some notes you want freeze it, run it through the second channel for traditional delay, the add some reverb and bam, synthwash heaven.
johnnywoods
Sounds like something you could easily do with most Eventide processors to me
cptnal
mattcolville wrote:
I want to really understand my need first so I don't end up with a new module to do This One Thing when I really should just understand the principles so I can get more, simpler modules that also do other useful things.



thumbs up
mattcolville
I will say though, considering how common this sound is in the genre, and how ill-suited it is for a monophonic setup, I'm surprised there's not a module just for this.

Maybe I could get the effect starting with Chords.
brandonlogic
mattcolville wrote:
I will say though, considering how common this sound is in the genre, and how ill-suited it is for a monophonic setup, I'm surprised there's not a module just for this.

Maybe I could get the effect starting with Chords.


Like I said all u need is something that can do sound on sound looping and any monophonic setup. And maybe some reverb
cptnal
When you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

(Translation - use a poly synth.)

This is fun!
R.U.Nuts
brandonlogic wrote:
mattcolville wrote:
I will say though, considering how common this sound is in the genre, and how ill-suited it is for a monophonic setup, I'm surprised there's not a module just for this.

Maybe I could get the effect starting with Chords.


Like I said all u need is something that can do sound on sound looping and any monophonic setup. And maybe some reverb


I use an EHX superego for this. I run whatever I can find through it, record that for a few minutes and load the recording into my radio music module. And well, I have a DLD, too Miley Cyrus
Jasonic
The Telharmonic with the interval knob full CCW or just above(triad mode), ran into a filter. Have the filter slowly opened by an envelope. Wash the output of your filter with lots of reverb.
Keltie
I think any e352 user would likely agree....within the constraints of polyphony, it is an AMAZING module for pad sounds. Cloud and morph mode, different tables on each output, some ‘z’ modulation ( which morphs the wavetable) and some ‘x’ plus modulation thereof ( which sets the cloud detune) and you are absolutely away.

I feel a 370 coming on, even though it’s too big, too Never maintain cash savings again , and I have polysynths out of the wazoo.

Must. Resist. E370.

Drunken Homer Simpson

Nyahhurgh....
wellurban
The most natural way to do this is with a polysynth plus lots of reverb, preferably shimmer reverb. There are, however, a few ways to get this in modular without using an external polysynth:

- Modules (usually digital) that can produce chords, with CV control over root, chord type and timbre. Shapeshifter, Braids (and probably Plaits?), Chord Organ, Qu-Bit Chord etc.
- At least 3 separate VCOs, analogue or digital, with their 1v/o inputs either sequenced individually or via a module designed to output the CV for different chord types (Quantimator, Instruō Harmonàig, Flame Chord Machine etc). Ideally you'd also have VCFs, VCAs and envelopes for each VCO, but for pads you can often get away with paraphony rather than full polyphony.
- A monophonic line with enough reverb and delay will often fill out enough to sound like a pad.
- Granular pitch shifters (e.g. Clouds) and harmonisers (not sure whether there's much in Euro, but Eventide products will do it) can create chord pads out of single notes.

There's also a hybrid approach, where you either play a polysynth through your modular for extra processing or sample it into a Euro sampler. That's the approach I took for some recent patches, including this one:



I played four basic chords on a simple Korg Minilogue patch, ran it through a Fumana using Livewire AFG animated saws as modulator, recorded them, and saved them to an SD card. Then I played those samples in a Radio Music, running through a Xaoc Belgrad filter into a Make Noise Erbe Verb, and sequenced the Station CV input of Radio Music with a Pressure Points + Brains. The Minilogue makes some very nice pads on its own, but the Fumana/AFG trick added some harmonic movement and strange grit, the Belgrad gave me on-the-fly control over filter sweeps and formants, and Erbe Verb added a short delay and modulated washes of shimmer reverb. There's also a Mother 32 adding a low, mournful, string-like bassline, and at times that alone through the Erbe Verb was enough to make a pad. Highpass filters often help to get that "ethereal" feel.

Why bother with sampling the chords and playing them through modular rather than just recording them directly? Well, this patch evolved from one I'd made for a live set, and a 4hp Turing Machine is easier to carry around than a polysynth (even a Minilogue)! Also, when I played each of the four base chords, I occasionally added 7ths, 9ths, sus 4s and so forth, and they add further variety as the samples play back. In my live set I could manually jump between the chords with Pressure Points, and at one stage I put random voltages into the Start point CV of Radio Music to glitchily jump around each chord sample for a Tim Hecker-ish pseudo-granular effect.

But if you do want to make pads directly in your modular, here's a tutorial I made a while ago using 3 analogue VCOs (with a bit of help from Erbe Verb):

brandonlogic
i imagine the upcoming Xaoc Devices Odessa will do wonders here
gentle_attack
GGW wrote:
There are many components so it is hard to know what detail is catching your ear specifically, but it sounds like there is shimmer reverb on those sounds. There are many companies that make this effect, and it is usually one setting with other reverbs, but see if this is getting there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1gVTXCCwPY

This is exactly what I was going to post. I like the Neunaber Shimmer a lot, Eventide and Strymon can do it too, and I think the Line 6 verbzilla is a less expensive ped that his this mode, that people like though I have not used.

A lot of "praise and worship" guitarists have broken down Shimmer settings of thegearpage, and also The Edge does stuff that qualifies as Shimmer. The general idea is pitchshifting up only the wet portion of a big hall reverb, possibly throwing some chorus on it, and then feeding that all back throough the reverb in a feedback loop, so it goes higher and higher each time.

I'm sitting in front of a shared system, this is something that the Echophone+ErbVerb could nail quite easily, now that I think about it.
mattcolville
I've been thinking of picking up an Analog II as my first polysynth, I'm hoping it'll be a good place to start with the chords and maybe sample it and put it through my BigSky.
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