Loudness War 002: FM Synthesis part 1

Let’s continue, shall we?

The early episodes misfired due to very bad microphone quality, but I’m still improving in both audio and video.

This episode is a retake on my presentation about FM synthesis I made almost 4 years ago. Got a lot of material ready to use and explain in some sensible matter, and part 2 is coming.

 

Massive X is a great synth

NI’s new flagship VST, the Massive X, was surrounded by controversy and buzz months before launch. Some claim it was a dissapointment, but I gave it a chance and it surpassed my expectations. As a matter of fact, Massive X might be my new favourite ūüôā

NativeInstrumentsMassiveX_01-9kyL90Cf9j6d9HzeOTId2Pga.kDmMrkL

Massive X is the holy grail combining ease of use, quick operation and vast possibilities. Beyond standard envelopes and LFOs there are also numerous handy features and options, such as “switcher LFO” or modulation bar next to every control, even synced delay times. An unbelievably flexible “performer” sequencer is accompanied by note-dependent, velocity and random modulators – all of them immediately available for quick use. No modulation matrix and no menu diving whatsoever.
In terms of synthesis options, everything is here – phase modulation / FM, sync and even wavefolders – till now rarely found in virtual synths, especially not all at once. Massive X also offers great sound quality for moderate CPU usage thanks to (brave) implementation of AVX instructions. These are commonplace in every CPU released since 2011, though many people already complained their machine is even older and thus completely incompatible with new synth. But hey, I’m up for latest tech advances!

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The secret plan is Komplete

That’s right! Finally I got the most popular plugin package in the world, which is Komplete Ultimate 12. It was heavily discounted during Native Instruments‘ Summer of Sound – still, not a cheap stuff. Been looking forward to Komplete for years.

Komplete Ultimate 12

So what’s inside?

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Black Friday loot

With new job and new tracks signed I felt like burning some more money this year. So here comes the new software:

Chromaphone 2

chromaphone-2-edit

This unique synth simulates the behavior of physical object oscillating, which creates realistic sounds of strings, drums, bells as well as some oddball contraptions. While modulation options are somehwat limited, it works great under any settings. Awesome plucks and tube bass out of the box – just can’t go wrong with Chromaphone. While I don’t need Chromaphone for any particular purpose, it’s great plugin for organic sounds of all kind.

AAS also made some plugins for Ableton Live, especially Corpus which I use every now and then. You will be able to hear some great Corpus bass working as a main motiff for my upcoming “Meteor Ride” track.

Got this thing from JRR shop for 75 USD, normal price is 200 USD.

Orb Composer

Orb Composer

Now that’s a big deal – automagical orchestral music composer based on artificial intelligence. It’s like having a classical-trained musican next to me: “Just write me a string section in G minor.” – snap. “Nah, another one” – snap. “Or maybe in C minor. Or faster and higher, but solo” – everything in split second. “Now, add flute accompaniament to it” – snap.

However, things get really interesting when I route this thing into state-of-art synths, utilizing complex sound design and perfect mixdown. By now I can make all the things just sound good.

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Make Noise 0-Coast

So I finally¬† decided to buy my first hardware synth (or any hardware device that doesn’t just serve as an interface for PC) – 0-Coast by Make Noise. Why this one?

0-Coast

I always wanted to have a hardware synth (or a dozen, you know this feeling), but realistically they are very expensive compared to functionality they offer. A cheap hardware synth is still 3 times more expensive than the best VST, such as Serum – and offers a fraction of its possibilities on paper. The hardware, however, has the advantage of fast work and also is great for learning and experimenting with hands-on experience. There are no presets in this curious box, so every time I need to make a patch from scratch. Also, it encourages experimenting and improvising.

There are a plenty of synths I considered, but they all miss something. Some have keys, some have polyphony, some have sequencers, others have eurorack connectivity – but in general their feature list is always limited. There is no one box to rule them all, and they are expensive.

However, I never gave up 0-Coast – simply because it has no replacements. It’s a truly weird eurorack-style synth using unconventional modules arranged as a traditional monosynth. Make Noise are the leaders in eurorack and develop modules which do not resemble traditional synths at all, yet still allow to build incredible musical contraptions. Evolving and self-generating, aperiodic and atonal sounds are something that not many people deal with, and something that I’ve been missing in my setup. So here it is.

Mind this is not a magic box that makes music on its own – early I encountered shortage of supplied cables. Also menu diving is abysmal, and number of signals is limited. Still, I plan to make extensive use of it. It’s great for plucks, basses, agressive synth sounds for psy-tech, but also a source of samples and wavetables for further use. Certainly there’s a lot to discover. However, I have the skills to make use of it all, and will explore 0-Coast to the max.

The making of Introscope

Since it’s out now for everyone to hear (and to buy, apparently), I can say a few words how this track came to life. It took incredible amount of time and effort, but was worth it.

https://www.beatport.com/track/introscope-original-mix/9963922

It actually started as far as two years ago, with the rough idea to create some true hard-hitting and dark trancer with evolving structure. The title “introscope” means “device to look into yourself” – it was meant to be a journey through different emotions and states of mind.

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2016 Roundup

Ending year 2016 was quite interesting, full of ups and downs. For sure it was busy.

First and most important, I got my first track released – it’s remix of Ruska – Saimaa made for a contest. I was hoping now releases will be flying every month or so.

However, since then it was a downfall. Even though I feel I improve the quality of every new track, none of them was accepted. Some remixes were not good enough, others seemingly were off the style.

It took me a while to understand what is still wrong with the tracks and why people don’t enjoy them as much as commercial releases. And eventually¬†I figured it out. Check the improved remix of Impellent:

The stats… we live in the world where no one cares who you are and what you do, but only how popular you are. I’m not very popular at all (especially compared to 2008), but the blog stats keep growing this year:

wordpress-stats-2016

This is with lowest post count ever. Most of visits hit Chaotic Wavetable Pack for Serum, which turned out very interesting for users even though it was made over one day and in fact is nothing extraordinary. Personally I never used it yet :P.

Growing stats may also come from the fact that I no longer post about “work in progress”, but simply finish tracks and post worthy pieces of music. Certainly it would help if I posted some tutorials and started video blog, but there are other things I need to deal with first. Neverthless, I gave some lectures on production this year so it’s not far from here. Especially earlier show on FM synthesis turned out great.

I only mixed like 9 DJ sets this year… unfortunatelly it takes a lot of time. Even though, these few sets get great number of plays, so once I get back to it someday, things should¬†be running¬†well.

The studio… I got quite some gear and a number of synths this year. Acually it’s more than I was able to use so far. Which doesn’t mean I don’t try to – the quest for ultimate studio drives me both creatively and at regular work. I not only need money for better place, but also need to actually make use of all the synths (yet alone gear) I gathered so far. Now the only thing that limits me is the time. Which leads to one last point…

The workflow. Earlier this year I decided to learn how to use Push for real. And I did, it just works so well. Now I’m working in Session mode, creating clips and layers one by one. Then switch to Arrangement View, create whole arrangement in one go and… voila! Track is finished. Let’s do another one. Making tracks, even very diverse, is quite repeatable process – one I know how to. And creating better track doesn’t neccessarily mean spending more time on it. It’s all about the skills and just know-how.

The future. The future is now, 2017 will be a breakthrough. Just at the end on the year I have all the pieces I need to produce great music. Just have to sort out earlier unfinished projects before getting new PC and moving on to future productions. All I need now is time Рand to make good use of it. The same is true for DJ sets. These should come back in a month or two.

Happy new year 2017!