A touch of chaos
Computer Music|March 2021
The experts from Audiotent bring extra dimensions to your synth sounds by exploring chaos generation, random LFOs and velocity

Static synth sounds have their place. Sometimes all a good bass requires is a nice sawtooth going through a Moog ladder filter. Still, when looking for a signature sound for your music, you’ll find yourself spending more time working on the finer details of synthesis.

In this guide we’ll explore some of the patching techniques we prefer when designing presets to add interest to static sounds.

Modern synths offer many out-of-the-box modulation options. In our example we’ll use Xfer Serum which offers a Chaos generator as well as custom shape LFOs, perfect to start introducing randomness into your signal path.

Another useful modulation source is Note On Alt, which lets us achieve a different value of modulation upon each new key press. This is also implemented in the famous Prophet-6 analogue synth in the form of pan spread.

Lastly, we can call upon human randomness with the implementation of keyboard velocity. This can be assigned to multiple parameters, making even a small change in keyboard pressure a drastic change in the overall timbre.

These modulations combined will give you a wide range of inconsistencies that can transform your sound. You’ll be surprised how much depth and expression can be brought out using these techniques…

Step by step: Adding randomness to synth patches

1 The first step is to load Xfer Serum into your DAW. Then click ‘Menu’ and ‘Init Preset’. This will initialise all of Serum’s parameters to its default state. If you play the keys on your MIDI keyboard you should only be hearing a raw unaffected sawtooth patch.

2 Next up, we choose a simple waveform for Osc A (MB Triangle Metal) and a more complex waveform for Osc B (FMFM). We wanted the voices to contrast each other harmonically. In this scenario we are not looking to mix the oscillators together, but to use as them as two distinct sound sources.

3 Let’s start things off by setting the Osc levels to the absolute minimum, because we will use a modulation source to control the volume level of each oscillator independently. Next, pan the oscillators in the opposite direction from one another. This will further accentuate their distinct timbres.

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