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Tempest Recipes: Sub-bass

Analogue purists avert your eyes now. It’s time to look at the digital oscillators.

Logic dictates that having 2 digital-sample oscillators provides us with a massive additional palette of sounds. The on-board samples are pretty good, although they are short. To my ears many of the samples sound highly saturated, evident in a noticeable buzzing. Are these the boosted harmonics? Nobody is telling…

Consider a sine wave. A perfect sine wave contains only one harmonic – the fundamental frequency. Apart from self-resonating filters, analogue sines are not easy to achieve and only a few synthesizers have the option – even then these are not perfect sines. Given the choice, I prefer the perfect sine sample.

Today we will use the 130.81Hz sine sample to make a highly usable sub-bass patch:

  • Start with a initialized patch and hunt down this sample to put in Osc 3. Turn it’s pitch down to -24.
  • Use ADSR envelopes and set the Amp with an attack and release both at 40, full sustain. The idea is to get just the sub-tone on key-down without any envelope clicks. On key-up the sound should stop fairly abruptly. Set Amp envelope amount to a generous level (64 or so) and turn-down the velocity sensitivity to around 32.
  • Leave the Filter wide open with zero resonance. Since sines have no additional harmonics, there is nothing to filter.

This should already be a familiar sound – more ‘felt’ than heard. Alone it sounds unspectacular, but it shines when layered under a kick drum or dropped-in at key moments of your beat. It’s the ticket for copious low-end. Moving-on…

  • I like to give a tiny amount of pitch envelope – barely noticeable – to give the attack more interest. Because our amp-attack is set at 40, we need to give our pitch envelope a similar slope, however there are lots of interesting variations to be had with the pitch envelope. For this patch I’ll leave it at Attack of 26, decay 60 and amount 10. These settings are best set while a beat is playing so that the envelopes can follow the groove.
  • If you are finding it still a little plain, we can add harmonics with the Feedback control. But again, use the ‘fixed level’ option on pads to prevent unwanted surprises. Another way to add harmonics would be to use FM, that is using Osc1 with a low frequency at Osc mix 0/100).

Of course, playing this chromatically = deep subby basslines.

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