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Tempest Recipes: Claps

I received a stern e-mail from the ether demanding to know when I’d provide a clap recipe. Rather than disappoint, and to avoid any risk of painful retribution, I’ll channel some ideas.

In the tradition of previous recipes we’ll nail-down the basic concept, leaving you with abundant noodling fodder. Let me preface by saying that Tempest makes fantastic claps!

The essence of the clap is that it is several sounds in one, each offset by a tiny amount, differing in volume, pitch and other nuances. Think of several people clapping at the same time – they will never hit at exactly the same moment. Multiple individual sounds separated by a few milliseconds produce a chorus effect that responds beautifully to reverb. Clap sounds are as varied and important as snares, and can scream individuality. So let’s make a basic clap template that you can twist to your own desires.

Initial explorations looked at using Tempest’s MIDI delay, but the available delay times are not short enough. Then I tried using square and sawtooth LFOs to quickly turn Oscs on and off. There’s a Guiro in there somewhere. Not great for claps though. If only there was something like a ‘crack module’ as found on some software synths….

The good news is that we do have a way to do this in Tempest: we create custom ‘cracks’ by using the envelopes and their (blink and you’ll miss it) delay parameter. Not to be confused with the MIDI delay, this parameter is accessed in the envelopes screen by scrolling 2 pages to the right and ‘delays’ or offsets the triggering of the envelope. With 5 envelopes we have bags of flexibility and control, more than enough to rival the crack of dawn.

The question is how exactly to use the envelopes? We could use one envelope per oscillator and have 4 sounds play in rapid succession, or we use 1 or all 4 oscs mixed and modulate the VCA so that it opens and closes very quickly. Or a mixture of both approaches.

  • To keep everything simple for now, just load the ‘Resonant 4k noise’ sample into Osc3 and pitch it down to -12 semitones.
  • Turn Amount values to zero for all envelopes, including the Amp envelope. We want these under full velocity control.
  • We start with the main Amp envelope. Leave it’s delay at zero because it will sound first. I set it’s velocity amount to 127 so that it is always the loudest portion of the clap. If you don’t already know – to set the velocity amount for an envelope, it’s on the second page of the envelope screen. Alternatively, when on the first page in the envelope screen, press shift to reveal the Velocity Amount (‘VEL AMT’) control. Use a short decay of around 20.

We can set different decays for each envelope. They can overlap without cutting each other. This brought to mind some interesting layering applications that I have noted to explore in a future recipe….
Back to our clap:

  • Keep in mind that our goal is a quick succession of hits that trail-off. To begin our ‘crack’ go to the pitch envelope, scroll 2 screens to the right and set the destination as VCA level. Yes, the pitch envelope is freely-assignable like Aux1 and Aux2 😯

The Amp and Filter envelopes are hard-wired, however don’t forget that, if we wish, we can still assign them to VCA level in the ModPaths…

  • For now, give the pitch envelope the same decay (20) and a delay of 30. Scroll back to the first screen and start turning-up the velocity amount. You should gradually hear the first ‘crack’ being introduced. Leave it at around 30. Essentially, it’s the Amp envelope re-triggered with new settings. To make it more ‘clappy’, reduce the delay to a value of 5 and let’s move-on to the Aux-1 envelope.
  • Here we repeat the same procedure but using different decay(25), Velocity Amount (40) and delay (8) amounts.
  • Then onto Aux 2 envelope, rinse and repeat. As this is the last part of the ‘crack’ give it a slightly longer decay (30), lower velocity amount (20) and, of course, a longer delay (11).
  • From here’s it’s mostly about balancing the envelopes. The key parameters being delay, decay and Velocity amount, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Notice how, when switching between envelopes, the screen stays on the delay page. This makes it easy and fast to tweak the crack to your liking across all Oscs. Combined with the tonal power of 4 oscillators, 11 on-board clap samples, not to mention a healthy injection of chorus and reverb, I would be very surprised indeed if you don’t find the basis of your perfect clap in there.

With 8 ModPath slots there’s absolutely no excuse to go wild – using each envelope to modulate various other parameters (pitch, pan, etc) at each stage in the crack module. That is an enormous amount of clappage, snappage and bappage. More than I could hope to continue writing about. But then, you are probably way ahead of me by now…

Note: I did make a crude attempt to measure the range of the Envelope Delay. At an amount setting of 127 there is almost 6 seconds between initial sound and it’s sequel. With amount set to 64 the time interval is approximately 3/4 second, and at zero there is no repeat. An amount of 74 equates to around 1 second. This indicates a log-scaled control. However, for claps we shouldn’t need to become bogged-down in spurious precision when we can just trust our ears. The delay does get short enough and you already know what a clap should sound like, no?

Tip: Try this with your snares/sticks etc. with even shorter envelope delay times – you may be pleasantly surprised!

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  1. excellent articles. Also I ready your article on ditching the tempest. I completely echo your feelings. Luckily I bought it as a sound design tool not a primary sequencer. But I completely agree with everything u stated.

    • Thanks 🙂

      I had no problems with the Tempest’s synthesis abilities, and I see that the sequencer has been improved recently. I’m sure you’ll have fun with it!