Dance Pop Tutorial Day 3: Summery Ke$ha electro lead & blippy lead synth [7 Day Song]
Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to day 3 of the 7 day song on Dance Pop, courtesy of propellerhead software’s Music Making Month.
Yesterday in day 2, we compiled a simple synth bass and today we’ll jump to the other side of the frequency spectrum with some lead synths!
Okay, let’s begin.
Firstly we’ll make one of the most commonly used sounds in the majority of charting Dance Pop – the summery electro lead synth.
Now there’s probably a few ways to go about making it, but my method involves a cool technique called Oscillator sync, which is really cool to know about. So!
Combinator, mixer and Thor. Turn it to mono legato so only one note can play at a time, then Make two oscillators on analog, with both on square waves (PW middle) with the first 2 octaves down and only run number 2 through. This might seem weird, but you’ll see why after I add in some notes now.
Okay, so listen to it on its own – nothing spectacular at the moment, but if we turnon this little “Sync” button to the left of the second oscillator, you can hear a tonal change to the sound – it becomes a bit grittier without sounding distorted and muddy. Now try changing the BW slider – the sound becomes a lot more pronounced.
What is happening here is that one oscillator is restarting the period of another oscillator. This may sound horrific and disgusting to the uninitiated, but if we look at this convenient diagram in Reason’s help files It explains it pretty well – the master oscillator is oscillator 1, and the slave oscillator is oscillator 2. Oscillators haven’t had an emancipation proclamation yet, they’re seriously behind when it comes to social development.
Anyway, the master oscillator, which is two octaves below in our case, has a longer waveform since it’s deeper. Each time this waveform finishes, it stops the slave waveform wherever it is, even if it’s mid way through a cycle, and starts it again.
This creates a whole different waveform – usually ending up with a sweet gritty, hollow kind of tone – especially when used in conjunction with saw or square waves.
So that’s the sound, I kinda like it further up but if you want a deeper, more pronounced tone, bring it right down with the Bandwidth slider – this just defines how sudden the restarting of the waveform is, making it sharper or smoother.
Now let’s give this sweet summery sync’d synth some slideyness. Turn on the portamento to ¼ and take a listen – particularly at the part of the riff that goes up an octave. You can really hear that note sliding up to the top there instead of instantly changing. This is a cool way to make a happier sounding synth, or a lazier sounding synth if you use more portamento, or just a vague noise that’s lost the will to live if you make it ridiculously high.
Now just a bit of housekeeping by bringing the sustain to full and removing the filter so it’s nice and bright et voila! There’s the majority of our tone.
Let’s widen it up though – one technique I like to do to maintain the source sound and get some serious width is to duplicate thor, add the chorus, then run it into a stereo imager on full width for both bands.
Now we can control the level of the width and retain the initial punchiness of the centralised lead synth.
Let’s add a bit more airiness by adding RV7000 to the mixer aux and just bring the hf damp down and hi eq up all the way, dialing it in half on the wide version. This just adds a nice reverb that makes it a bit more anthemic and bigger, without being too distant since we haven’t touched that original strong source sound.
Now, run that into an EQ with param 1 down 6dB on 1.2Q to get rid of the muddy middle and up at around 5khz by 6dB and 1Q for a nice bright top end.
Lastly, limit the crap out of it with full input gain on a maximizer and soft clip for that nice warm slight distortion to the tone.
And there’s our main lead synth! Seriously summery.
Next up, I’ll quickly throw together a synth that has to be one of the weediest little leads I’ve ever made, but that I just think is perfect for sitting in the background of this song.
Okay, this won’t take long. Comb, mixer, thor, init, open and I’ll add some notes.
Now, change the oscillator to pulse and turn it up 2 octaves. Add a wavetable oscillator to slot to, then turn up the AM from Osc 2 slider to the left of oscillator 1. This amp modulation (or ring modulation) technique gives a nice hollow tone.
Nearly there. We’re just going to widen the sound so duplicate thor (this is so ridiculously over the top I love it) and pan one right and one left in the amp section.
For a bit more of a pronounced width, it’s good to slightly change the synth so alter the pulse width a bit on the second one – the pulse width is the length of the pulse as you can see by the diagrams around the dial.
Now, add some RV7000 reverb on default settings at ¼ and you’re done.
Yep, that easy. As I said before – it’s all about simplicity. the reverb and width makes it sit in the mix nicely.
So there we have it! A lead synth more summery than a looming depression about having to go back to real life after August, and another lead synth more simple and insignificant than the meaning behind the lyrics of Dance Pop music.
Join me tomorrow for day 4 where I’ll finish off the patches with a Gaga-esque gated pad, a pitch bend synth and a big bass pad for our bridge.