Darkstep Tutorial Day 3: A Gated Lead + A Swooshy Ethereal Pad
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to Day 3 of the 7 day song on Darkstep Drum and Bass. Yesterday, I taught you how to make 3 basses. Today, I’ll teach you how to make something on the other end of the frequency spectrum for a change – a gated lead synth and a swirling pad.
Okay! Let’s start with the lead.
Make a combinator, call it lead, as in the element, since this song is going to be seriously heavy.
Inside it, make a line 6:2 mixer followed by thor. Initialize, then open it up.
I’ll just put some notes in now.
Start with 3 oscs – 1 analog and 2 multi. Take the analog and a multi down one octave, then the other down 2 octaves. Detune the multi oscs and you’ve got your starting tone – the analog provides the punch and the multi oscs provide the thickness.
Remove filter 1, then take this opportunity to max the amp env sustain and turn on the chorus, making it slightly drier, so it’s still punchy, but wider.
Turn on the delay, and apply the first cool effect – take the time down to 60ms so it’s a really quick delay, giving a metallic kind of effect, turn the feedback up to half so it’s slightly extended, then turn the rate to just below 3/4 so it’s modulating the pitch of the delayed signal, thickening the sound even more.
Now, we’re going to introduce one of my favourite filters, the comb filter! This filter delays the signal ever so slightly, then feeds it back to create a metallic effect – kind of like what we’ve done in the delay, but I’m going to use it for a different sound. If we turn the freq to 45hz and the res to just under a half, this sweet robotic, pitch bend-y sound is created!
So there’s the basic tone, next, we’re going to gate it! Add a matrix instance. Turn it to curve mode, draw in the pattern you want and make sure the resolution is 1/32 so it’s a fast gating.
Now, hit tab then remove the CVs that automatically connect, then turn it to bipolar mode to increase your therapy bills, and drag the curve CV to the “amp level” on thor. Take a listen – nice and stutter-y!
After that’s done, Let’s get changing the tone with an… EQ! Turn param 2 to 730hz and boost by 10dB at 3Q. This just brings that undertone out nicely.
Next, create a stereo imager and solo the high band – just cutting off the low end entirely.
Now, for the proper delay we’ll make a DDL-1 on the mixer, 8 steps, just over half feedback. Apply it by half aux on the mixer channel. Then, to filter the delay so it doesn’t completely swamp the mix as it’s fading out, add an ECF-42 filter on BP mode, which cuts off above and below the selected frequency, with a freq just above half.
Now, take a listen – sweet, huh?
There’s just one note, keeps things simple, but you could obviously use more notes if you wish. If you’re going to turn it into a riff then you might want to reduce the decay time of the delay by lowering the feedback on the DDL-1 unit, so it doesn’t get too messy!
That was easy! So, join me in part 2 where we’ll be delving headfirst into a swooshy, sweeping pad.
Okay! Make a new combinator, and since I am the one that’s going to make this pad, let’s call it iPad. Actually, that’s a pretty retarded name for something, let’s just leave it at Pad. Whew, I’m glad I didn’t spend hundreds of millions on branding for that name!
So, I’ll just put in some notes now, then we can get back to the action.
There, the notes are in, let’s get synthin’! Line 6:2 mixer, Thor, init, open up.
Max out sustain, then make 3 Multi oscs. First one detune on interval mode for the thickness of the tone, second one square wave on interval detune mode taken up an octave, for the hollow, eeriness of the tone, and the last one taken up an octave on the Pulse wave setting, that last one, detuned on the default random 1 detune mode to make it a bit less tunefull and give some trashiness to the sound to make it a tiny bit dischordant to fit in with the darkstep feel of the song.
Run them all through into a low pass filter with 0 env and around 4khz frequency cutoff. Just removing that harsh high end, but keeping a decent amount of brightness.
Next, turn on chorus, make it slightly wetter since this is just going to be an ambient, filling out sound. Then, turn on delay and tempo sync it. Instant big-ness!
Now to add what in the professional synth-making business we call the swooshyness. change filter 3 to a formant filter.
Now, set x at 35 and y at 30, then we’re going to modulate these to make some sweet swooshy effectsh!
Tempo sync lfo 1 and change the rate to 4/1, so it’s a nice and slow modulation. Then, route LFO 1 to filter 3 x and filter 3 y by 65 and -56 respectively, since it’s kinda like looking at the number in a mirror if you have some sort of magical mirror that doesn’t abide by the laws of physics.
But yes, listen to the sound now – nice and ethereal. However, I want the focus on the swooshyness and not so much that overwhelmingly prominent saw section that’s hovering in the high end, so let’s get to work on that.
First, though, we’ll make a stereo imager to widen the sound and cut off the low end by soloing anything above about 1khz and turning the widening knob to 3/4. Just tidies up that low end so it’s not too muddy!
Then for that EQ we’ll use to remove the prominent saw-ness. Sweep the band of frequencies ’til you find it, around 3khz, then cut it completely. Listen to the difference – the focus completely changes when you notch it out.
Okay, lastly we’re going to add a nice bit of reverb to make it sit nicely. I’ve used the “ALL WhiteheadAud” preset which I though was quite nice. Take the aux up nice and high, around 100. It just emphasizes that high end really well.
Let’s take a quick look at the notes. These are just alternating minor thirds, a chord which is pretty, yet painful. It goes from the F#+A in the lower octave to the same chord an octave above. Very simple, just held in the background to fill out the song.
And there we have it! A lead synth more gated than downing street, and a pad more haunting than a hilariously faked TV documentary. It must be so hard to keep a straight face when you’re being “posessed”.
Tune in tomorrow for day 4, where I’ll be creating a nice ambience, as well as showing you a technique I use for filling out the high end of a song! See you next time!