Darkstep Tutorial Day 4: Making an Atmosphere + some Shhhhhhhh
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to Day 4 of the 7 day song on Darkstep Drum and Bass. Yesterday, I taught you how to make a gated lead and a swooshy pad. Today, I’ll teach you how to make a haunting pitched atmosphere and a sound I affectionately call “shhhhhhhhhhhh”.
Okay! Let’s start with the atmosphere.
Make a combinator called atmosphere and make a line mixer 6:2, then a thor instance. Init and open it up.
I’ll just add in some simple notes. I’ll discuss these later.
Create a multi osc and a phase mod osc. The multi osc turn to soft saw mode, since this will give a nice and haunting start to the tone, then detune it on interval mode, one octave up.
For the phase mod, modulate a saw wave by a square wave by 90 PM, so it’s considerably modulated, taken up two octaves. This will give a cool, synthetic flute-esque kind of overtone to the sound.
Run these into the low pass filter to take the edge off, then into the shaper.
Turn the shaper on and set it to saturate mode, with just below half drive. This completely mangles the tone, giving this cool, haunting, disjointed sound.
Turn the amp envelope sustain to full so it doesn’t lose volume over time, then turn the attack up to about 500ms so it takes a while to fade in, kinda like an over-enthusiastic video editor that doesn’t quite grasp transitions yet.
Turn on the chorus, making it 3/4 wet, then we’re going to do a quick bit of stereo goodness with the Modulation Bus Routing!
Set the LFO 1 to tempo sync and 4/4 rate. Then route it to the amp pan by 100. If we remove the chorus temporarily, we can hear it moving between the speakers, giving a nice stereo effect. The chorus just makes it a bit wider and less of a mono synth panning left and right.
Alrighty, next step – create an RV7000 unit after the mixer and add just over half aux, then take it to sawyertheatre mode, take the decay up to 115 and open up the EQ mode.
We’re now going to use the eq to emphasize the most eerie part of the sound. Bring the param gain up to 18dB, on 3.5khz at 0.2Q. Bring the low end down so you can hear properly, though we’ll remove the low end entirely in a bit. Listen to it emphasizing that synthetic flute-y ness again. Gorgeous stuff.
Next, run the mixer into a stereo imager. Fully widen it, then solo high band to remove everything below about 800hz.
Next, an EQ. Cut the lo shelf by full as high as it’ll go. You might wonder why, since we’ve just removed the low end in the stereo imager – this doesn’t completely remove the low end, it only reduces it considerably. So this will be the final nail in the coffin for the low end of this atmosphere. I’m not very good at evil laughs, so I’ll give you 5 seconds to do one at home. Go on, no-one will judge you.
There we go, back to the tutorial. Notch out 8dB at the default freq around 900hz with param 1, to remove the undertone that’s stealing focus, then notch out just below where we emphasized with the reverb, 3khz, by full to focus the tone just above that.
Next, run it into an ECF-42 on band pass mode. Turn freq to 80. This makes the effect even more lo-fi, and with the hi-fi ness of the reverb making it sound professional, it just gives that awesome “This is a lo-fi sounding synth but you can totally tell I could make a high quality synth if I wanted to” impression.
Lastly, just to boost the volume after all that cutting, chuck in a maximizer and turn the input gain to 8dB and hit the 4ms look ahead just in case it clips at all.
Take a listen – frickin’ gorgeous. I feel like I’m listening to some random native american through a transistor radio playing pan pipes in a large cave. Which is always a good thing to feel.
But yes, those notes. 3 notes, all just long and simple. Since it’s a slow attack, I didn’t even bother to quantize it. It’s going from the root note F#, to the semitone above, G – remember, semitones are painful and haunting. Then it goes down to the E, where it’s just crying to go back to that F#. It’s this tension that makes the melody sound so haunting, even though it’s simple. I frickin’ love music.
Join me in part 2, where I’ll be discussing my secret “Shhhhhhhhhh” technique for filling out gaps in the high end that will not be a very good secret as soon as I realised I’ve posted detailed instructions of how to replicate it on the internet!
Okay, time for some serious shhhhhhhhhhhhh!
This works on the principle that a lot of DnB Producers use – having a nice bit of splashy high end can really help to fill out a track.
Create a combinator, call it shhhhhh, with as many hs as you have patience for, then create a ReDrum instance. Now, just import a crash into one of the channels. One that’s got a decent high end to it.
Now for the trick – put it on all the steps, then copy it to track. Disable the pattern section. This makes a constant crash sound.
Now we have a lot of high end, but it’s obvious it’s loads of crashes meshed together. So! Create an RV7000 advanced reverb. Change it to the “All the met” preset. Now it starts to sound like a mesh of reverby noise!
Now, run it into an EQ and remove as much as possible with the lo shelf.
Use Param 1 and 2 to notch out any particulaly hissy areas, I’m using Param 1 on 2.8khz to give some space in the mix for the click of the kick drum and snare drum we added earlier. Param 2 is on 5.5khz.
Now, we have a high end splashy sound that isn’t hitting any of the frequencies we don’t want it to!
One more thing I sometimes do is create a compressor and side-chain it to the kick. I’ll show you a way to get around the “external routing” thing I mentioned in Day 2, though it’s a bit messy.
Make a ReDrum instance after it, select channel 2, turn it into a kick that’s relatively short and place some kicks on the same kick pattern as the majority of the track. Route this into the sidechain in on the compressor, and set it up with 3/4 input gain for a general volume boost, 1/4 threshold and limit it with infinity to one ratio. Make sure the attack is at 0 so it kicks in quickly.
Now, if you test this, making sure the ReDrum instance you just added has “Run” enabled, it’ll be really messy and the compressor won’t work. Why? Because the reason sequencer is triggering the first channel on both redrum instances! So how do you get around that? Simply mute channel 1. Now adjust the release on the compressor to taste and you have a sweet pumping shhhhhhh that is a little bit more interesting than a stationary shhhh.
Just make sure it isn’t too loud in the mix, else it’ll steal focus from the rest of the song! It should be just noticeable, so when you mute it, it doesn’t feel obvious what has gone, but the track won’t feel quite as full as it did before.
And there you have it! An Atmosphere more Atmospheric than the future if Al Gore had his way, and a shhhhhhhhh more subtle than a ninja passing gas. Though they don’t actually do that, and if you say they do then they’ll change your mind. And also pirates suck. Please don’t kill me, ninjas.
Join me tomorrow for day 5, where I’ll be adding some all important FX, a painful pitch bend synth and a quick loop to make the intro more introresting!