Hip Hop Tutorial Day 4: Portamento Lead + Guitar Pick Lead [7 Day Song]
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to Day 4 of the 7 day song hip hop tutorial. Yesterday, I explained about adding samples in the form of an orchestra hit and also a bit about scratching with Dr Rex.
Today, I’ll be teaching you how to make two lead synths – one Dr Dre-esque portamento lead synth and another similarly gangsta lead that emulates a sampled picked guitar sound.
Okay! Let’s begin.
We’ll start with that portamento lead. Start as ever with a combinator, naming it Por2men2 Lead – when writing hip hop names for things, it’s important to obfuscate text as much as possible by replacing letters with numbers wherever possible.
Create an instance of Thor – now, this is a pretty simple effect and doesn’t have to be in Thor, but as you may have noticed, Thor and I have a pretty exclusive relationship and it gets angry when I spend any length of time with Subtractor or Malstrom. I think it’s self conscious about it’s weight. I’ll just add in some notes now so we can hear the synth build up.
Anyway, since we’re doing it in Thor we can thicken it up a little more than usual – make two analog oscillators and a multi osc, sending them through with the 2 and 3 buttons. Set one analog oscillator to pulse wave mode, then turn the pulse width knob to the center so it’s a square wave, giving it that hollow tone instead of the sharper tone it gets at the extremities of the PW knob.
For the Multi osc, turn it to interval detune mode and turn the amt knob up a bit to detune it and thicken up the sound slightly.
Now, I’ve called this the portamento synth for a reason – turn on the portamento and turn it up until the slides between notes are really noticeable. That’s more like it!
Remove the filter, since this is a very high pitched effect, turn the sustain up to full on the amp envelope since this synth is generally used with really long notes and doesn’t want to lose any volume over time.
Lastly, turn on the chorus. If you want it to be less prominent, which is probably a good idea considering how piercing and potentially annoying this synth can be if it’s too much of a focal point for too long, turn the dry/wet knob closer to wet, so it’s less punchy and has more width.
I’ll explain a bit about my choice of notes. The main thing here is that I’m going from a lower octave to a higher one. The root note of A, the key the beat is in, is where I’m alternating between, but instead of going straight to the higher A, I hit the Bb in the higher octave first, to maintain that minor feel that I’ve built up with the bassline and orchestra hits.
The other notes there, the C and G (no pun intended), are just to add a bit more melody, since I didn’t want this to be a purely dark hip hop beat just in case I scared away any fans of more melodic music who might have stumbled from my 7 day song trance tutorial into this one. Don’t worry you guys – I’ll be adding some strings soon so you can have some pretty harmonised thirds if you’d like, yay!
Ahem, back to being a straight G. The little triplet fiddly section here is echoing the riff from the next synth effect we’re going to make, so don’t forget to rate this video, then join me in part 2 where I’ll be creating that!
So, for this synth doing that fiddly bit that all the cool synths seem to be following these days. Create a combinator and name it Fiddly Bit. If that’s not gangstuh enough for you, just remove the “l” from “Fiddly”.
Create a Thor instance, initialize and open it up. We want to add a multi osc after the analog osc and run it through with the “2″ button. I’ll just add in the notes now so we can hear what it sounds like.
Detune the multi osc slightly and set it on the pulse wave. Move the mixer closer to oscillator 1 though – the analog oscillator is the punchy start to the effect whereas the multi osc is going to give the texture and emphasize the width of the sound.
In the filter, move the env value to about half, then in the filter envelope, take the decay down to about 350ms. This will give that plucked start to the effect. Take the sustain right down on the amp envelope and turn up the release until there’s just a short tail on the sound.
Lastly, hit the chorus and turn the D/W to more dry. This is more of a punchy effect due to the plucked nature of the synth and too much width will detract from that.
Now, take a listen in context – Pretty gangstuh huh? I’ll just explain a bit about how I chose those notes.
Firstly, the rhythm is in triplets – to make triplets, click the drop down arrow in the sequencer and select 1/16T – basically anything with T after it. If you have a degree in astro-physics, you’ll probably have guessed that the T stands for Triplets. If not, don’t worry – it’s pretty complicated stuff, I know.
The notes are just playing off that minor change between A and Bb again, but ending on the note in the key that is below the A root note, the G. This gives the effect that it hasn’t resolved, it doesn’t feel complete, but then when the bassline and orchestra hit go to the A note as it loops around, it feels complete again, so it just adds that cool bit of minor melody and tension to the music.
And there you have it! A lead synth that slides between more notes than a wealthy ice-skater and a plucked lead that’s more fiddly than assembling a model ship from Ikea.
Join me tomorrow for Day 5 where I’ll be teaching you how to add in some strings, both slower ones and those awesome hip hop stabs, and also one of my favourite synths when it comes to hip hop, the all important high pitched “waa!” sound.
See ya tomorrow guys!