Prog House Tutorial Day 3: Calvin Harris-y Lead Pad & Square Wave Pad [7 Day Song]
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to day 3 of the 7 day song on Progressive House, sponsored by filtuh.com – the tag-based events search website.
Yesterday in day 2, we made a crisp, dirty bass sound that also functions as a sweet electro lead synth, along with a simple sub bass. Today in day 3, we’ll be venturing towards the mids and highs with some pads to really fill out those breakouts.
First let’s take a look at that Prog House lead pad. Combinator, name it lead pad since this is a big lead synth-y pad sound that really fills out a load of the frequency spectrum. Put in a mixer followed by Thor numero uno. Yep, another multi-thor synth – this genre really takes things to a whole new level of Thor-whoreing.
I’ll just add in some notes now.
Initialize, and open then add 2 analog oscillators and a multi osc. The analogs on saw are fine, but if we run them both through listen to what happens as I slightly detune them. The sound thickens up – this is essentially what a multi oscillator does, but with more synths. One thing you’ll notice is the more synths detuned, the thicker the sound but you can also lose that punch in a mess of prettiness.
So I’ve gone for the best of both worlds – the lead focal point with the note I want to take the fore will be these analog oscillators and underneath, so bring it down an octave, we’re going to have this multi osc saw. Run it through then let’s look at this filter.
Bring the freq to ? so it’s reasonably closed down but then the main part of this synth tone comes from the filter envelope – so crank it up to ¾ then in the envelope, bring the decay down. Watch what happens as we do so, the decay is the time before the filter closes down to the value defined in sustain, so shorter ones mean sharper attacks of high frequencies before the low pass filter filters them out.
So with the decay around 300ms, you have this plucked sound. Bring the sustain on the amp envelope to full while we’re here in case we want a nice long pad at any point in the future and bring the release up to 600ms so there’s a bit of a tail. We’ll modulate this later to get that iconic prog house-y and trance-y messy pretty noisey build-up…y.
Last thing in here we’ll add the chorus on ¼ d/w for a bit mo’ thickness. And there’s out first thor done.
Next thor! duplicate this one, then change the oscillators to a noise oscillator and two multi oscs. I always used to wonder about the usefulness of a noise oscillator, but this synth shows a brilliant one.
Put it on white noise and run it through – with these settings, it just adds this brightness to the top end to the sound that you might initially think is a bit loud or overbearing, but take a listen to a track with this kind of synth in and you’ll start to hear white noise at the top of all of these synths. Apologies if I just ruined one of your favourite genres of music forever.
Then in the other oscillators have them on saw, bring one up an octave and run them through as well. This just really adds to that top end, which is all this thor instance is about – the mixer will help us mix together a punchy tone with a nice Sheen to it. In fact, let’s re-name the first thor instance “bangin’” and this new thor instance “7 gram rocks”.
Before we start piling on the post-mixer effects, add a compressor to the first instance of thor to give it some more punch – ? threshold and full ratio so it really hits hard, with the release at 0 so the volume after the initial punch is brought up as well. Turn up the output gain a few dB as well for a bit of extra volume.
Now we can start piling on the FX! Let’s go all out and add an EQ, stereo imager, maximizer and compressor and 17 instances of scream 4.
After you laugh at the absolute mess the synth has become, delete the scream 4 instances and with the EQ just bring up the hi shelf on the lowest freq and Q by about 5 dB. Hear how much brighter that makes the sound.
The stereo imager is next – slightly widen the top end to ¾ and bring the x-over to around 300hz so all the mids and highs are pushed to the edges a bit. If you think about the mix as a 3D space with volume, frequency and stereo panning as the places you can sit the mix, you’re basically telling this synth to make itself at home and take up as much space as it wants, with the rest of the synths in the track shining its shoes and massaging it’s oscillators. Synths are still very much in a feudal system of government, they’re quite backwards in that respect.
Maximizer-wise, full input and soft clip for a bit more punch and volume, then link up the compressor to the side-chain like we always do at this time!
And there we have our lead pad! Now we’ll automate the release modulation – so in the programmer, route to rotary one the amp env release of both thor instances. Drop the new release knob to a point you’re happy with as a default, then automate it by right clicking > edit automation, then draw it in in the new envelope lane in the sequencer. Et voila! Pretty and messy – perfect for a sweet build up.
Lastly, to make it sit in the mix better add a reverb to the mixer above and dial it in with the aux knob to taste – I like the ALL Filmscore reverb, nice and anthemic.
Next up in part 2 we’re going to look at another prog house sound that takes its roots from more retro electronica, a nice square wave pad. Don’t forget to rate this video, then head on over to learn yourself some of that pad magic!
Alright, let’s make a pad! Combinator, name it, thor, init, open, square, pw to middle so it’s a square wave and I’m going to take it up an octave too. I could just play lower on my keyboard, but that’d involve moving my left hand, which is currently busy kicking ass on dead rising 2.
For the pad tone, turn the sustain to full for volume and make sure the filter frequency is opened up nicely. For extra thickness, add a unison unit which makes a bunch of versions of the sound all slightly detuned, kinda like a multi-oscillator in thor. Tiny detune amount, full wet and 16 voices for maximum viscosity.
You want a bit of brightness to distort – then add a scream 4 instance. Fuzz mode is really good for this, full p1 and mid p2 so it’s not too piercing. Remove the body and cut then play – voila! Deadmau5 would be jealous, well, if it wasn’t for the fact that he was already a horrendously rich world-renowned producer.
To tidy up the distortion a bit, filter out the low end. Either with a state variable filter in thor, or what I’ll go with – the stereo imager’s convenient alternate function. In fact, I end up using the stereo imager for this more than for actually stereo imaging. It’s kinda like someone you normally wouldn’t date, but since they have a really nice car that they’d drive you about in you’d probably go for it a lot more.
Chuck on a maximizer to bring up the level and add that delicious soft clip distortion that I can see you’re so hungry for. Even more than you’re hungry for a sumptuous, perfectly crafted toffee cheesecake… mmm…
So that’s the pad sound, kinda simple but I want to do something a little different with it in this track, so I’ll bring the env up to ? on the filter, the frequency down to half and the decay on the filter envelope down to tighten it up.
Take off the sustain and bring the release right down to 14ms in the amp envelope and then I’ll add in some notes – That pad has suddenly become a cool blippy synth! It’s weird how often you end up with something completely different than you initially conceived by just going with a random idea – don’t feel forced to follow these instructions to the letter; if you hear something that takes your ear, roll with it and see what happens.
In fact, for a tiny bit more variety, let’s tempo sync LFO1 with the lowest rate and run it to the filter envelope decay by 50 in the MBR section below for a bit of movement over time – this kind of subtle effect can help a repetitive sound become a lot more interesting.
And there we have it, a big lead pad more all-consuming than the internet’s hatred for Rebecca Black, though I kinda like that song, and a square pad that transformed into a sweet blippy synth like some sort of awesome transforming robot warrior… what are they called… GoBots, that’s it.
Join me tomorrow for day 4 where I’ll be compiling an awesome arp synth and a big bass pad to finish off all the synths in this song! See ya!