After last years excellent and life-saving LSDJ & You articles, we’re opening the doors for the community to write their own tips and secrets exposing not only their personal tics, but also serving to create some of the closeted secrets locked inside of the minute intricacies of Little Sound DJ.
What we’re looking for here is either some technical tips for sound, your favourite patches or insights into your personal signature sounds.
When writing, please try to explain the rationale behind your patch/sound design. The series tries to present the logic and tools to play with the parameters in LSDJ, rather than simply sharing patches. You’ll need to explain what you’re doing and why.
You can submit these to Roboctopus via private messaging here on noichan. There may be a delay in time of submission to time of press, so please wait patiently. We will contact you when we’re ready to post a submission.
We’ll need some recordings of sounds and screenshots via emulator to support your article. Please try to write as concisely as possible, and spellcheck your copy. You might even be featured up next for the series. We look forward to hearing from you!
Sorry for the suuuuuuuper long delay between articles. I’ll do better, I swear.
For some reason I’ve been avoiding talking about WAV channel kicks, but this is something people still ask questions about, so I’ll try to demystify the topic a bit. We’ll cover a few variations on WAV kicks and then discuss ways to maximize their volume and punch.
But Pulse Kicks are Louder, Yo!
The WAV channel is capable of going an octave lower than the pulse channels, and it is capable of producing smoother waveforms than the pulse channels, so you can get a lower, deeper, purer kick drum on the WAV channel. (Not knocking pulse kicks, they can rock too.) The problem with using a lower kick with a smoother waveform (like a sine or triangle) is that the volume is going to be quite a bit lower than a pulse kick. So right off the bat, know that to compensate we’re going to need to lower the volume of the other channels.
I don’t want to be overly prescriptive. How low you take those other channels is dependant on how loud and punchy you want your kick to be, but as a general rule, I am not going to recommend any volume above 9x. For my own compositions, leads are generally around 6x to 7x (sometimes lower…) and arps are 4x or 5x (or, um, sometimes lower…or higher…).
It’s Sine Time!
The easiest way to get a nice, clean, thumpy kick on the WAV channel is to use a sinewave synth. Set up a new WAV instrument. Set the instrument to manual play and press select and up to go into the synth screen. Dial in a sinewave synth with a volume of 40, as pictured below.
I chose a volume of 40 because it has an okay volume level and enough clipping (flattening of the top of the waveform, basically) to give it some thud, but still retain a smoother sinewave kind of sound. If you go much over 60 it really starts to sound more and more like a square wave. Sinewave kick at 40 is pretty much my go-to kick. But just setting up the synth isn’t enough. We need to talk about pitch and P commands…
The Big Kick Theory
The synth and volume settings you use give your kick its tone, but there are other factors that go into the overall sound and apparent volume of a kick patch. The pitches you start and end your kick at, and the speed at which the kick does so, play big factors in the overall sound. Basically, the higher in pitch a kick starts will give it a higher volume in the mix. If you go too high it’s going to sound like a laser blip or something. That may or may not be cool, depending on what you’re going for. I usually pitch my kicks between C5 and G5 (or C6-G6 on older versions of LSDJ!) Pitching the kick an octave or more higher can give you a harder (maybe more dance-y?) kick. For now, I’m going to assume you guys like kicks like I like my women: pitched at C5.
First thing we need to do is set up a table with a P command. This table will play every time the instrument is triggered, so set it up on the instrument screen, of course. Here’s what I have set up for a kick that starts on C5:
Notice the tempo is the default 128 and I have a K command on line 5. The K command at line 5 kills the kick after one tick on the phrase screen, so you can get the full range of the kick and have a different WAV instrument immediately following the kick. (If you aren’t going to place an instrument on the step directly after the kick and want a longer, boomier kick, putting the K command on line B of the table will give you a kick 2 steps long on the phrase screen.
The P command – CE takes the kick to the lowest tone. If you use too fast of a P command, the wave will wrap back around to the highest tone and you will hear a clicking sound at the end of your kick.
Note that the P command is dependant on the pitch your kick starts, the tempo of your song, and how low you want the kick to go. The lower the kick goes, the deeper the bass quality of it, obviously, but if you want to increase the overall volume of the kick, use a less-severe P command and stop the kick at a higher tone. (Higher pitches sound louder, natch.) Play around with the P command settings while your kick plays and note the differences.
The sound clip below highlights 4 different kicks:
The first is a sine kick at 40, pitched at C5 (C6 in older versions) with a P command taking it as low as possible without clicking. K on 5.
The second is a much harder sounding kick. Sine at 60, pitched at C7 (C6 on older versions) with a P command that doesn’t go quite all the way down. K on 5.
The third is another sine at 40, pitched at E5 (C6 in older versions) with an E0 command. K on 5.
The fourth is the same sine at 40, but with the K command on B, going as low as possible without clicking.
These are followed by samples of the same kicks in the same order with a bassline and some noise channel.
Experiment and find what works for you. If I’m recording I’ll usually use a nice deep kick at 40, because I know even though the volume will be a little lower, I can EQ and compress and make the kick stand out a bit more. For a live show where you have a little less control over the sound (or even a web show) I’ve bumped my kick up to 60 or 70 and used a PE0 command for a louder, thumpier kick. Seemed to work well.
So those are the basics of WAV kicks. Just play around with the settings, try different lengths, pitches, WAV volumes. Try square wave kicks! Punch the volume up and try a kick with a zipper-y sounding trail off! Try multiple P commands in the same table (start out really fast and then two steps down put in a slower P command to emphasize the low end of the kick, etc.) Experiment.
WAV Kicks Need Volume Tricks (Part 1)
This is a big subject, so we can’t cover this topic in just one column, but a big part of really emphasizing your kick is to control the volume around the kick–not just on the WAV channel, but all the channels. This means E commands, multiple copies of the same instrument at different volumes, maybe M commands. This means tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. And then tweaking some more. Also, tweaking.
The basic idea is to try and mimic sidechaining by limiting the volume of other instruments when the kick plays. A really simple way to do this is with your arps (you know, if you’re using arps) and bassline.
Instead of using an arp instrument with a steady envelope (i.e., 38) or an envelope that falls off (i.e., 47), try an arp with an envelope of 0F and place it on the same beat as the kick. This will mean the arp starts with a volume of zero at the same instance the kick drum hits, and then fades in, giving the arp a pulsing sound, and emphasizing the kick.
If you like busy basslines (like me), try using E commands. I often place an E02 command on the notes right after a kick, so they’re one level lower in volume than the next notes, which emphasizes the kick by lowering the volume of notes around it. (Obviously these ideas are more important to dance music, but can certainly be utilized in any style where you want a nice strong backbeat.)
So this bassline:
Becomes this bassline:
These two simple tricks can have a pretty big impact on the overall sound of a track. In the audio example below, I play a bassline with no E commands and arps with a steady envelope (along with a little “lead” kind of thing with a steady envelope) followed by pulsing arps, E command bassline, and the same lead figure also using the 0F envelope.
For the next article we’ll further explore methods of volume control, including M commands for full-on fake sidechaining.
This time we’re going to take a look at a few ways to spice up arpeggios. Arps are kind of chip music’s bread-and-butter: one of those essential tools that lend the medium one of its signature sounds. Arps let you quickly convey a chord without resorting to using multiple channels, and though a basic tool, they should not be overlooked. They can be especially useful if your song has quick chord changes or uses chords more complex than simple major and minor chords (7th chords, diminished chords, etc.)
Because arps are so ubiquitous in chip, I think it’s important that we strive to make our arps more interesting and less static. By applying a few simple techniques, we can add little touches to arps to make them stand out a bit more.
One of my favorite, very simple ways to add a more interesting element to an arpeggio is to vary the pulse width with a trend toward the narrow. This gives a fast arp more of a C64-style sound and makes it stand out a bit more.
This table will give us a fairly fast (but not so fast the notes aren’t discernible) arp representing a Major 7th chord. Let’s start a phrase and put F5 on steps 0 and 6 and E5 on step C. Put the A command for the table you just created beside each note. On the table next to E5, hit select + B then A to copy the table. Go in and alter the new table to this:
This will give us a nice minor 7th chord. You should now have a phrase that looks like the top phrase below (I went ahead and made a 2nd phrase to make the progression more interesting).
It should sound like this:
Not bad I guess, but it could be better. Let’s vary the pulse width. Add W commands after each arp, like below:
Now it should sound like this:
I think that’s got a bit more character, but perhaps we can go a bit farther. Let’s add a stereo component to make it sound bigger in the mix.
Alter your arp tables to include the following O commands:
Now it should sound like this:
That by itself isn’t what I’d call an amazing improvement. Just a few blippy notes on the right at the start of each arp, really. But when you throw it in a mix with a lead that starts with a blip on the left and some left-channel echoes, you get a nice, fuller stereo sound.
I wrote a simple lead and a bassline using a basic horn lead with some left channel echoes to give you an idea.
So now we have arps with more character and a bit of stereo candy for listeners using headphones (which I kinda assume is most of them.) Play around with altering the pulse width and trying different O commands with your own arps and see what you come up with!
This isn’t the last word on arps either. I’ll talk about other ways to make them more interesting in future columns.
I’d like to cover a very specific sound that I have been using a lot in my latest tunes. It appears in a couple of the tracks on my new album [Streets of Bass], most notably ‘Shiran’. It is a blippy (ironic hey?) sound that only lasts an instant, made on the wave channel. So without further ado, lets get into the tutorial!
Step 1: Setting up a manual wavetable
Set the play style of a wave instrument to MANUAL and then draw in the shape below (covered in previous tutorials here).
Let’s see how this sounds. I set up a simple pattern like this:
Which sounds like:
Step 2: Using a table to create that ‘blip’ sound
OK, so we have our bassline set up nicely, now we are going to use a table to make it a very short blip sound that cuts off really fast. Quite simple to make: just add a table to the instrument, and input the following:
Now, you can go back to the pattern that we made and remove the ‘K’ commands, as they are not needed anymore.
The short, blippy bassline now sounds like this:
Which is OK, but there is a lot of space between notes now, so lets put a few higher pitched blips in there to bring out some more funk . Copy in the extra notes like this:
Which sounds like:
Step 3: Elongating the blip sound.
This is a final step to emphasize the lower frequencies of this blip instrument and to fill the pattern with a nice bass boost in a particular section. Copy the 00 instrument to a new instrument, and similarly create a new table based off the 00 table:
In this new table, add a H command with a value higher than the last 0C on the TSP line, but before the H command itself thus creating an infinite loop that will not repeat the first three entries to the table (which means the blip sound will not be retriggered).
The result is the sound below.
Well, as they say in Looney Tunes, “That’s all folks!”
You can check cheapshot out at soundcloud.com/cheapshot, twitter.com/cheapsh0t, and cheapshot.bandcamp.com
LSDJ and You: Episode 6 – The Short End of the Synth
This week we’re going to take some of the techniques we learned in the past two weeks (filters, Pingpong mode) and and start exploring what happens when we change the length parameter on the instrument screen. Shorter lengths can be used to create interesting pulse effects and wubs, to name a few applications.
The Mysterious Pulsing Pulse.
What we’re going to do is make a cool bass with a “pulsing” effect. Let’s start by setting up a basic pulse synth with a low pass filter sweep. Input these values on the synth screen:
Notice the much lower volume at the end. Now let’s set up an instrument to use this synth in an interesting way. Set the play mode to Loop or Pingpong (it doesn’t matter which in this case). Set the length to 1. Length tells the instrument how many frames of the synth to play. Length goes from 0 to F, which is a range from 1 frame to all 16. If you set the length at 0, the instrument will only play the first frame (basically the same as manual play). Any length other than 0 will include the first frame and the last frame, so a length of 1 includes only the first frame and the last frame of the synth. This means we can program a WAV instrument that toggles back and forth between two synth sounds (the start sound and end sound) and control the speed.
Set up the rest of the instrument parameters as in this image:
Again, a repeat value of F is endless. Speed controls the rate at which the instrument plays the frames. You can vary this to get different sounds. This instrument will switch between the first frame and the last frame of the wave over and over. Since the first frame is loud and unfiltered and the last frame is quieter and has a lot of frequencies filtered out, this results in a rapid pulsing sound, like this:
You can make the volume of the last frame zero for a more severe sound, or increase its volume for a subtler sound. You can also increase or decrease the speed to get different pulsing effects. This pulsing sound is useful for giving a bass line a sense of life and rhythm without having to switch notes. It’s also useful for creating bass lines where the sound of the kick drum interrupting the bass is less noticeable (since the bass already pulses in and out).
Below is a little bass line I made:
The instrument at C6 is the kick. Notice I deleted the instrument at E4 so the wave cycle isn’t interrupted. It sounds like this:
So now we have a kind of cool pulsing bassline and a few kicks thrown in. But maybe you want something a little edgier. Maybe something with some teeth. Let’s spice up the bass sound a bit.
Wrap that Pulse to go, Please.
Go back into the synth screen and edit the parameters to this:
Notice I’ve changed the distortion type from the default CLIP to WRAP. Wrap is a harsher, more digital sounding distortion than clip, so when your wave gets into higher volumes, it sounds pretty dirty. I’ve added some resonance by increasing the Q value to 2, which will add a little more edge to the sound. Changing the phase to RESYNC2 also gives the sound more edge. Try playing with these settings as your bass line plays and note how each setting affects the sound. Experimentation is key to finding your own interesting patches!
So now I have a bassline that sounds like this:
(As a side note, in my experience wrap is harder to control volume-wise, and you may find the bass overpowering your kick. I usually use a nice clean sine kick, but with wrap, you may find using a harder kick is necessary. In the example above I increased the volume of the kick and pitched it up to C7.)
The wrap distortion bass might sound a little harsh by itself, but it can sound really nice when you mix it in with the rest of the channels. Here’s a little jam I made based around this bass line:
Try playing around with different waves and filter settings and see what you come up with. Vary the cutoff values and start and end volumes to come up with different effects.
This week we’re going to explore (put on your pith helmet) the WAV channel’s high pass filter and begin some non-manual play modes. We’ll Cut Them Off at the High Pass!
Last week we looked at LSDJ’s default filter, the low pass. The high pass is the exact opposite of the low pass–it filters out the low frequencies . It makes a great, distinctive lead instrument and great arps. You can use it to get a funky, nasal tone on a bass as well.
First, set up a new WAV channel instrument using the default saw, and change the filter from LOWP to HIGHP. Let’s give it a bit of resonance and set the Q to 3. (Remember, resonance boosts frequencies around the cutoff value. At low levels this can be used to add a bit of “brightness” to the sound, which is what we’re going to use it for.) For now, keep the distortion on clip and the phase on normal. Set up the start and end values as in the image below:
(I added a volume boost to the end, because as the high pass filters out more and more of the frequencies, the sound becomes thinner and less prominent in the mix, hence a volume boost is helpful to keep the wave at roughly the same apparent volume.)
The high pass filter filters out low frequencies, and when the cutoff is at FF almost all frequencies are removed. At 00 all frequencies are present. The synth we just set up will start with most frequencies present and a bit of resonance, and then sweep toward many low frequencies removed, giving the note a progressively “thinner” sound as the synth plays.
Now, set up the instrument screen to match the image below.
Pingpong play mode means that the synth will play from the first frame to the last frame and back again. A Length of F means the instrument will play all 16 frames of the synth. A repeat value of F means as long as the instrument is triggered, the synth will repeat endlessly. Speed is simply how quickly the instrument steps through the frames. (A warning, the transition from one frame to another in LSDJ is not smooth, so fast speeds with lots of frames can produce a noticeable clicking sound, which may or may not appeal to you.)
So now we have a nice high pass instrument set up. Naturally, the first thing we do is a shoddy version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The instrument has a distinctive sound and works well as a lead. But I wish it were a bit more subtle. Maybe we should…
Delete the Instruments!
If you have a WAV instrument set up to play pingpong, loop, etc., you can delete all instances of the instrument except the first one and as long as your repeat is set to F, the synth will keep cycling through the frames without resetting. Below is the same tune, but I’ve deleted the instrument number from the column (except for the first note).
Letting the wave cycle through the frames naturally without resetting with every new note can give lead lines (or bass lines, or arps…) a smoother, more organic feel. Give it a whirl.
Dude, Why Would I Cut Bass Frequencies Out of My Bass, LOL?!?1
Don’t be afraid to experiment with high pass filters on your bass lines. I think in moderation a high pass bass is very effective for a sort of sleazy, funky bass feel.
Let’s combine what we learned last week with this week. Set up a new instrument with the same synth we just created, except use manual play instead of pingpong. Write a bassline. Here’s mine:
What I’ve done, again, is delete all instances of the instrument except the first one, and added in F commands to advance the synth through the frames manually. Since we only have one instance of the instrument at the top of the phrase, the F commands stack, meaning each successive F command advances the wave frame past the current wave frame. (Be careful, if you advance past the 16th frame you will be in the next synth!) F commands below F00 will advance the frames backward. So F01 followed by FFF will result in the wave moving forward one frame and then back again.
Here’s a quick jam I made using this bass line to give you an idea of how it sounds in practice. I turned the Q up to five for this to make characteristics of the filter sound a bit more prominent. (Sorry, I got carried away and added a little lead line and some drums.)
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how to use the high pass filter. Experiment with the settings and see what you come up with!
LSDJ and You – Episode Four: Stick Shift I’ve had more requests to talk about the WAV channel, so for the next few weeks we’ll continue focusing on specific facets of that channel and (hopefully) demystify its more esoteric parameters. This week we’re going to explore manual control of the WAV channel and touch on the basics of the low-pass filter.
Wait, You Want me to Drive a Manual Transmission?!? I Want an Automatic! We’re starting with manual play because it allows you to have direct control over the synth, which is useful for controlling the tempo at which the synth steps through the wave frames, and I get to put off talking about the other synth parameters for another week.
To control the synth manually, we need to understand the F command. The F command manually controls the wave frames played by the synth. Remember the PWM we created last week? That was set to Pingpong mode, meaning the synth played from the first frame (0) to the last frame (F). If we had set the PWM instrument to manual, it would only play the first frame. To change the frame of a synth set to manual, you need to use the F command.
Dat (Low-P)ass To start playing around with the F command, we need to set up a synth that changes from one frame to the next. To do this, we’re going to create a synth with a low-pass filter sweep. A low-pass filter cuts off all high frequencies above the cut-off value. The lower the cut-off value, the more high frequencies are removed. In LSDJ, FF is the highest cut-off, meaning all frequencies are present, and 00 is the lowest, meaning all frequencies are cut out. A filter sweep simply means that when the synth is triggered, the filter “sweeps” from one value to another.
Set up a new instrument, set it to manual play (natch) and input the values in the image below in the synth screen.
This gives us a synth that starts with no frequencies cut off, and ends with most high frequencies cut off. The “Q” value represents the resonance of the filter. Filter resonance is basically a narrow band of frequencies that are amplified around the cut-off value. At a low setting resonance sounds like a subtle undertone to the sound, and at a high settings it can be overbearing. We’re going to go for subtlety. I’m not going to go more in-depth on what low-pass filters can do, but if you’re curious, there is a lot of information out there.
Now set up the following phrase:
The F command advances the wave frame, and it’s stackable within each instance of the instrument. Thus, the first F01 advances from frame 0 to frame 1, and each time you use F01 while the instrument plays, it advances another frame. This phrases manually steps the instrument through all 16 frames.
The F command can be used to step backwards through the frames as well. For example, if you follow F01 with FFF, the synth will advance one frame and then go back one frame. If you enter F0F, that immediately advances the instrument to the last frame of the synth. (A value greater than 0F will advance to the next frame of the next synth, so beware–unless that’s what you intend to do, in which case, have fun.)
So you might be wondering why this is useful. One immediate use is that since you are controlling the synth with F in the command column, you can sweep through a filter (or a PWM) at the exact tempo of the track you’re working on.
One thing I like to do is use it to give a more organic feel to a bass or lead line. In the figure below is a two-phrase long bass line. As the bassline plays, I’ve added a progressively higher F command, causing the filter to effectively sweep gradually across the bassline.
Kind of cool sounding, but maybe it would be nice if the bass line had a bit more character, maybe some slides and vibrato. Those pesky F commands are taking up valuable room, which leads us to…
Automation for the People
Set automate to “On” and create the table depicted below:
This automates the F command, so that each time the instrument is triggered, it will play one frame beyond the previous frame without taking up space in the command column of phrases, leaving room for spicy L, V, E, etc. commands.
This should hopefully give you a basic understanding of the F command, so play around with it and see what you come up with.
Building on last week’s introduction to custom waveforms, this week we’re going to go more in-depth and hand-draw a square wave with pulse width modulation (PWM). (What this means is that the width of the pulse is changed as the wave plays, from a 50% pulse to a very narrow one and back.) PWM will allow your game boy to sound a bit more like a C64, though nowhere near as smooth and classy.
Before we create a PWM instrument, let’s review some functions of the WAVE screen and the SYNTH screen.
First thing we’re going to do is set up square pulse to use. I started with a volume of ten. This will work with other volumes. (Don’t forget–the amplitude controls the volume.) Remember the really narrow pulse we made last week? What we’re going to do this week is alter the standard square pulse frame-by-frame until it’s a very narrow pulse.
Press select + left from the SYNTH screen to go to the WAVE screen. The first screen should be the number of the synth you are using plus zero. For example, if you’re using synth 8, the first WAVE screen is 80. You should see something like this:
I like to sort of smooth my PWM instruments out (OCD style), but you don’t have to. This is what I’m going to start with:
The WAVE screen shows you each frame of the synth, which is comprised of 16 frames (0 to F). To navigate between each frame hold down B and press left or right. What we have to do to create a PWM synth is alter each frame. (It is a bit tedious, but if you want PWM in LSDJ, it’s worth it.)
Basically, we just need to make each frame of the pulse narrower than the one before. Behold, a .gif!
Now that we have the PWM drawn, we need to set up an instrument to make use of it.
Set it to pingpong, which will cause the synth to play from the first frame to the last and then back to the first, playing the gradually narrowing pulse we just created. Set the repeat to F, which causes the synth to repeat endlessly. Don’t worry about length for now–just leave it at F. The speed setting controls the speed at which the frames are played, so a nice slow speed will really highlight the narrowing pulse.
In the example below you can hear the width of the pulse being modulated and how it affects the sound.
You’ll notice you can hear the synth stepping through each frame, unlike the smoother PWM on a C64. This is less noticeable on leads/basses in a full mix with pulse and noise instruments, and barely discernible when used in a fast arpeggio. Below is a short clip of the PWM in a mix with some melancholic chords.
Now that you have your instrument set up, just play around with it. It’s great for giving a lead line a more organic feel, and it makes a pretty massive bass. It sounds great with arps, too, and can give a track a more distinct sound.
Quick note: I’m dropping the “Roboctopus” from the name, since I’ve had offers from others to contribute to future columns.
This week we’re going to do a sort of introduction to hand-draw (custom!) wave forms by altering each of the basic LSDJ waveforms to get different sounds. Drawing out your own wave forms can help you create a more distinct sound tailored to the needs of a specific track. Or, you know, you could just make obnoxious sounds.
One note before we start: This may be obvious to some of you, but if you find your WAV channel sounds to be too quiet, turn those pulse and noise channels down! I rarely have anything on pulse above A8, and pulse volumes are usually lower than that. (A warning: this will increase the apparent volume of panning and envelope clicks, so take that into account.)
The Saw VI: Revenge of the Son of the Saw
The first waveform we’re going to tackle is a more robust saw wave than the LSDJ default—something with more bite and more low-end. (You like low end, right?)
First, set up an instrument on the WAV channel. Manual play means that unless you use an “F” command in conjunction with that instrument it will play the static wave in the first frame of the synth.
Next, go up into the synth screen then left into the WAVE screen. All we’re going to do is alter the saw that’s already there into something more angular and vicious. Rearrange the pixels to get this:
So now we have a saw with more character than before:
What we need now is volume control. The overall height (amplitude) of the waveform determines its volume. Right now it’s at max volume. To lower it, all we need to do is decrease the height. The waveform below will give you a saw with a lower volume. Simply decrease the height even more for lower volumes. This works for any waveform you draw. (Note, that it is not the height from the bottom of the WAVE screen but the overall height.)
Attack of the Painfully Narrow Pulse Wave
Since the default pulse is a square wave, we’re going to draw a really narrow pulse. Set up a new instrument and a new synth, again set to manual play. This time we’re going to set the synth wave to pulse and alter the start volume to 40 (altering the volume is just to give us a nice, easy-to-work-with wave to alter). Lower all the pixel/values (for lack of a better term) to zero except the first one, like this:
The sound of this wave is harsh—not much low end, pretty abrasive sounding. It can be useful for a section of the song where you want low notes but no low-end. It works very well for distinctive table arpeggios.
You can also alter the pulse width simply by changing the values (from left to right) from zero to F:
Change the volume by lowering the overall height (amplitude).
The last thing we’re going to do is alter a slightly clipped sine wave to give it more definition while preserving some of that sine low-end (well, sort of). Again, set up a WAV instrument set to manual. This time select a sine wave and set the start volume to 40. What we’re going to do is cut a notch in the top of the peak, like this:
The result is a bass with great low-end but enough definition to cut through the mix more than a sine wave:
This waveform is a good example of how a wave’s shape relates to its sound. Think of it like this: the more angular the wave, the sharper its edges, the sharper and harsher the sound is. For example, if we make our notch deeper, the tone gets more defined and harsher-sounding.
If we make our notch narrower—say, one pixel-value—the tone also gets sharper.
Likewise, if we give our notch smoother contour, it will result in a smoother sound.
Try playing the wave and adding more spikes and edges to it and see how the sound changes. Experiment!
My last tip is to encourage you to experiment and find your own sounds. An easy way to do this is to set your instrument to manual play and set the start and end volumes of your synth to zero. This gives you a straight-line for a wave form, which makes no sound. Then while your bass or lead line plays, alter the waveform until you reach a sound you like. With a little experimentation you’re sure to come up with some interesting sounds.
Freque has been giving me a hard time about not writing articles, and after a discussion with Solarbear about echoes in LSDJ, I decided to start a regular column on in-depth LSDJ tricks, tips, and boss techniques.
These columns are not necessarily for beginners; I’m going to assume you know how to compose a song in LSDJ. My goal is to help intermediate users learn techniques to really fill out their songs and take their sound design to a higher level. (Er, hopefully, anyway.)
So, to begin with, I’m going to talk about echoes. Echoes can help fill an arrangement out and give it a greater sense of depth and, if you want, space. In the final stages of working on a track, I often look for every bit of free space in the patterns and see if I can add an echo here and there. Echoes don’t have to be constant, and even intermittent echoes can add interest and complexity to that banging tune you’re writing.
I’m going to start with the ever-nifty Single Channel Echo. The idea is to add echoes in the middle of a run of notes using an instrument with a short envelope all on one channel, giving you an echo effect without having to use two channels to do it.
In the image below you’ll see two patterns and the corresponding instrument screen. Just simple arpeggiated Cmaj7 and Amin7 chords. Nice, but it could certainly be more interesting.
In the next image you’ll see I have added a second instrument, which is at a lower volume than the first. I have also added echo notes. Notice that the echoed note corresponds to not the note it immediately follows but the one before that. That is, in the C – B – G – E progression, the echo for the C really follow the B, the echo for the B follows the G, etc. (There is a C echo after the first C, but that’s because it is an echo of the last C in Phrase 4, so there will be continuity when the two phrases loop, natch.) (Note: while I’m using a simple arpeggiated pattern, this method works great for melody lines as well.)
Now that we’ve established the basic technique, we can dig a little futher. If you want to create stereo space with your echoes (and stereo space is often an area LSDJ composers neglect…) you can set your echo instrument to pan to one side. Panned echoes are often used in professionally produced tracks, and the trick works well in LSDJ.
You can also set up an automated table to pan your echoes from left to right every other note to create a spacier feel.
The last echo I’ll mention today requires a second channel. In the image below you’ll see two more phrases. These new phrases are in Pulse channel two, and are copy/pastes of the first two phrases, except shifted down one tick. Notice the instrument is again a lower volume. The PU Fine tuning value is set at 2, which will create a sort of Chorus effect when the notes play in unison with Pulse channel one. While it’s not always ideal to take up both channels for echoes, this is great for creating spacey interludes or for really rich-sounding lead instruments. You can sometimes squeeze in quick chorus-y echoes to beef up your lead.
Below is a link to a recording of each pattern and echo, in the order they were mentioned. The PU2 channel chorus-y echoes are repeated with each single channel pattern at the end.