LSDJ & You: Show us your tips

April 3, 2013 in LSDJ & You

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!

LSDJ & You: Episode 9 – WAV Kicks and Volume Tricks

August 24, 2012 in LSDJ & You, Protips

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.



LSDJ and You: Episode Eight – ArpArpArpArpArp

May 24, 2012 in LSDJ & You, Protips

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.

PWM-ish Arps

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.

The instrument below is what I used for the arps on my song “All Outta Bubblegum

Now, let’s set the following table for the arp:

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.

Happy LSDJing!

LSDJ and You: Episode 7 – Cheapshot’s Blip Bass

April 23, 2012 in LSDJ & You, Protips

Note: This week’s tutorial was written by guest artist Cheapshot, chip bass legend and creator of the ever-so-handy LSDJ Patch book app for iPhone.  

Wav channel blip bass tutorial

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 :D . 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!”

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