One of the best things you can learn as a producer is how to make your own unique sounds.
How many modern songs have you heard where the band is instantly recognizable by their sound? A big part of that has to do with the production elements that go into each band’s music.
While things like vocals are usually the dead giveaways, synthesizers are a close second when used frequently throughout a band’s catalog. You might have noticed something special about them too: nearly everyone has a signature synth sound.
That’s where good sound design comes into play.
There are endless options of hardware and software synthesizers available with hundreds of configurations, but a little knowledge goes a long way. Learning the fundamentals of synthesis gives you a great starting point for building your own sounds, as well as give you a foundation to stand on when discussing synthesis with other musicians and producers.
At their most basic level, all synths have four main waveforms:
Each of these waves have their own sonic characteristics, ranging from smooth & mellow sine waves to buzzy, aggressive sawtooth waves. By stacking these waveforms on top of each other, complex waves can be created.
Oscillators are the wave generator & the driver behind all synthesizers. Even the most basic synthesizer has to start with an oscillator to generate sound.
Oscillators can be stacked to create larger sounds, or applied in different ways to a signal path to affect and modulate the sound (such as an LFO would do).
At it’s most basic level though, a single oscillator with a bit of post-processing is all you need to get started building your own sounds.
How To Process Your Sound
The great part about sound design is that there are no limitations. You can walk into a new sound with a blank slate, or you can work toward recreating a sound similar to another you’re familiar with.
While exact copies can be useful when a client needs a specific audio element, sound design is a very open and creative process that you can spend hours on perfecting.
Using tools like Sub Destroyer is a great way to get your feet wet with sound design. Sub Destroyer is a programmable synthesizer intended for low frequency reinforcement, but it doubles as a very useful, single oscillator synth with built-in effects.
Once you’ve selected a specific tone that you like, controls like Drive, Character & the harmonic enhancement section allow you to tweak your sound and dial in something unique.
Of course, that’s not the only path you have for sound design – your entire plugin library can work wonders when developing a new sound.
Some effects like distortions, choruses & phasers are all great ways to add motion to your sound without needing to learn any new controls found within more complex synthesizers.
Saving Your Creation
Once you’ve found a sound unique to your needs, you’ll want to document how you go it, and save presets whenever possible for easy recall. Once you work through the process a handful of times, you’ll be well on your way to having your own synth collection that’s instantly recognizable in work that you produced.
Ready to get started?
If you’re ready to experiment with synthesis, be sure to check out Sub Destroyer in the JST Store. At just $69, Sub Destroyer will give you all of the resources you need to toggle through various synthesized sounds, without the added and unnecessary bells and whistles that clutter many synth plugins.
Once you find a synth sound that works for you, be sure to come back and share it with us on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum!