Synth Secrets is a series of programming tutorials in which we show how to make a range of classic and new synth sounds using plugins such as Massive, Sylenth and Diva.
In this instalment of Synth Secrets we’ll be using UVI’s Thorus plugin to transform some simple synth loops into something packing much more depth and warmth.
Here’s a before and after of both the bass and lead synths we’ll be working with:
And here are screenshots of the MIDI we’ve used for both the bass and lead synths:
To begin, we load up an instance of Ableton’s Analog device and load the ’10 Saws Lead’ from the Synth Lead section of presets, and then replace the Analog patch for the ‘Dual Osc4 Plastic Bass’. The ’10 Saws Lead’ loads with a nice set of macro controls and some delay, all of which works nicely with the ‘Plastic Bass’ patch that we swap in.
As we can see below, unison mode is applied and the sub level is maxed out on both oscillators, adding warmth, but it still needs something to make it sound a bit more unique and special.
Next we load an instance of Thorus onto the bass synth. Thorus is a ‘polyphase modulation effect’ capable of some outstanding chorus sounds, and its enhanced filtering tools make it a really powerful way to process bass synths.
We begin by taking the number of voices up to eight to increase the complexity of the effect. We also take the Depth setting up to 22.00, increasing the level of detuning. We then take the Edge control up to 53%, which adds more feedback to the chorus.
We can now tame some of the high frequencies that have been introduced to the sound by using the Tone control. We’ll dial this back to 3.45 kHz, removing the chorusing effect from the higher frequencies.
At this stage, the effect is probably a bit too heavy for a bass sound. We’ve lost some low-end definition and the sound is very wide, which could cause some phase issues in the lower frequencies.
First we use the mix control to tame the effect a little, dialling the setting back to 42%. We then take the Crossover control up to 317 Hz – any frequencies below this will now pass through Thorus unprocessed, meaning the low end in our bass is dry and central whilst the mids and high mids retain the warm chorusing effect.
We also increase the Low Gain control to 155% to bring some definition and warmth back into the bass. Now we place Ableton’s Utility plugin after Thorus, and take the Width control down to zero.
By activating and deactivating the Utility plugin we can hear that the bass retains good fidelity even when collapsed to mono.
Next we load a lead synth and try something a bit more experimental. We load another instance of Analog, this time selecting the ‘Saw Bleep’ preset from the Synth Misc section. We also add an instance of Ping Pong Delay, tweaking the EQ settings to 2.59 kHz and 3.08, and bringing the Dry/Wet control down to 32%.
We draw out eight bars of the synth hook and draw in some automation for the cutoff control of Filter 1, creating a transitional section.
Now we load an instance of Thorus onto the lead synth, keeping the majority of the settings as they are but taking the Mix control down to 60%, the Crossover to 63 Hz and the Tone to 16 kHz. This once again gives us a nice chorusing effect, adding some pleasant chorusing and subtle detuning to the synth.
Playing back our sequence, things get really interesting when we start to tweak the Speed, Depth and Edge controls in Thorus simultaneously.
By adjusting both the feedback and detune controls while the speed slows down and speeds up, we create some really powerful modulations – potentially a bit extreme for a synth hook to loop over like this, but perfect for creating twisted transitional FX.
We draw in some automation of these three controls in Ableton, increasing the Edge and Depth controls whilst initially increasing the Speed and then slowing it right down just as the Edge and Depth hit the peak.
Want more? Check out The Secrets of Dance Music Production, the definitive guide to dance music production brought to you by Attack Magazine.
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