Using a Synth’s built-in sequencer TO creaTE melodies
When creating new synth melodies, most of us probably reach for the keyboard to get ideas down. However, many soft synths features built-in sequencers that can provide creativity of a different kind and sometimes present us with ideas we wouldn’t normally create using the keyboard.
Each built-in sequencer works differently, but in this walkthrough we’ll be using D16’s Phoscyon synth, a Roland TB-303 emulation, to create this acid-style hook:
To get started, load an instance of Phoscyon in your DAW. By default, a pattern is already loaded and will trigger on playback. Importantly, the Seq settings in the top left of the synth are set to INT.SEQ, with INT. SYNC and HOST MODE turned off, this means the internal sequencer will trigger the synth but it will sync to the host tempo of the DAW.
We want to create our own pattern here, so in the PATTERN CONTROL & EDIT section, turn on the red PATT. WRITE button, and also click the orange CLEAR button, this gives us an empty pattern to create our hook.
In order to program sequences in Phoscyon, we can first select the STEP NUMBER we want to edit (from 1-16), then select the note for that step using the keyboard. To the right we can TRANSPOSE the note DOWN or UP by octave increments, and we also have three grey keys that trigger GATE, ACCENT and SLIDE. It’s a very similar setup to a real TB-303.
For Step 1, we keep the note as a C, turn on the GATE so the note triggers and also turn on the ACCENT for this step. Adding an accent means the note will play back slightly louder, which enables us to have some nice dynamics in the sequence.
We program Step 2 with the same settings as Step 1, and again for Step 3 except for this step we move the note to F. For Step 4, we keep the note set to C, turn on the gate and slide (but not the accent) and transpose it up by one octave.
We then proceed to programme our 16 Step sequence with the following pattern:
Step 5 – C, Gate, Accent.
Step 6 – F, Gate
Step 7 – G#, Gate, Accent, Slide
Step 8 – C, +1 Octave, Gate, Slide
Step 9 – C, Gate, Accent
Step 10 – C, -1 Octave, Gate, Accent, Slide
Step 11 – C, +1 Octave, Gate, Accent, Slide
Step 12 – F, Gate, Accent
Step 13 – C, +1 Octave, Gate, Slide
Step 14 – G, Gate, Accent, Slide
Step 15 – G, Gate, Accent
Step 16 – C, +1 Octave, Gate
For any of the steps where we change the octave, we make sure we activate the slide function. This creates that classic acid portamento effect when the sequence jumps up or down an octave.
With our sequence created, we can now start tweaking other parameters of the synth to our liking. On the top right of Phoscyon, we can browse different presets using the NEXT and PREV buttons. We select the ‘Prophet’ preset.
Now below in the SOUND CONTROL section, we crank the RESONANCE right up, pull down the CUT OFF FREQ (for automation at a later stage), take the SLIDE TIME down to halfway, and push up the ENVMOD to three quarters of the way round.
Over in the DISTORTION section, we first activate the effect, then increase the PREAMP setting to half way and the CLIP to two thirds. This adds to that classic acid vibe. We can now start automating the cutoff frequency and experimenting further with the sequencer to develop the idea into a new track.