Classic FM synths such as the DX7 had simple operators which could only produce sine waves, but FM8 has a wide variety of operator waveshapes to choose from. We can get some interesting variations on our sound by changing the shape of the modulator waveform. Return to the Expert page, and drag up on the waveform graphic at the top of the interface to hear how the various waveforms sound. When you’re done, set it to Triangle.
This gives the timbre a more vocal quality, and we can tweak it further with an old-school FM technique: operator self-modulation. Drag up in the area directly above Operator E, which causes the operator to modulate its own frequency. The higher the level, the more slippery and Reese-like the patch becomes, until it begins to sound undesirably distorted with values above 50 or so. Let’s opt for a level of 18:
This gives us a satisfying squelchy sound, but it could sound a lot bigger. Another advantage FM8 has over vintage FM synths is its ability to use multiple unison voices. Bring up the Master page again, and in the Unison panel set the number of voices to 8. Turn the Pan up to 100 for maximum width, and bring the Detune up to 40 to get a thick, rich timbre.
Our wobble is now sounding big and beefy. The only problem is that because that the envelope’s timing is in seconds rather than beats and bars, it isn’t going to stay in sync if we stray from a tempo of 120 BPM. To remedy this, return to the Expert page, and activate the Tempo Sync button at the top right hand corner of the envelope panel. This syncs the envelope to the host tempo, meaning your wobble will now follow the tempo of your project.
This provides the basis for a very versatile sound. Try using different envelope shapes, Ratio values, waveforms, and FM8’s effects to make your own unique take.
If you enjoyed this Beat Dissected you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.