FM Percs with FM8

Synthesising your own percussion sounds is a great way to add melodic percussive elements to a track. Here’s an audio example of the sound we’ll be creating:

And here’s the MIDI we’ve used for this example:

MIDI Screengrab

Step 1

Begin by loading up an instance of FM8 on a new channel. Click on the Expert panel on the left to reveal our six operators (listed A-F), an overview of our noise operator and filter. Over to the right you will see the FM matrix.

Operator F is already routed to the output, playing a note you will hear as a simple sine wave. We need to make this sound more interesting by introducing more operators (in FM synthesis we deal with operators rather than oscillators).

Turn on operator E by right clicking on the E in the FM matrix. Now click and drag up in the box underneath E until it reads 29. You will now see an arrow pointing to operator F, showing that we are modulating operator F with the output of operator E. You should hear the sound get slightly brighter now too.

Step 1

Step 2

Let’s now introduce the noise operator into the sound. Noise is operator X in FM8. Click and drag up on the Noise Amp control until it’s fully clockwise (full volume), and also click and drag up on the Noise Cutoff until it’s at maximum.

Now, over in the FM matrix, right-click on operator X (the noise) to turn it on. You will see a box numbered 80 at the bottom which means operator F is routed to the output at a volume of 80, click and drag up on the box to the right of this to route operator X to the output. Set this to around 36.

Next, right-click on operator D in the FM matrix to turn this on, and route this into operator X at 50, as shown below.

Step 2

Step 3

Over in the operator section you will see a Ratio column. This sets the pitch of the operators. At the moment they are all set to 1.0000. Halving or doubling this value will take the pitch of the operator up or down by an octave. Take the pitch of operator D up by 2 octaves by double-clicking on the ratio box next to D, typing 4 and pressing enter.

Now take the pitch of operator E down by one octave by double clicking on the ratio box next to E and typing 0.5, then pressing enter.

Next, in the Vel (velocity) column, click and drag up on the controls all the way for the 4 operators we’re using (D, E, F and X) so now our operators are velocity sensitive, essential for percussive sounds.

Step 3

Step 4

Over to the left of the synth you will see a box titled Env. Click this to bring up our envelopes. We can set individual envelopes for each operator here, however we can also link envelopes together using the link column.

Click on the D envelope to bring it into focus, and now in the link column on the right, click the link boxes for operators E, F and X. Now all 4 envelopes are linked.

In the top left of the D envelope, you will see a drop-down menu box. Click this and select DR from the list, which creates a percussive envelope shape for all four envelopes.

Step 4.1 Step 4.2

Step 5

Now for the all-important pitch modulation to make this sound percussive. Click on the Pitch box in the Navigator section. This brings up our pitch, portamento, pitch amp, modulation and pitch envelope options.

In the envelope section, again click on the drop-down menu and select the DR envelope preset. However, this time the envelope needs to be edited to make it really percussive. You should see three white boxes in the envelope section. Click on the middle one and drag it so it’s towards the bottom left of the grid.

Click on the Slope box in the bottom right and change the parameter to 0.900, shortening the decay of the pitch envelope. Now on the third box, Rel T, click and drag to adjust the release. Adjusting the envelope times will have a huge effect on the percussive element of the sound, so be sure to experiment.

Step 5

Step 6

Next, click on the Effects box in the Navigator panel to bring up our effects section. Click on Tube Amp, PeakEQ and Reverb to load up these effects.

On the Tube Amp, take the volume parameter to 73 and the drive to 41.

On the Peak EQ, click and drag up and left on the red square to add some low mid to the sound, and click up and left on the yellow square to add some more mids to the sound. Also change the Q2 setting to 60 and push up the volume to 62.

On the Reverb, keep the time at 50, push up the brightness to 70, take the treble to 89 and pull down the dry/wet to 20.

These effects transform the sound. The tube distortion and EQ add body, while the reverb adds a nice sense of space to the sound.

Step 6

Step 7

Finally, we’ve added Logic’s Enveloper to the sound, pushing up the gain on the attack section to 52% and changing the Time parameter to 15.0ms. This enhances the transient of our perc sound.

Step 7

20th December, 2015

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