About two or three years ago, I bought Logic Pro X. Since then, I've been learning how to use most of the synthesisers that come with it. My favourite is definitely Alchemy, which I use for almost every synth sound I want to make. I know how to use almost all of it, and can make some basic sounds:

•Synth "plucks" using an additive source, an ADSR modulated filter and a very short envelope on the overall pitch to add some punch

•Supersaws using multiple slightly different saw oscillators each with a fair amount of unison

•Basic pads (filtered unison oscillators with slow envelopes)

•Basic leads (very basic)

But then I listen to music online and find that nearly all of the synth sounds are beyond anything I've been able to make. (Genres like dubstep especially)

I doubt that Alchemy isn't powerful enough and have no idea how highly complex sounds can be made with even the most (seemingly) simple synthesisers.

How do I get from knowing how to use a synth to knowing how to make good patches?

I'm interested in making better pads and keys, as they seem to have the most complicated sounds.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    define "better" and make it something everyone can unanimously agree on – Tyler Stone Feb 7 at 19:41
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    Two notes: First, "synth sounds" that you hear in songs are often not only synth sounds. They are synths that are then processed with other effects, or they might be using entirely different kinds of synthesis. Second, no discussion of how to make sounds is complete without a link to the Sound On Sound magazine Synth Secrets series. – Todd Wilcox Feb 7 at 21:09
  • To clarify, when I talk about "better sounds" I mean pulling a wider range of timbres out of synthesisers. Presets use all the same settings that I use, but sound completely different to what I've made. – David Varner Feb 8 at 15:58
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    It sounds like you've already looked at some of the presets but I'd suggest looking a little closer at them. You should find that the Logic presets include a lot of plugins outside the synthesizer itself. Try loading up a few presets you like, turning off all of the plugins, then listening to the synth itself and trying to figure out what it is about that sound that you like or is different from what you've been doing. Then you can analyze the plugins being used and notice what overall effect they have on the sound. You should see that a few parts of what you like come from both aspects. – Basstickler Feb 8 at 18:31
  • Thanks Basstickler, I've also found that copying each setting one at a time to another instance of the synth helps a lot. – David Varner Feb 8 at 19:35

To get to the good sounds, you have to go through a lot of bad sounds. Also, if everything you've done so far isn't getting you what you want, one clear answer is to start doing things you've never done before.

Start playing with modulation sources and destinations. Use envelopes to modulate oscillator pitch. Use an envelope to modulate LFO frequency or amount. Use an oscillator as an LFO to modulate the pitch of another oscillator. Make things sound as bad and crazy as you can. You'll find as you try to make "bad" sounds that are unmusical, you will accidentally create some interesting musical sounds.

One of my favorite tricks is to use an oscillator that is following the keyboard to modulate the cutoff frequency of a lowpass filter. Bring the filter down and you get a mellow sound with a fuzzy top end.

Don't think about those bizarre and arbitrary categories that synth makers have tried to saddle us with, like "pads" and "keys" or whatever. Just try to make sounds. Explore all that a synth can do.

Also, do web searches on how to make a "dubstep scream" and a "dubstep wub".

  • Thanks for the answer. It makes sense how categories limit sounds to just that category. I'll make sure to play around with the synth as much as possible. – David Varner Feb 8 at 16:02

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