Friday, December 12, 2008

Rolling Your Own Drum Sounds Pt. 2: Attack of the Phaser

The phaser is an effect a lot of us probably don't touch very often. While it's kind of cool, it's also a pretty dated-sounding effect, over-used as it was in the 70's and early 80's. So unless you're going after a decidedly retro vibe, you probably hadn't considered the phaser as a possible sound design tool. But in this exercise, we're going to use it to give us yet more variations on a snare sound. Again, I'll be working in Logic, but most of this should be do-able with any DAW and a decent phaser plug-in.

1. In an instrument slot, go ahead and load EXS24 and the same EXS 808 kit we used in the previous tutorial.

2. This time, instead of using an effects send, we're going to put the phaser effect on the sound as an insert effect. This just means we want 100% of the effect on our snare drum, and not a selectable wet/dry percentage like a send allows. So in the first Insert slot, go ahead and apply Logic's Phaser effect, located in the Modulation submenu of the plug-in menu.

3. The key here is to have a phaser with the sweep deactivated on it. So go ahead and make sure that LFO 1 and LFO 2 both have a Rate of 0.00Hz. With the sweep deactivated, a phaser can add an effect almost like sending the sound through a resonant body (like a snare shell), and a lot more too.

4. Go ahead and turn the Output Mix of the Phaser up to +100%.

5. Now it's time to play! Start by setting the Feedback to around 75%. You can play around with this later for varying effects, but be careful when you start to get into highest values, as the resonant quality gets very exaggerated and levels can get loud.

6. Now, try adjusting the Sweep Ceiling and Sweep Floor. You can move these individually by dragging on their respective sliders, or move them together relative to one another by dragging the blue space in between them. This is where you will get the most timbral variety and thus where you should experiment the most. See how adjusting the Feedback level against this provides still further variations. (Again, being careful of the upper range!)

7. The Order slider will give more subtle variations, but is still worth experimenting with.

8. For more synthy sounds, try setting the vertical Env Follow slider to +/- 100%. This will sweep between the Sweep Ceiling and Sweep Floor using the amplitude envelope of the sound rather than an LFO. (Further tweaking is provided by the horizontal Env Follow slider below, as well.

This example obviously isn't quite as extreme as the previous example, but when you feed it different types of drum and percussion sounds than just our lowly 808 snare, you will begin to see the possibilities. Here's a quick example of an 808 snare with some random tweaking of the parameters I mentioned above:



Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

These are really great tutorials! Thanks for putting them up!

Tom said...

Glad you enjoy them!