Shimmering Shoreline: The Art of Sound Design

Shimmering-Shoreline

Update: Finding out that this post is being read by those curios, but not having previous knowledge of synthetic sound design, I added links to definitions and resources throughout this post, to inspire  further educational research on the subject.  An MP3 sample was also added, as I discovered WAV samples had an issue with playback using Firefox. Thanks for the feedback!  :) 


I thought I would create a post that somewhat details the sound design process, or at least gives you an idea of how I think and what steps I take during that process. As I’ve mentioned numerous times here on this Sound Design Blog, I love pushing a Synthesizers sound¬† architecture to see if I can actually manifest what I hear in my mind. As you probably guessed, it doesn’t always work as planned.

I consistently run into virtual brick-walls because of the limitations some Synthesizers have. It’s probably why Sampler technology is on top of the sound design pedestal. I mean, if you want chirping crickets or ocean waves wouldn’t it just be easier to record, loop, and map them using a Sampler? Well of course it would. But then it wouldn’t be challenging or fun right?

I had this idea to create an atmospheric pad in Fathom using natural sounds, combined with additive harmonically contrasting tonalities that blended well together, and the final timbre resulting in a cinematic ethereal atmosphere. In my mind, this idea would take about 3 sound layers. I say layers and not oscillators because a layer can have multiple oscillators to get the desired end result. I chose an easier natural sound to build the entire patch around, to gain a better understanding of how to build a more complicated natural sound using Fathom in the future.

This technique has worked well in the past. I once created a realistic Thunder Storm that included distance and intensity using Z-Plane filters morphed through dual function generators in the E-MU Ultraproteus as an end result of starting simple, so I know this is very possible.

Like all true Synthesizers, there are zero Samples used in Fathom. Fathom generates its own waveforms. I must say that creating naturally based sounds using pure synthesis methods will give anyone who succeeds the fundamental understanding of how the very nature of sound works.

So what natural ambient sound would be the “easiest” to start with? Synthetically speaking, there are two …Wind and Water. I chose Water …Specifically, Ocean Surf. I’ve spent countless days running on the beach with children, dogs, and lovers. I know this sound well.

Sound wise, Ocean Surf is considered a variant combination of white, pink, and brown noise (click here for more on the color of noise). This depends on what time, position, and cycle the water is in. Although natural noise can be a complicated structure, I narrowed it down to 3 simple water cycles: Background ambient noise, approaching waves, and beach caressing foam. While the background ambient noise would remain consistent, the approaching waves and beach caressing foam had to cycle seamlessly at slightly parallel intervals for realism.

Fathom happens to have the most detailed noise generator of any Synthesizer I have used, giving me the ability to “surf the perfect wave” ūüėČ The noise generator uses step, linear, smooth and turbulent algorithms combined with frequency ranges, tracking, grains, detuning, and filters. Not your average synth noise generator to say the least.

I¬†created this first sound layer using 3 noise oscillators, 1 for each surf cycle. The “brownish-white approaching waves”, and “pink beach caressing foam” cycles were both modulated by their frequencies through 2 low frequency oscillators that were timed at parallel intervals, while the “whitish-brown background ambient noise” remained static with slight frequency variation to give it a virtual overall distance effect. And the remaining 2 layers of this patch were centered around this “Ocean Surf” atmosphere.

Noise-Generator Fathoms Noise Generator x3 for 3 Ocean Surf water cycles, being timed by modulation 

For the second layer of this patch I wanted to create an ethereal pad. I used Spectral Harmonic Additive Synthesis to accomplish this. I needed this pad to have two qualities: A vocal synth choir “Ah” sound,¬†with a smooth “Analog low end” tonality. This required 2 spectral oscillators as a fundamental source, which doubled in octave level pitch variance, resulting in a total of 4 oscillators for a true ethereal sound.

Additive-OSC-1¬†Additive Oscillator 1¬†Waveform,¬†“Ah” &¬†“Analog low end”¬†x2¬†using¬†2 harmonic octaves

Additive-OSC-2¬†Additive Oscillator¬†2 Waveform, “Ah” &¬†“Analog low end”¬†x2¬†using¬†2 harmonic octaves

The third and final layer had to have a contrasted tonality that would sonically harmonize with the second layer pad, and at the same time have ethereal ambiance for a perfect balance between the 2 layers. Once again, I used Spectral Harmonic Additive Synthesis. I decided that the best tone for this harmonic contrast would be a “bellish-chime”.

I also decided to use a modulator so that this chime could change timbral characteristics, using the Mod Wheel to create an atonal temperament. Like layer 2, this layer also needed an octave level pitch variance to create a true contrasting ethereal sound. Layer 3 ended up requiring 2 oscillators to achieve a satisfactory end result with all 3 layers combined.

Additive-Layer3-OSC¬†Additive Oscillator¬†3 Waveform, the¬†“bellish-chime”¬† x2¬†using¬†2 harmonic octaves

With all 3 layers finished, I began finalizing this patch by planning an optimized ambient performance structure. Layer 1, being an atonal noise source, would not perform well over the entire chromatic range combined with the other 2 layers. By the same token, layer 3 only sounds harmonic when the Mod Wheel is positioned as such. But layer 2 sounded perfect as it stood across the entire 88-key chromatic range.

What I did was design layer 1 as a split sound source between C1 and C4 (Middle C), and layer 3 as a split sound source between C4 and C8, while layer 2 was consistent across the entire range. But that’s not all. To optimize this performance planning, I also made layer 1 consistently audible, while layer 2 fades out when you move the Mod Wheel up, and layer 3 is consistently audible, and also changes timbre when you move the Mod Wheel up. Performance optimization complete!

If you’ve done the math thus far, you now realize this patch is now a 9 Oscillator Additive Beast! And it was created in the true form of Additive Synthesis …There were zero component level¬†subtractive filters used on any oscillator. You would also think that 9 Oscillators might be too much for a computers CPU to handle. Well, at the moment I’m using a PC that was made 5 years ago, and this patch performs great so far. The hardest part¬†for me …Sound levels. Mixing this many contrasting sound source variations wasn’t easy. All levels had to be optimized independently at a micro level, to avoid audible¬†Oscillator cross distorted¬†saturation.

If this sounds confusing, all of this will become crystal clear when you listen to the brief audio demo. The demo starts with the Mod Wheel up, then transitions down, then ends back up to finish the demonstration, and was created as a very¬†simple, and slowly played “2 finger” track so you can differentiate the sound sources. Zero external audio processing was done outside of Fathom. I hope this Blog Post was helpful for anyone that might be wondering what my design process was about :) Here’s what this patch sounds like:

      Shimmering_Shoreline

Sample 1: Bitrate 2822kpbs Wave File (Verified working in Chrome – Higher Quality)

      Shimmering_Shoreline

 Sample 2: Bitrate 320kpbs MP3 File (Verified working in Firefox РLower Quality)

Shimmering-Shoreline“Shimmering Shoreline’s” overall patched configuration, which includes internal FX

10 Lush Ethereal Ambient Pads for SA Fathom Synth

PrismaticHyperCube2

I am finding no limits to what Seaweed Audio Fathom Synth can do from a designers view. The modulation capabilities, and multiple oscillation sources give any designer the opportunity to create almost anything imagined. I’ve even been able to create realistic sounds only found in nature using no samples! The last time I was¬† successfully satisfied¬†accomplishing this was designing on the EMU Ultraproteus, using Z-Plane filters combined with multiple Function Generators.

The developer of Fathom Synth is currently hard at work adding more features and making sure this synth is optimized for maximum performance. Seaweed Audio also has the best customer support system I have encountered. They are very passionate and involved in their user base, and making sure Fathom Synth is not only optimized, but has all of the features you would ever need.

I highly recommend anyone interested to give Fathom synth a¬† try. They have a free demo that doesn’t “time out” or “expire”. The only feature missing is polyphony. It took me a few hours with the demo to realize that Fathom Synth Pro was the only way to go! You can try Fathom Synth by clicking here.

I am in the process of creating a larger bank of Ambient patches for Fathom Synth¬†¬†which will include leads, plucks, atmospheres , FX, bass, rhythms etc… But I thought I would share the first 10 pads with everyone before I created more.¬† Here are a few small audio demos of the downloadable Ambient Pads I have:

      Fouriers_Fantasy
      The_Breath_of_Life
      Prismatic_Hyper_Cube
      Celestial_Choir
      Midnight_Solitude
      Silk_Road_Journey
      Cosmic_Dreamer
      Strings_Of_Morpheus

If you like what you hear, and have Seaweed Audio Fathom Synth Click here to download¬†10 Lush Ethereal Ambient Pads. More to come …Enjoy!

Preset List

Ana²morphosis for ANA 2

Anamorphosis-2s

Ana¬≤morphosis, is an all new Expansion Pack for¬†Sonic Academy’s ANA 2 software synthesizer. Unlike previous ANA 2 soundset releases, Ana¬≤morphosis takes ANA 2 into the realm of ambient music. From lush ethereal soundscapes and evolving atmospheres of nature, to the far reaches of outer space and astral realms beyond.

Ana²morphosis includes all new wave-forms, wave-tables, and a selection of sampled content that give life to 100 available presets in 12 different categories. This release also includes a new Graphic User Interface. Cosmic is a Dark Ambient Space Theme that features Glowing Buttons, Nebular Panels, Starry Backgrounds,  Retro FX Knobs, and 3D Sliders …Wave-tables Morphing in Space!

Ana²morphosis Includes:

  • 100 all new sound presets
  • The Cosmic Graphic User Interface v1.10
  • 109 new Wave-Tables
  • 55 new Single Cycle Waves
  • 83 select Wave-Samples
  • 5 Chord Memory Devices
  • 12 Arpeggiations
  • 30 G-ENVs
  • 7 Track Sound Demo using¬†only Ana¬≤morphosis, including notes
  • 7 page Users Manual with install instructions and usage¬†details

Requirements:

Save-the-Children-Banner

Click here to¬†get all the details and hear audio demo’s…

SoundBytes Review

soundbyteslogoSoundBytes magazine just published a new review for Luftrum’s Lunaris, and although this is a new review,¬†it brings back some great¬† sound design nostalgia for me…

It’s been over a year since the release of Lunaris version 1.2 by Luftrum Sound Design, and it’s still getting rave reviews!¬†Version 1.2 was a major update, and consisted of a new graphic user interface by Satya Choudhury, and 150 new presets by myself, Michael Lyon (AmbieticA). After months of design work, v1.2 was finally released. And at the perfect time …New Years day 2018! What an awesome way to start the New Year, and what great sound design memories!

It was an¬†honor¬†to work with Soren of Luftrum, and design new Ambient Pads and Cinematic Atmospheres for Lunaris. It’s also an honor to have worked¬†alongside¬†some of the greatest sound designers on the planet to help make Lunaris what it is today …One of the very best pad instruments out there!

SBM-Review-2019-3

Lunaris is still my “go to” pad instrument for quick design options, and instant ambient sound track gratification. To learn more about Lunaris click here to read the review, and If you would like¬†an opportunity to experience this great “one of a kind” ambient pads instrument, click here.


AmbieticA-Lunaris

Midnight Solitude

Last night I was inspired to create a wave-table based pad using Fathom Synth. I combined this wave-table with a classic saw wave, and connected both individual oscillators to their own voltage controlled filter, each filter being modulated by separate sources; ModWheel, and ADSR. I also had the ModWheel control the wave-tables morph, and the saw waves filter resonance. And finally, I ran both oscillators through two separate reverb’s to give the patch ambient depth. I was very impressed by just how “thick & warm” Fathom sounded with the final result.

I also wondered how Fathom would sound as the main sound source using one of my custom ANA 2 atmospheric patches as an ambient drone. The final layered sound between the two equally impressed me. Both sound sources stood out separately, yet combined perfectly together to create an ambient atmospheric movement. I spontaneously recorded a small sample of the two layers combined:

  • Fathom Synth – Patch: Midnight Solitude
  • ANA 2 – Patch: Moonlit Nocturnia
      Midnight_Solitude-Michael_Lyon
Fathom Synth - Patch: "Midnight Solitude", a thick & warm wave-table pad.
Fathom Synth – Patch: “Midnight Solitude”, a thick & warm wave-table pad.
ANA 2 - Patch: "Moonlit Nocturnia" a natural/synthetic atmosphere.
ANA 2 – Patch: “Moonlit Nocturnia” a natural/synthetic atmosphere.

Fathom Synth

As the Sonic Academy ANA 2 Ambient project I started long ago comes to a finalization, I started to think about my next sound development project. I began by listing a project checklist. I needed:

  • A¬†new, upcoming synth with great potential
  • A synth with high quality audio outputs
  • A synth with zero samples, and pure oscillators
  • A synth with multiple synthesis capabilities
  • A synth that allowed hand crafted oscillators
  • A synth that had deep modulation capabilities
  • A synth that was modular in nature
  • A synth with unique, and multiple filters
  • A synth that was affordable

After researching many options for almost two weeks, I finally found¬†my next sound development project source …A Synthesizer not many people have heard of, but for those who have, they are as excited as I am about the unlimited possibilities this upcoming Synth has to offer.¬†¬†

Fathom-Logo-s-W

The¬†Fathom Synth¬†by Seaweed Audio, is a modular software synthesizer which specializes in original waveform development, advanced modulation and high quality audio output.¬†Fathom is built for the sound designer who finds existing plug-ins restrictive in their architecture and is looking for more creative latitude. The modular signal flow places the entire structure of the instrument in the hands of the user. You can connect any oscillator to any filter or effect in any combination and there are no predefined paths within the processor. The only limit is the twenty open positions in the signal flow view and your CPU usage. The synthesis types, which include Additive, Subtractive, and FM¬†come from 8 oscillators, and can be shaped by 33 filter types¬†…a sound designers dream!

Available Alias Free Oscillators Types:

  • Basic Waveforms – Sin, Triangle, Square, Pulse, Saw & 400 Partials
  • Wave Draw – Free-hand Draw, Bezier and Exponential Curves.
  • High Definition Saw – With Control over Odd and Even Harms
  • Wave Table – With 16 x 16 Morphable Wave Table Positions
  • Additive Spectrum – With 64 Partials with Graphical Spectrum
  • Frequency Pulse – With Six Algorithms
  • Impulse – With Single impulse or Alt & Mod Impulse Width
  • AM/FM Synthesis – With Single, Double, Triple Carrier/Modulator combos

Fathom-WaveDraw

Available Filter Types:

  • Low Pass – First Order, Second Order Resonant, Bristow Johnson Low Pass Resonant, State Variable Low Pass Resonant
  • High Pass – First Order, Second Order Resonant
  • Band Pass – Band Pass, Band Stop
  • Butterworth – Low Pass, Low Pass Variable Order, High Pass, Band Pass, Band Stop
  • Variable – Variable Order 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Variable Slope, Oberheim Variations, Linkwitz Riley Low Pass, Linkwitz Riley High Pass, Linkwitz Riley Band Pass, Polar Morph, Zero Delay, Zero Delay Gaussian
  • Virtual Analog – Analog Nonlinear, Voltage Controlled Low Pass Resonant Ringing, Voltage Controlled High Pass Resonant, Ladder Low Pass Resonant, Diode Low Pass Resonant, Massberg Low Pass Resonant
  • Parametric – Parametric,¬† Low Shelf, First Order, Second Order, High Shelf, First Order, Second Order, Parametric 6 Band EQ, Parametric 12 Band EQ

Fathom-Filters

If you think that’s an impressive¬†sound engine list,¬†features also include:¬†¬†7 Effects including Two Chorus, Two Reverb, 3 Channel Digital Delay, 8 Channel Phaser, Mixer. 9 Modulators including ADSR, Drawable LFO, Multi-Segment Envelope, Sequencer, Random. Envelope Segments include Line, Exponential, Bezier, Double Bezier, Non-Linear Sin.

Fathom-Modulation

The Fathom Synth was obviously created with the Synthesist and Sound Designer in mind. But how easy is it to create a patch? Using Fathom for the first time, I decided to create a classic Saw Pad, without opening the manual so that I could answer this question. OK, so I started with a blank slate, and  added the following:

  • 4 Saw Oscillators, detuned and panned for a “thick” analog¬†sound
  • 1 Mixer that connected all 4 Oscillators
  • 1 Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter
  • 2 effects units. a Pro Reverb and Air Chorus

After finishing the main Synth architecture, I added simple modulation: an ADSR routed to Volume, and Filter Cutoff Frequency controlled by the Modulation Wheel. All of this took about 15 minutes. And that was without looking inside the Manual!

Here is what the final result sounded like:

      Fathom_SawPad

And this is what my simple Saw Pad looks like within the GUI:

AMB Fathom

If you have Fathom, and would like to see how this was put together, you can download this patch by clicking here. Sound Design on a virtual modular system has never been easier, not to mention fun! I can see countless hours of sound design ahead!

I highly recommend any and all sound designers out there to give Fathom a try, and¬†hear for yourself. There is a “Mono” only version available for free, but I am convinced that at currently¬†$32.00 for the pro version, you are going to want¬†to buy Fathom¬†before the list price of¬†$125.00 comes into effect!¬† You can check it all out at:¬†¬†www.fathomsynth.com¬†…Be prepared for some new Ambient sounds in the future!¬†:)

Update 3/25/2019:

Since this initial post on March 8th, I have created quite a few new patches for Fathom. One of them is the newest and final version of my original first patch I linked above: “Saw Pad”. I’ve added a lot of improvements to the original, and if you compare the before and after screenshots, it becomes obvious. Eventually I am going to share all of these patches, but for now, let me share the update of my very first patch …Now called “Sunrise on Titan” Click here to download. Notice it still pretty much keeps the same Saw Pad structure, yet now enhanced and modulated better :)

      Sunrise_on_Titan

Sunrise on Titan

Edisyn Synth Patch Editor

I have been searching around for a good Hardware Synthesizer Editor lately, and it looks as if my search is over. Although I use VST instruments, I also use Hardware as well. Particularly the¬†E-MU Ultraproteus, and the Kawai K1-II. I’ve always loved those two Digital Dinosaurs, and to my fortune, the¬†Synthesizer Patch Editor I found supports both!

Edisyn is a synthesizer patch editor library written in pure Java. It runs on OS X, Linux, and Windows. It is particularly good at exploring the space of patches. It has to my knowledge the most sophisticated set of general-purpose patch-exploration tools of any patch editor available. It also has infinite levels of undo, CC and NRPN mapping and learning, offline modes, randomization, merging, nudging, hill-climbing, patch constriction, per-parameter customization, real-time parameter updates, test notes, etc. Edisyn presently supports:

  • E-Mu Ultraproteus and Morpheus
  • Kawai K1, Kawai K1m, and Kawai K1r
  • Waldorf Blofeld
  • Waldorf Microwave II, XT, and XTk
  • Oberheim Matrix 1000
  • PreenFM2
  • DSI Prophet ’08
  • Kawai K4 and Kawai K4r
  • Kawai K5 and K5m
  • Yamaha DX7 Family
  • Yamaha TX81Z
  • Korg SG Rack and Korg SG Pro X
  • Korg Microsampler
  • Korg MicroKorg
  • Korg Wavestation SR

Ultraproteus Example:

ultrapanel

K1-II Example:

k1panel

If you happen to have any of the supported Synthesizers listed above, I highly recommend giving Edisyn a good try out. You can download it by clicking here, and I will post a permanent link within the “Sound & Instrument Resources” link list to the right.¬†Special thanks to Tizian Bauer from the Kawai K1 Synthesizer Fans FB Group for making me aware of this!

ANA2 Cosmic GUI & Ambient Expansion Pack Updates

A few more details have been added to the ANA 2 Cosmic GUI, bringing the version up to 1.10, and what I believe to be the final release. Here’s the updated feature list:

  • New 3D GUI Slider Caps
  • ADSR decal level adjustment
  • Pitch and ModWheel directional decals
  • New COSMIC, and ANA2 logo (replaced)
  • New Wavtable and Samplewave decals
  • Sonic Academy logo centered
  • Blue glass sidebars added to GUI

After finalizing ANA 2’s interface last night, I think a visual side by side comparison between the original factory default GUI, and Cosmic GUI¬†is in order to showcase the vast difference:

Original Sonic Academy Factory Default GUI (click to enlarge):

Default GUI

Cosmic GUI ver. 1.10 by AmbieticA (click to enlarge):

Cosmic GUI v1.10

Version 1.10 will be released in combination with the new ANA 2 Ambient Expansion Pack, which is nearing completion, and soon to be released. The Expansion pack will contain all new Wavetables, Single Cycle Waves, Wave Samples, the new GUI, Arp Presets,  G-ENV Presets, CMD Presets, and 100 all new Sound Presets.

The new Sound Presets focus on the Ambient side of music, and include:  Pads, Bass, Leads, Bells, Keys, Plucks, Poly, Strings, Atmospheres, FX, Templates,  and a new Rhythms category.

Details will be announced in the very near future…

ANA 2 Cosmic GUI Ver 1.0

Finally released, Cosmic is a Dark Blue Ambient ANA 2 Space Theme that features Glowing Buttons, Nebular Panels, Starry Backgrounds, and Retro FX Knobs.¬†This GUI is a very small part of an ever growing Ambient project for Sonic Academy’s ANA 2 Synthesizer.

Soon to be released the project includes: 70 samples, 109 handcrafted morphable wavetables, 27 handcrafted single cycle waves, and a growing list of high quality Ambient patches that make use of ANA 2’s powerful modulation matrix.

Click here to download ANA 2 Cosmic GUI Ver 1.0

 Screenshots (click to enlarge):

Front Panel 2

Preset Browser

RP CMD Panels

Sample Browser

Front Panel

G-Env

Save Browser

Mod Matrix