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Tips for atmospheric/psychill sound synthesis


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#1
snowdrop

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Hello all :)

 

I've been trying (feebly) for a while to create a psychill-type ambience and bass track, but whenever I try to synthesise nice warm, spacious pads, sustained bass and atmospheres, they come out metallic and too spatially focused. I've tried increasing polyphony and detuning, widening the stereo field, EQing out the mid frequencies, using chorus, delay, reverb... etc etc. I just can't seem to get it right!

 

Does anyone have any tips?



#2
Gagarin

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i know a producer who will join us and will give you few advises soon :)


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#3
Matt Freak Flag

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Hey OP - can you post an example of anything you are making (or, an example of a song that does this really well that you like) ?

 

Some ideas for pads:

 

- Are you layering stuff?  A lot of great pad sounds are 2 or 3 or more pads layered (with one pad providing the low-mid warmth, another providing maybe the mid-range melodic component, and another providing the top-end shimmer).

 

- What synths are you using/ are you only using synths?  Stretched-out melodic sounds, especially reversed, drenched in reverb can make amazing, organic pads that no one has ever heard before.  Synths like Omnisphere or Alchemy have lots of samples already for doing this, but you can just do it manually using warping in Ableton / Flex Time in Logic / etc.  

 

- You said you are EQing out the mid frequencies - which ones?  I usually use pads to add extra warmth, movement, and depth into the mid frequencies.

 

- EQ the left and the right channel differently!  I like to boost and cut a few frequencies differently on left and right channels to increase width.  Even better, slowly automate a different peak on each left/right channels.

 

- Delay, chorus, reverb are all good for this, but can maybe sound bland if they are just used as static effects.  Do you automate your reverb sends or chorus amounts?  

Some ideas:

-- My favourite: I like to automate the reverb send up while automating a lo-pass filter down on the original pad.  This will make it sound like it is moving farther away, giving a great sense of front-to-back depth.  The reverse works well, too.  Or with a hi-pass filter.  

-- Try a chorus with a very low rate but high intensity, automate the mix from 20% to 80% every 1/2/4 beats, then quickly back down.  This will make it sound like it is "pumping" from centred to wide with each pulse of the beat.  I like to combine this with regular side-chaining to a kick etc.  

-- Old trick: automate the delay send, and then send that delay to itself.  Be careful because this might get loud, but if we do it carefully, we can make a pad (or any sound) turn into a completely different, ultra organic ambient soundscape of throbbing echoes.  If you want width, use a stereo delay (or maybe a flanger/phaser on the delay channel).  

 

- Panning rather than widening... less is often more in production.  If you make everything detuned and wide, your song doesn't sound wide - it sounds like stereo mud. Panning some sounds left and some sounds right - and especially automating the pan - is often way better than just making something wide.  

 

- Autopan plugins are great, but I like to automate the rate or width to keep them from sounding static.

 

- Sometimes mono reverbs work really well for localizing a sound in the mix. I like to make sounds panned left, send it to a mono reverb channel, panned right.  On its own, this isn't as impressive as a big wide wet delay.  But in the mix, it is sometimes so much more spacious.  We can do the same with delay - then maybe try automating the pan of that delay from right to left again.  

 

- Same philosophy, polyphony: too much polyphony can also make things unfocused, especially when working with bass/pads/atmospheres/multiple melodies.  Sometimes I like to think like in jazz, where the bass can play the root note and the pads can play the 3rd/7th/9th etc.  Leaves a lot of harmonic space for melodic instruments.

 

- My other favourite: you need a microphone to do this, but even a cheap microphone is fine because we are trying to make weird sounds anyways right? Solo the pad you want, put the microphone somewhere in the room, maybe pointed at a wall away from the speakers, or even in the hallway, whatever... record 8 or 16 bars.  Move the microphone around to a totally different spot, do it again.  Then, pan one recording left and the other right.  We should have a very wide sounding pad, with lots of room echoes and reflections making it organic and interesting.  

 

I have a million more ideas if this is helpful at all.  Just remember - there is such a thing as too wide.  1 ultra-wide sound and 4 sounds swirling in automated panning will sound bigger and more spacious than 5 ultra-wide sounds.  


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#4
snowdrop

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Hey OP - can you post an example of anything you are making (or, an example of a song that does this really well that you like) ?

 

Woah! Just woah! Lol, thanks so much for a blindingly informative and extremely helpful post that must have taken you ages to write!

 

I'm actually just off out the door to stay at my partner's parents house for xmas so will have to look through all this properly when I get back.

 

But woah... thanks! :D



#5
Matt Freak Flag

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Haha, well, happy xmas friend! 
 

Enjoy the holiday! 


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#6
Phase47

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Hello all :)

 

I've been trying (feebly) for a while to create a psychill-type ambience and bass track, but whenever I try to synthesise nice warm, spacious pads, sustained bass and atmospheres, they come out metallic and too spatially focused. I've tried increasing polyphony and detuning, widening the stereo field, EQing out the mid frequencies, using chorus, delay, reverb... etc etc. I just can't seem to get it right!

 

Does anyone have any tips?

If you check the first track here (Remains) https://synphaera.ba...mp.com/releases- it's pretty much what you describe: sustained bass, warm pads, atmosphere and sequences. 

The main thing is to, in your arrangement, make sure you aren't doing too much in any given frequency range. Make sure you spread the material out over the full range. You especially don't want too much overlap in the low-mid (mud) or the high-mids (harsh). Also, make sure to concentrate on your source sounds before you apply FX or else you're just taking a not so great sound and making more of the same.

The other thing is, some sounds, you'll want to use your FX inline, other times on a send, to get different depths in your sound field. Delays work great in both places, but an analog delay (say Minifooger) or any "colored" delay (VST) on send can be a great way to glue sounds together - so you can have a wide variety of sources, but they'll all sound like they're in the same "space" if you do little tricks like that.

Best advice though, use your ears and follow where they lead.


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#7
snowdrop

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...

 

Thanks to you too :) Wow I've got so many ideas to work with now!  :D



#8
andorra

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Wow I've got so many ideas to work with now!  :D

 

This is exactly how feel during the day when I'm at work!  :D

Great tips and help from you guys, thank you!


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#9
Matt Freak Flag

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If you check the first track here (Remains) https://synphaera.ba...mp.com/releases- it's pretty much what you describe: sustained bass, warm pads, atmosphere and sequences. 

 

That is a massive tune with some massive sounds.  Awesome.


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If it sounds good, it is good.  


#10
Phase47

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That is a massive tune with some massive sounds.  Awesome.

 

Thanks. Hopefully people here can look to it as far as arranging and layering, but if you like it too - win/win! :)



#11
Iacchus

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There is tons of stuff you can do to improve the quality of the sounds you get with your tools, thats been covered already

 

But if you want a big stride forward in terms of warmth and quality, you cant beat forking out on a decent hardware synth thats sounds great out of the box..  eg a Virus TI



#12
neil (spatialize)

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i agree with the poster above.  lauge uses a virus a lot for his pads and his stuff is very nice

 

omnisphere 2 would utterly completely and utterly sort you out.  but that's a significant investment.  i have avoided getting this because it;s just soo good...possibly too instantly amazing....and making nice pads is part of the fun for me.

 

your comment sayin that your pads are coming out too metallic makes me wonder whether you are using too much reverb.  oodles of reverb can work nicely in some spots but if you put certain sounds through certain reverb the frequencies can multiply horrendously and you get a metallic sound.  You can eq that to a certain extent but you might be better off trying a different setting or a different reverb.

 

valhalla shimmer reverb is ridiculously good for spacing out pads, or anything you throw at it.

 

also consider using delays sometimes instead of reverb.  delays eat up less mix space and you don;t get that frequency multiplying thing going on so much.

 

if you;re looking for that warm pad sound then some sort of analogue emulation (or real analogue) synth will provide you with the bed.  personally i think the plug ins sound great and that you on;t necessarily need the hardware gear, but hardware gear does get the juices flowing.

 

i've spent quite a bit of time with ishq in his studio - and we know that he is the padmeister.  Korg pads from Kronos / Z1 through tonnes of reverb are a consistent part of his set up.

 

korg digital pads are known for their ethereal wafting quality. so if you want that korg sound in software form you could go for the legacy plug ins.  I think it's a great deal financially.  you get an MS-20, a polysix (very nice warm pad sounds from this particularly with a bit of PWM), an M1, a wavestation and monopoly.  you also get a legacy cell plug in which I use live.  it;s a bit of a learning curve all that but that bundle contains all the sonic elements you need to make an epic atmosphere or a subtle beautiful one.  it's even got the wavestation for wavetable synthesis (to create long evolving sounds).

 

one thought is to make sure that there is some movement in the sound.  assign the filter to a slow smooth ramping LFO.  if the pad is too static then the reverb frequncies can start to multiply all too quickly.  if you don;t know how to assign the filter to an LFO then let us know which synth you are using and between all the people in here giving very good advice we should be able to point you in the right direction.  also make sure you are experimenting with the different filter types.  Low pass will give the smoothest results and retain body.  Band pass and High pass are more useful to stack sound on top of the body of the track from the mid towards the higher registers.  think of it like a spectral rainbow that you are going to fill.  

 

also use a keyboard to play in the pads.  i try to stagger my notes on / notes off to help create a sense of movement.

 

lastly, try to add some non synth sounds in there. a real world sample (running water / logs crackling pitched down / anything!) will just help to make the whole palette more real.



#13
neil (spatialize)

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also try not to use reverbs too much on the insert of the track.  set up a bus or two with diferent reverbs with different qualities and send to them via the bus.  if you have 4 or 5 different sounds all with their own reverb sounds on the insert then things can get metallic quite quickly.  if you have a bus reverb set uo then not only are you maximising your cpu by allowing more than one source sound to use the reverb, you're also giving more than one sound the same reverb sound which helps things sound like they are in the same space.

 

if you want a 100 per cent wet pad sound, instead of an insert reverb, you can turn the bus send to pre fader send, turn the track volume down and then control the volume via the bus send (if that makes sense?) and you;ll get a super wet sound.

 

if there are rogue frequencies don;t forget you can install an eq after the reverb to tame it out a little.  use an eq with a spectral analyser and you will be able to see where the reverb is spiking.  you can cut these spikes out with very shapr, focused eq cuts.



#14
neil (spatialize)

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http://www.korg.com/...acy_collection/ 

 

5 class act synths covering every aspect of atmospherics (and great for every conceivable genre of electronic music)) for $200



#15
snowdrop

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There is tons of stuff you can do to improve the quality of the sounds you get with your tools, thats been covered already

 

But if you want a big stride forward in terms of warmth and quality, you cant beat forking out on a decent hardware synth thats sounds great out of the box..  eg a Virus TI

 

 

...

 

Thanks very much both! I've just handed in my three essays that have been eating up all my time over the last few weeks, so now I can start making time to try some of this stuff out - yay!



#16
neil (spatialize)

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:-D

#17
Iacchus

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I found with omnisphere that the ocsillators arent especially great or warm, but the tool lends itself to building complex patches, and thats why it is good and why the presets are good, but you might find with it that unless you are especially good at making patches, nothing you make on it sounds as good as the presets.   I prefer a synth where even the init patch sounds phat and go from there, adding complexity with an effects chain if need be

 

+1 on the korg MS-20 legacy plugin in that respect, it has a very nice warm sound.  Its not immensely flexible though and the interface is unintuitive. 

 

Not something I use for pads but the other software synth I would recommend is Serum - the way you can morph through wavetables lends itself to some really cool sounds.



#18
neil (spatialize)

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that's interesting about omnisphere.  i don;t own it.  i have only read people's review and seen the vids. 

 

but arent; most of the oscillators sample based though?  surely the oscillators just sound as good as the sample?

 

and if trillian is anything to go by then the samples should sound fantastic.  trillian's sample based oscillators are stunning. because the raw sample itself sounds impeccably well recorded.

 

and yes the ms20 is a learning curve for sure, paricularly the patch bay. 



#19
neil (spatialize)

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the ms-20 is not really a pad machine.  more of a gnarly techno and abstract sound machine.  like an Oscar on coke.



#20
neil (spatialize)

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within the legacy package there is a plug in called legacy which is not a synth as such.  it's like a set-up that allows you to load a two synths, a polysix and/or an ms20 along with a mixer and inserts and send effects. very much like a combinator in reason as you have a centralised controller section where you can route controller changes, but with just those two synths.  you can set your own keyboard splits or assign each synth a different midi cahnnel. 

 

i use that live as I can call up a sound with a program change, complete with effects.  it will take in the control changes from my aka ldp8 and because each patch remembers the link between the front end controller setting and the ongoing routed synth settings, with one knob on the LPD8 you can control a filter one second and then an envelope next.   or control multiple settings with one knob. really brilliant for live sets.

 

I usually have the top line of lp8 pads assigned to an ms20 for filter sweeps and lfo's and the bottom pads assigned to the polysix for juicy high res LPF drones. 

 

then at the flick of a program change i'm controlling the filter/res on a sequenced ms-20 riff section with the knobs.  fookin love it.






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