Designing an Electro Style Bass with FM8 and Making it Work in a Mix
Every once in a while we stumble upon an FM8 tutorial that offers a bit more than the average. This one provides a lesson in sound design, as well as tips on how to make the sound sit in a mix using proper compression and other professional techniques.
This NI FM8 video tutorial comes to you compliments of Nick from the group Sonic Umbrella. He shows how to design an electro synth using FM8 and then moves into his DAW, Ableton Live, to apply EQ, compression, etc. Follow along to get a good idea of how you can better manage your workflows and allow your sounds to reach their full potential once they’ve been designed. Don’t use Ableton, do not worry! These same ideas are absolutely applicable to any other program. It is not the DAW that makes the music, it’s you and your knowledge of the tools and processes involved.
Let’s begin by looking at the FM Matrix. He starts off by saving some time and loads up a preset from the Matrix drop down menu, called 1C 5M #11. As you can see, it auto maps the routing of the operators for you and saves several steps. Next, he begins to customize the settings to his specific needs. This includes swapping out waveforms and tweaking percentages in the routing matrix.
Once your sound is at a point you like and you’re ready to hear it with the other elements of your song, you can close FM8 and focus on the workflow within your DAW. Using an EQ first is always a good step, as it will help finish shaping the sound and keep it from conflicting with other sound in the mix. Remember to remove any unnecessary frequencies and pay attention to the mid range frequencies to help avoid muddiness. You can also apply compression to help keep the louder elements of yoru sound under control and allow for the softer elements to come to the surface and be heard. If your stye of music calls for it, then you cam also apply a compression using a sidechain trigger from the kick drum to generate a pumping effect caused by the automated ducking controlled by the compressor.
Distortion, saturation, etc are all part of the processing that will need to take place prior to you setting up your volume levels of the entire mix. You can choose to apply these kind of effects prior to the EQ and compression, and it will help to make them more part of the sound, rather than simply an effect. Delay, rever, echo, etc are all useful effects with this kind of sound and should be applied gently at first, and then increased in the mix until you find it working well with all of the sounds in your song.
One last thing to keep in mind. In this video there is compressions, as well as other inputs, loaded onto the master output channel. I advise against this during the sound design, processing and mixing stages of production. You need to have a clear idea of the sounds and how they behave and interact with each other before these things come into play during the mastering stage. I think they were just put in early in this video to show them and how they are applied.
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