How to Achieve Wider and More Hypnotic FM8 Chord Pads
This quick tutorial from OhmLab shares some great tips on how to make better FM8 chord pads for just about any kind of music!
I try to imagine a sound before I begin working on actually programming it. This way I know if it’s a bit off, rather than thinking I may need to tweak a few more things before something jumps out at me screaming, “Stop. Stop. That’s enough. This is the pad you are looking for.” We all know that rarely ever happens. There are formulas you can follow to find certain types of sounds through proper routing of carrier and modulators. But a truly immersive and hypnotic pad has a soul, and it’s our job to find a way to free it. I personally believe that this process is a bit like painting. You lay down some big elements (waveform selection and routing) and then begin to slowly shape and blend things in a way that brings more depth, character and life to the canvas (effects, envelope curves, modulation, etc). This lesson in designing FM8 chord pads shares how to make the pad itself and some tips on how to make it come to life.
Starting out with the FM Matrix you can see that this sound is made up of a bunch of sawtooth waveforms, a couple of which are inverted. All of the operators have Key Sync enabled to ensure a consistent delivery every time a note is played. The offset pitch values create a nice dreamy effect due to the natural phasing that occurs as a result. I made a point of making sure the feedback and routing values for each operator in play were consistent from one to the next. This helps make a very balanced and spread out sound. This is one approach to making FM8 chord pads that is very easy to understand and quite intuitive for those just getting started with FM synthesis in general.
Pro Tip: Notice that some of the operators have been panned in opposite directions. If you choose to route any of the carrier to the main output strip you can enjoy added depth and texture in the sides of your sound.
Pro Tip: Layering several simple tones likes this can provide you with incredibly complex sounding synths. It’s not just for pads!
Very slight variations in the envelope curves of each of the main carriers will help to create a slightly thicker and wider version of our FM8 chord pads, while adding a pluck curve to the filter (Operator Z) provides us with a nice sharp attack at the onset of each new individual note played.
Subtle modulation assignments can a lot further with FM8 chord pads, as we get to hear them unfold over much longer periods of time and the changes are so small from one second to the next that it helps keep your audience in active listener mode, rather than passive listener mode. Anything we can do to keep our fans eagerly awaiting what comes next is a good thing!
Pro Tip: Using two different LFO, with different rates and left un-synced provides us with a much more interesting and organic form of modulation that is not as easy to predict.
The total number of unison voices is increased to three and they are spread out via the Pan and Detune parameters. A touch of both Analog and Digital Quality are also added for character. Portamento, also called glide, is turned on to provide a gentle transition between sustained and overlapping notes. Individually played notes are unaffected by portamento.
Pro Tip: Both the Detune and Analog Quality features can add movement to your sound. Finding the right balance form both is key!
Pro Tip: The slightest hint of Digital Quality can bring in a bright and crushed texture to your sounds, but don’t over do it!
The EQ units are used to finish shaping the sound, while the Reverb and Chorus/Delay extend the sound so we can hear how it resolves over a longer period of time.
Pro Tip:The Chorus/Delay effect can add thickness, depth, width and movement to your FM8 chord pads.
Here is a short audio sample of this synth in action. No processing of any kind has been applied outside of FM8.[audio:https://www.fm8tutorials.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FM8-Chord-Pad.mp3|titles=FM8 Chord Pad]
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