How to Make a Toy Xylophone with FM Synthesis
The sound of a toy xylophone is one that catches everyone’s attention and usually touches us in a way that most sounds never could. It reminds us of some of our first encounters with making music, and has found its way into many forms of modern music because of this very reason. Well, that and it also makes for a fun and quirky addition to modern music that makes people smile. From light and happy to dark and haunting, this now classic instrument has become a trusted sound in many producers’ sonic arsenals. Let’s jump right into this one and see how it’s made.
Starting in the FM Matrix, you can see that Operators B and D are the main carriers, which are routed in equal measure to both the Noise/Saturator unit (Operator X) and the Filter (Operator Z). Operators A and C are acting as Modulators. The real magic happens via the Pitch Ratio and Offset parameters, which are responsible for metallic and mallet striking characteristics that are so prevalent and make this sound so believable. The smallest of differences in these settings can result in an entirely different sound altogether. In fact, just one cent in any direction on some of the operators could make it completely unrecognizable. So if you are trying to replicate this toy xylophone exactly, it is very important to match up each setting precisely before moving on.
In the image below, you can see the setting for Operator X, including the envelope curve.
Operator Z follows a similar envelope curve and helps to shape the toy xylophone sound. Keeping the outputs of Operators X and Z separate allow for a natural depth that is typically found in toy xylophones in the real world.
Here you can see that the envelopes for the rest of the Operators are similar, but do have slight variations. Operator D has the shortest curve by far, and this is very important to the capture the striking character of this toy xylophone instrument.
On the Master window, the total number of Unison Voices is increased to Three and a small amount of Detune and Pan effects are added. This brings a little more depth and width to this toy xylophone. Just a touch of Analog Quality also helps to make it more realistic.
The last step in this process is to set up the Effects window. Here a Cabinet is added to help provide the partially enclosed environment that a toy xylophone usually has. A little EQ work to shave a bit off the high and low end finishes shaping the sound, while just the right amount of Reverb helps our sound ring out more naturally.
Here is a short sample of this toy xylophone in action. There is no processing of any kind added outside of FM8 and what was shared in the course of this lesson.[audio:https://www.fm8tutorials.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/FM8-Toy-Xylophone-by-OhmLab.mp3|titles=FM8 Toy Xylophone by OhmLab]
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