Do Androids Dream of Electronic Music? Or, How to Make the Infamous Blade Runner Synth.
It’s pretty common for a cult classic film’s soundtrack to be held up in high regards by it’s fans for eternity, and Vangelis has the unique ability to create music that is more memorable than the movies they are featured in (Chariots of Fire, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Alexander, etc). Either way you slice it, the Blade Runner synth is a classic, and this is how you make it.
When it comes to this man’s work, it is often times the magic he works with composition rather then sound design. So it’s no surprise that this is a simple sound to recreate, and that the author of the video has not exactly nailed the score. Regardless of the notes played, the sound is solid and it can easily be replicated on any number of synths out there, so if NI Massive isn’t your synth of choice for this kind of sound design, fear not! And for those of you rocking Massive, get ready for a simple idea that can be used with tons of different wavetables with great results. (*Pro tip: It also does really well with delay and echo effects.)
To get this sound started you need a couple of Sawtooth waves played together. In this video, the same wavetable is used on both OSC1 and OSC2. You can also load up one with the Square-Saw I wavetable and the other with the Square-Saw II wavetable. You can also follow what is doen in the video and offset one of the oscillator’s pitch value by a couple cents to create a small amount of phasing movement. Phasing is introduced later in the process, so it can be beneficial depending on the exact sound you are hoping to end up with.
Both oscillators are then routed to Filter 1 where a Lowpass 4 filter has been set up. The cutoff parameter of this filter is then modulated by an envelope to automate the delivery of sound. This envelope has a long attack and release, allowing the sound to ease in and out. Similar adjustments are made to the main Amp envelope, so the sound rings out even more.
Moving now to the Voicing tab. Here the number of voices is increased to a value of 3, the Pitch Cutoff feature is turned on and offset slightly to create some phasing, and the Pan Position feature is activate and set to spread the sound out across the stereo field more. This makes the sound much bigger and far more interesting. It’s getting closer to the cult classic sound we’re after.
The last big piece in the process is a big reverb. Add a Reverb to the FX1 tab and increase to Size, Density and Color parameters to maximum, and set the Dry/Wet mix to almost half and you have a huge space for the sound to move around in. This is basically all you need to do to make the Blade Runner synth! Now you can play around with it to come up with your own version.
If you have a specific sound you want to see recreated in a future tutorial, send us a message and let us know. We are always happy to have a new challenge. Thanks for stopping by!