In this tutorial I will show you how to make a pretty cool, kind of pulsating bass sound patch with Sytrus.
Here’s an audio example:
Ok. To replicate that, first open the Sytrus and reset it by choosing ‘Default’ preset from the preset library.
At this point, it’s a good idea to drop the Master volume level a little to avoid distortion because things will get quite loud as we move on.
Now, go to the OP1 (Operator 1) tab.
In Sytrus and other FM synths, the modules that produce or control the sound are called ‘Operators’. In this default preset, the Operator 1 is generating a pure sine wave.
So first, set the Frequency ratio to 1.0000. This drops the base pitch of the operator down by one octave.
Each operator module in Sytrus contains a set of tools that can be used to modify the shape of the oscillator.
Use the SH (Shape) fader to morph the shape closer to a triangle wave. This’ll make the base sound of this patch a bit more ‘sharper’.
To control the amplitude of the oscillator in a given time, it needs a volume envelope. You can enable it by setting the Editor target to Volume (click the VOL tab) and Articulator part as Envelope (click the ENV tab) and clicking the Enable envelope check box underneath the editor grid.
Now, edit the envelope points: set a short Attack time (the section between first two envelope points), high Sustain level (set it with the point 3/4) and fairly short Release time (section between last two envelope points).
Next, frequency modulation.
Frequency modulation is the core of the FM synthesis (FM stands for Frequency Modulation). Basically, what this means is that you use a waveform such as sine wave to modulate (modify) the frequency (pitch) of another waveform. The modulated operator is called a ‘carrier’ and the modulating operator is known as the ‘modulator’. Frequency modulation makes it possible to create a complex and tonally rich waveforms.
In Sytrus, you set up the modulation in the Modulation Matrix. Each row represents an Operator and defines which Operator will modulate it and by what amount. The modulation amount is set with the knob. Either positive or negative values can be used. If you leave the knob to the middle position (ALT+left click) no modulation will happen.
What’s the difference between using negative or positive values in the Modulation Matrix? Using negative values will invert the modulation phase, but if you ask me what that means in practice I have to say that I’m not quite sure.. You need to ask that from more smarter guys (I think SeamlessR explained it in some of his How To Bass -videos).
When I was creating this patch, I tried both values and the negative just sounded better. So that is my approach – go by the ear.
So now, make the Operator 2 modulate Operator 1 by turning the knob in the row 1, column 2 to left.
Set the Frequency Ratio in the Operator 2 to 1.0000. Using lower frequency ratio values in the modulating operator makes the modulation go slower thus producing timbres that MAY be more suitable for a bass sound (I say ‘may’ because sound designing is so subjective art).
Next, edit the shape of the modulating waveform (in Operator 2) via the harmonics editor (you’ll find it under the OSC -tab).
Basically, harmonics editor is a tool to make the waveforms sound richer. You can also use it to create ANY type of waveform.
Without going too much in detail “what’s happening under the hood” (and I don’t understand it fully myself either), there’s 128 harmonics in total which amplitude level (see those upper facing bars) and phase (downward facing bars) you can set (draw) with your mouse. The harmonics will then be mixed with the current waveform making it possible to create wide range of waveforms with different tonal quality.
Before we move on, note this: we are now in the harmonics editor of an operator module (Operator 2) that is MODULATING the Operator 1 so every change we make to the waveform harmonics or shape affects on how it MODULATES the waveform of Operator 1.
So now, use left mouse button to draw some harmonics to the harmonic editor.
Click the ‘smooth’ button few times to apply smoothing to the harmonics amplitude levels. This’ll average the levels with their neighbors.
Now, use the shape modifier sliders to modify the waveform more radically.
With the SH (shape) slider you can morph the shape between sine, triangle and pulse. Closer to pulse is our target (though it’s not pure pulse anymore as we made changes to the shape in the harmonics editor).
With the TN (tension) slider you can set the tension (distortion) of the base shape. In this example, only a little amount of it is required to add that extra ‘bite’ there.
With the SK (skew) you can skew the shape. Setting it around halfway is enough in this example.
Done. Again, remember that the changes we made to this waveform affects to how it MODULATES the waveform in Operator 1. Using the modulation and shape modifiers / harmonics editor, allows you to create endless amount of different timbres.
Next, enable the volume envelope.
Few words here before we proceed: editing the volume envelope of the modulating operator actually controls the amplitude of the modulation level (in a given time) you defined in the Modulation Matrix. So with the volume envelope, it’s possible to create all kinds of shapes and sequences to the modulation level.
Now, click the tempo box to make the envelope length relative to the project tempo (enabling the tempo-based time is useful when you have movements in your envelope that you would like to keep in time with your tempo if/when you decide to change it).
Drop the tension level between point 1 and 2 (that’s the attack section).
When you play a note, this kind of attack shape creates a sudden rise to how/when the modulation kicks in at fullest level – of course, relative to the level you set in the Modulation Matrix (when a section in envelope editor is set to 0%, no modulation happens at all and when it’s set to 100%, it equals the level you defined in the Modulation Matrix).
Now, raise the point 3/4 to 100%.
Point 3/4 is a start of the Sustain section. The point 2/4 (which is the beginning of the Decay section) is set to 100% as well so this means that when you play a note and hold it, modulation happens at maximum level (of course, relative to the level you set in the Modulation Matrix) until you release the note.
Now, create a sudden drop to the release part by raising the point 3 to 4 tension level.
Next, make Operator 3 to modulate Operator 1 as well. The aim is to add a sort of ‘metallic’ timbre to the higher frequency area so go to the OP3 tab and raise the frequency ratio to 12.0000.
Now, in the Modulation Matrix, increase the Operator 3 to 1 modulation level a bit – either to positive or negative side. I’m using negative value in this example because it gives a slightly different timbre (which I liked better, but that’s just a matter of taste).
The patch sounds too high pitched so go to the Main module and drop the Master pitch to -24 semitones.
Now, to enhance the modulation, add couple of harmonics to the Operator 3.
Use the shape modifiers to add even more flavor to the modulation.
Okay. Next step is to filter the sound so go to the Filter 1 module (FILT1 tab).
To enable the filtering, the signal needs to be sent to the filter module first and from there to main output. That is done in the Modulation Matrix.
So first, disable the Operator 1 going straight to the main out by inactivating it’s output. That is done by holding down ALT and left clicking the Out knob in the row 1.
In the row F1 (that represents the filter module 1), column 1, set the mix level to 100%. This will send the Operator 1 signal to Filter module 1 at full level.
To hear the signal again, send the Filter module 1 to main output. So in the row F1, column ‘out’, set the level to 100%. Now the signal of the Operator 1 goes to main output through the Filter module 1.
Now, set the filter type to Vanilla low pass.
Ok. Next step is to add that pulsating movement to the sound and one way to do it is to use the filter envelope so go to the CUT and ENV tabs, enable the envelope and tempo-based time to make it sync with the tempo.
The aim is to make the filter pulsate so edit the envelope as follows: first, move the point 2/4 to all the way to left. This gives us ultra-short/non-existant attack time.
Next, set the point 1/4 to 0%.
To make the pulsation continuous, we need to loop the envelope so right click the point 1/4 and choose ‘Loop start’ from the menu to set it as loop start point (the loop end point is already set by default).
Move the loop end point (3/4) to 001:01:072. This’ll make the loop repeat 6 times per bar.
Raise the Point 2 to 3 tension level a bit…
Next, a bit of EQ’ing – go to the main module and use the built-in equalizer to boost low end. Boost the top end as well.
Ok. Last step is to enable monophonic and portamento modes (Monophonic mode allows to play maximum one note at a time and Portamento mode makes the pitch slide from note to note – set the slide time via the Slide -knob). You can enable them in the Sytrus Miscellaneous channel settings -box.
Here’s how the bass sequence you heard at the top of this post sounds WITHOUT the portamento:
And here’s WITH the portamento:
That’s about it. Here’s a couple of quick tips to take this patch a bit further:
Tip 1. Shorten (or extend) the Decay time in the filter envelope to make the pulsation go faster (or slower).
Tip 2. Play with the Cutoff and Resonance levels (and remember that you can automate them as well).
Tip 3. Map the Operator 2 to 1 modulation level (or Operator 3 to 1 modulation level) to the integrated X/Y controller. Proceed as follows: First, set the Operator 2 to 1 modulation level either full left or full right (this way, the maximum value of the X/Y controller equals the full modulation level once we have mapped it).
Next, go to the modulated Operator (OP1) and set the Editor target as MOD (input modulation in this case) and Articulator as MOD X (MOD X is the Modulation X controller knob in the Main module). Leave the envelope point 1/2 to 100% and drop the point 2/2 to 0% (or vice versa). This way, when the Modulation X knob is turned full left, the modulation happens at full level – relative to the level we just defined in the Modulation Matrix – and when it’s turned right, no modulation happens at all.
Now, go to the Main module and tweak the Modulation X knob to control the modulation level. And feel free to automate it.
Tip 4. Experiment with the Harmonics editor of the modulating operator for different timbres.
Tip 5. Experiment with the shape of the modulated operator using shape modifiers for even more interesting timbres.
Watch the video version below and download the Sytrus preset file:
Download Pulsating Bass Sound For Sytrus (It's an .fst file. It should open Sytrus automatically when you double click it or drag and drop it to Step Sequencer in FL Studio).