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Behind the scenes of Venom: Sink your teeth in (Part 4)

Only published comments... Jan 13 2012, 05:00 AM by Taiho Yamada
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Sound Design Tips and Tricks – More Tools for Sculpting Your Sound


In my previous blog we talked about Venom’s oscillators and discussed many of the deeper sound design functions that you can perform with them. Now we’ll talk about the rest of the synthesis engine and how it can shape the waveforms we’ve generated. Oftentimes, people focus on just the oscillators or filters in synthesizers when talking about their character, but the entire voice path is just as important, and every one of those elements works together to make an instrument unique.



Tip 6 – Pre Filter Boost


Digital filters clip in really unpleasant ways, so quite often DSP engineers will work to keep the levels low enough by limiting the range of the input signals. Venom, on the other hand, gives you the option to actually turn things up with its Pre Filter Boost parameter. This is only possible because we went a step further and built in a tube saturation limiting algorithm that can be overdriven gracefully. When Venom’s filter is clipped, it generates a nice analog distortion sound that adds to your waveform’s harmonics. It’s one last bonus parameter where you can make additions to the timbre before you start using the filter cutoff to subtract from it.



Listen to the sound file below to hear how the Pre Filter Boost parameter overdrives a sine wave going into the filter.




Tip 7 – Vocal Formants without a Formant Filter


Venom doesn’t have selectable formant filter algorithms, but you can still make those distinctive “talking synth” sounds. Vocal formants can be created by arranging two or more resonant filters in series at specific frequency relationships to each other. Venom only has one main filter, but secondary filters are available in a couple places farther down the signal path. One filter to try is the Auto-Wah on the Insert effect, but strangely enough, the Sample Rate Reduction effect (decimator) also does a really great job in the formant filtering chain. Check out Single Program A106 “Gibberish” for an example of this. It’s not too hard to experiment with cutoff frequencies until you find some relationships that sound vocal.



Listen to the sound file below to hear Single Program “Gibberish” talking.




Tip 8 – Extreme LFOs

There are tons of LFO options in Venom. Between the three main LFOs, A-Mod LFO, Effects LFOs and the oscillator LFO trick we discussed in my previous blog, there are a myriad of ways to put some interesting motion into your sound. Venom is designed this way because animating different elements of a patch can really give it life, from subtle effects that are more felt than heard, to real sonic fireworks.



Check out all the options the main LFOs have to offer, from the extended set of 12 wave shapes, to Tempo Sync expressed in musical note values, to envelope-like fade-in settings, to determining the Start Phase position. You can use these parameters to put together some intense modulations, like in Single Program C003 “LFO Mashup”. This patch uses three tempo synchronized square wave LFOs to create a musical pattern by modulating the pitches and level s of the individual oscillators at different note divisions.

Listen to the sound file below to hear how the LFOs in “LFO Mashup” interact. (There were only four notes played here, corresponding to the chord changes.)




Tip 9 – Hold the Envelopes


Normally, envelopes only have one stage where they stay at the same level for any period of time and that’s the Sustain stage. With Venom, we took the traditional ADSR and added a Hold stage between the Attack and the Decay. This allows you to set up modulations that rise, rest, fall, rest, and fall — depending on the envelope settings and how you play the note, of course.



For an example, I’ve created a three oscillator program that uses envelopes 2 and 3 to change the individual oscillator pitches, making a sound that moves from one chord to another while a single note is held. Since the Hold stages are set to different times, you can hear one oscillator change frequencies before the other. On the second oscillator I turned up the Decay time which sounds like portamento, or glide, when the envelope plays through that stage.


Listen to the sound file below to hear envelope Hold at work.




Tip 10 – Mono Legato Envelope Mode


Mono legato mode was used for a lot of classic synth leads and basses – the Minimoog D always behaved this way, for example. Venom, as a polyphonic synthesizer, only changes to Mono Legato mode under certain circumstances, but will do so automatically. If Venom is set to Mono mode, and Glide is turned on, the envelopes won’t retrigger unless your fingers are fully lifted off the keys between notes.



(If you weren’t planning on having Glide as a part of your sound, leave the Glide Time parameter set to zero and it won’t get in your way.)


You can hear mono legato behavior in the sound file below, which uses preset Single Program A015 “BigBadBob” to illustrate.



Venom’s deep synthesis engine gives you many interesting and often unusual tools for sculpting your sound. From its chameleonic oscillators and filter, to its dizzying LFO and envelope modulations, Venom provides more than enough options to continue making wonderfully surprising patches for years to come. I look forward to hearing your creations!


If you’d like to take a closer look at the custom Single Programs used in the sound examples, they’re available for download at


To learn more about the Venom synth watch the intro video, listen to audio samples, and check out the buzz.




PS: Continue on to Part 5 - Venom Comes Alive in the Matrix.


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About Taiho Yamada

I got my first analog synth at 9 years old and began recording electronic music as a teenager. As a Senior Product Designer and Product Manager at Avid, I am responsible for bringing to market keyboard instruments that are inventive, reliable, integrated, and best in class. Before joining Avid in April 2006, I was Director of Sound Development and Project Manager at Alesis, where I worked on innovative and award-winning synthesizers such as the QuadraSynth, QS Series, Andromeda and Micron. I'm very proud to have launched Venom, M-Audio’s first virtual analog synthesizer.

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