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Behind the scenes of Venom: Sink your teeth in (Part 5)

Only published comments... Feb 08 2012, 12:00 AM by Taiho Yamada
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Sound Design Tips and Tricks – Venom Comes Alive in the Matrix


In my previous posts we discussed how to get more out of Venom’s oscillators, filter, LFOs, and envelopes. Now, we’ll take a look at how all those pieces connect together. At Venom’s core is a powerful 16-route matrix that allows you to patch physical controllers and other modulation sources to destinations all over the synth engine. Making good use of these patch points is what really brings a Venom sound to life.




Tip 11 – Max it out


Unless your goal is to make a very stable sound with a decidedly digital feel (hey, sometimes those are great too), it’s a good idea to visit the modulation matrix and do some creative routing to animate various elements of your patch. You can use LFOs and envelopes to make ear-catching wide modulations, but oftentimes the most useful modulations are quite subtle, like the analog drift modulation we discussed in Part 3 of this series.


But you don’t have to stop with the frequency and phase of the oscillators—you can send analog emulating modulations to the Filter and Amplitude destinations as well. When setting out to maximize a sound, it’s good to think about all the dimensions available to you beyond the basic parameters. Start with pitch, timbre and volume, but then expand your reach to cover such aspects as how the sound varies over time and its perceived placement in space. Venom provides useful tools for sculpting all of these elements.


Listen to the sound file below to hear how multiple subtle animations can combine to create a lively synth bass tone.



Actually, this sound is useful for illustrating many different maximization techniques. If you download it from, you can explore a variety of modulation applications, including:


· LFO routes crossing destinations in order to create multiple layers of movement

· Using all three envelopes with varying stage values

· Utilizing stereo panning and effects to create space

· Engaging FM and Ring Mod to add texture

· Combining waveforms from different manufacturers to increase timbral variance

· Using all mod matrix routes at once (it’s maxed out!)



Tip 12 – Bipolarity at Its Best


In Venom the modulation routes are bipolar, which allows you to set up modulations in both positive and negative amounts. Some really interesting effects tend to occur when the polarity of a mod route is flipped. For example, you can invert the envelopes to produce negative shapes, have pitches track the keyboard in reverse, or even dynamically change the direction of a saw wave LFO. When you flip its polarity, an “up-saw” LFO becomes a “down-saw” and vice versa. You can get some wild effects if you then put the polarity of the saw LFO under the control of another source, like a sample and hold.


Listen to the sound file below to hear how a bipolar Linear Sample & Hold modulation affects a saw LFO routed to oscillator pitch.




Tip 13 – Modulating Mod Routes


Venom allows you to modulate a modulation route with another modulation route. That’s what lets you set up the basics, like having the Mod Wheel control vibrato (LFO to Pitch). But it also allows you to do the more esoteric stuff like the bipolar sound example above. The rule with modulating mod routes is that you can go two levels deep, but not three. You can’t have a mod route modulate another mod that’s already modulating a mod. (Got that? Right—the whole thing can get pretty complex...) Fortunately, the Vyzex Venom software editor keeps track of how the modulation routes interweave, and will remove any invalid mods from the destination list so you don’t have to worry about them.



This example shows how Vyzex lets you know at a glance that route 6 is modulating route 5. Other modulation routes are free to target route 5, but they won’t be able to modulate route 6.



Tip 14 – Scaled vs. Additive


In the modulation matrix you’ll notice that plus “+” and minus “-” signs appear in front of some modulation sources. What does this mean?



The plus sign is really straightforward. Those denote an additive modulation source, where the modulation value is added to the destination value. (In deference to high school algebra, negative numbers can be added here as well.)


The minus sign however doesn’t necessarily indicate subtraction. Instead, it can mean that the source is multiplicative and will scale downward from the parameter value set in the target, or it could be a negative or reverse modulation. It depends on whether the source with the minus sign is paired with a source with a plus sign or not. If it’s paired, then it’s scaling. If not, then it’s subtraction.


Look at the “Velocity” sources at the top of the pictured source list. Those are a pair that provides scaling, while the “Mod Wheel” entries farther down the list are only additive sources.



Tip 15 – Need Some Assignable Knobs?


There are two top panel Performance Controls that actually require routes in the mod matrix in order to function. The “Filter Envelope Amount” and “Filter Keytrack” knobs utilize routes 1 and 2 respectively. However, they don’t necessarily need to be assigned that way. You can set up any engine modulation you want in these slots, and the amount of modulation will be controlled by the corresponding top panel knob. Obviously, the top panel labels won’t match what’s happening in the patch anymore if you do this, but in return you’ll be able to create custom performance controls for your sound.



In either modulation route, the top panel knob directly controls the modulation amount through its full bipolar range. If you want a static source, i.e. the knob directly affects the parameter; use a free envelope with no Attack, Sustain set to full, and the Release set to “Hold”. Or, you can set it up to use the knob like a mod wheel, where it might bring in the effect of an LFO.


Listen to the sound file below to hear Performance Control knobs changing the levels of oscillators 1 and 2, which are otherwise unavailable for tweaking from Venom’s top panel.




Venom’s extensive modulation matrix provides much of the versatility found in modular synthesizers for patching synthesis sources and destinations into each other. From the sheer number of routing options available, to the useful mathematical transformations applied to the modulation amounts, Venom provides ample opportunities to shape your sound just the way you want it.


As always, I look forward to hearing your creations!


If you’d like to take a closer look at the 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.




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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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