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FM Synthesis (techniques, anecdotes)


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Is there a 8 operator VST out there with separate offset/ratio/pitch envelopes for each operator, or customizable envelopes/LFO's for various operator properties? I still can't believe FM8 only has a global pitch envelope and no way to modulate ratio/offset in the GUI.

Probably not. Stuff like this is why I think modular software is generally the best way to do FM.

 

8 operators though? :wacko:

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if you can run win32 vst, and feel brave, experiment with Voltage Phase Module, its a modular operator, so its possible in your VST32 capable DAW to modulate any two separate source audio streams any way you want before you feed them into it. its not realtime, because theres a predelay compensation for half of the time index/bandwidth so that deep modulations stay in time with your DAW. you can use any audio sources, but as in FM/PM, there will be tons of nyquist distortion without using a LPF on complex waveforms. it's the only plugin on the planet that does specifically this afaik. http://bedroomproducersblog.com/2014/06/18/voltage-phase-module/ (direct download in my profile)

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try it out with 2 sine sources first, and put an envelope on your mod input. the first algorithm modulates one stereo track with itself, left with right. the second uses channels 3 and 4 to modulate channels 1 and 2, summing both sources to mono. the third algo does the same as 2 except in stereo. its possible to do up to 4 source modulations with one instance of the plugin, but its of course possible to use as many instances of the plug as you like. it's more of an old fashioned modular synth sort of phase modulation, but afaik it is virtually indistinguishable from FM.

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is there a hardware FM synth for good automating of individual operator levels via CC?

Edited by skibby
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is there a hardware FM synth for good automating of individual operator levels via CC?

Not sure about individual levels, but on the TX81Z at least you can set operators' sensitivity to amplitude modulation, which is typically controlled by the Breath Control CC (#2).

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dave: do u have a favourite synth & synthesis technique of all time?

 

rich: yeah u know im gunna say fm, so fm

it was first thing i got into, i bought a dx100 when i was 15 something like that

ultimate fm anecdote. thread answered! :aphexsign:

 

 

 

i know. :rtfm:

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is there a hardware FM synth for good automating of individual operator levels via CC?

no not on its own (at least for all the yamahas i've toyed with), making a custom sysex nrpn automation tool is the really the best way.

 

FS1R though however can have all parameters modified via CC using the Zeedit front end (windows only editor) in the last update upon my request I let the programmer know the program crashed with more than 4 assignable CC's, so he fixed it so now it seems like it can handle as many as you want. This is the only way i've gotten close to making a preset randomizer for the FS1r.

 

Zeedit is pretty much the only way I've been able to get really deep into the Fs1r, interface is pretty too

 

bottom line is most if not all Yamaha gear is lacking in the assignable CC department out of the box, but luckily a lot of software editor front ends that operate via Sysex have CC assignable options to the front end panel. I know that the TX812 and TX802 have software editor front ends via this multi-panel software editor CTRLR

In theory CTRLR can handle CC assignments to every knob on the front of these virtual panels, although i've never been able to get them to work. You can also run these panels as VST instruments.

Edited by John Ehrlichman
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downloaded midiquest and the sy 77 .sqz file

 

it works. envelopes are far easier to work out with a computer editor. interface could be more keyboard/arrow key friendly though.

 

sy77's reverb sounds good.

loads of mixer outputs.

rompler is actually good, can use analogue synth.type of waves, practically a 16 poly mulititimbral subtractive synth on top of the fm one.

and the fm is deep, a bit hard to get into without much experience tho.

with all those filters and synths, should be.possible to make voice sounds. not sure how to do it though. start with layering a patch with different band pass settings i suppose.

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nope.

wondering how to get the sy 77 to respond to midi velocity tho. it responds to 127 different midi control values, not sure which one corresponds with midi velocity.

sequencing from yamaha qy 300

 

also flstudio 8, recording with cooledit 2.1

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try it out with 2 sine sources first, and put an envelope on your mod input. the first algorithm modulates one stereo track with itself, left with right. the second uses channels 3 and 4 to modulate channels 1 and 2, summing both sources to mono. the third algo does the same as 2 except in stereo. its possible to do up to 4 source modulations with one instance of the plugin, but its of course possible to use as many instances of the plug as you like. it's more of an old fashioned modular synth sort of phase modulation, but afaik it is virtually indistinguishable from FM.

Starting to figure out how it works now, this is fucking amazing! Like a crazy vocoder, perfect for the sound design I'm doing now.

Edited by chim
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try it out with 2 sine sources first, and put an envelope on your mod input. the first algorithm modulates one stereo track with itself, left with right. the second uses channels 3 and 4 to modulate channels 1 and 2, summing both sources to mono. the third algo does the same as 2 except in stereo. its possible to do up to 4 source modulations with one instance of the plugin, but its of course possible to use as many instances of the plug as you like. it's more of an old fashioned modular synth sort of phase modulation, but afaik it is virtually indistinguishable from FM.

Starting to figure out how it works now, this is fucking amazing! Like a crazy vocoder, perfect for the sound design I'm doing now.

 

 

thanks! sometimes I wonder if i made a plugin that literally no one understands :) It was only a year and a half ago when I decided to learn how to do FM, and VPM came as a result of studying it.

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I've been giving more time to my DX9 lately and I'm soooo glad something is finally happening between it and me! I tried to program it for so long, feeling kind of frustrated about it because everyone talks about FM as being the ultimate synthesis approach and I was just able to produce meh sounds. But I'm starting to have nice results now, finally it gets rewarding. Now I really want another synth of that sort, no velocity really sucks. A TX81Z would be lush but I'm starting to quite like programming on hardware with the shitty buttons... DX11 for Christmas maybe, but it doesn't look too easy to find.

 

thanks to this thread anyway, it helped me to get there

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I found interesting interview with Dave Bristow about factory presets creation for brand new DX7.

 

 

 

The Yamaha DX7 might never have been created if it hadn't been for Dr John Chowning who invented the FM theory behind it; equally so, it might never have been the huge success it was without sound engineers such as Dave Bristow, Gary Leuenberger and Bo Tomlyn, who together crafted some of its best known and most popular sounds, providing the backdrop to 80's, 90's and even current music.

I have recently had the opportunity to ask Dave Bristow about his experiences with the DX7.

Dave, who is originally from London UK but now lives in the USA, starting playing the piano from an early age. After graduating from university with a BSc in Psychology, Dave turned his musical talents to playing and programming keyboards, and has been in the music business ever since. He is internationally recognised as one of the most important contributors to the development and voicing of FM synthesis.

He has provided a really interesting insight into the days preceding the launch of the DX7 and DX9 models, which you can read below:


SS: What was your first synthesizer?
DB: I used to play a mini-moog occasionally - that was doing the rounds in Birmingham in the mid 70's - then I got hold of a CS-80. I used to demonstrate this at weekends in a local store and occasionally borrow it. Yamaha UK came by one day and asked if I would do a public demo for them – which I did, and another, and then another…

SS: What had you been doing musically before your involvement with the DX7?
DB: I played in rock/jazz bands, did session work and demonstrated CS-80 and other analog synths for Yamaha.

SS: How did you first get involved with the DX7 project?
DB: I was first invited to Japan in Jan 1980, after about 2 years of demo-ing analog stuff for them all over Europe. (CS-80, CS-01, SK series, CS40M, CS70, electric pianos CP70 etc). On that visit I first met Gary Leuenberger. We were there to see the GS-1 , a new digital FM synth.
SS: When you first saw the DX7, was it full of 'INIT VOICE' patches, or was there something already there for you to start with?
DB: I first saw the DX7 as a prototype called the DX4 in about 1982. There were no patches. I took a proto home with me in late 82 to my studio in UK and Gary did also. We each came up with about 24 patches each. The idea was that we would return to Japan to finish the “factory presets” - we were expecting to make 32 or maybe 48 presets. A programmer from Japan was also scheduled to provide some presets. As you know, DX7 finally shipped with 128! When it came to the crunch, Gary and I had about 4 days in Hamamatsu to come up with 128 presets. I have to admit, it was a challenge – at first, we had a hard time thinking of 128 musical instruments - let alone making the patches on a new FM instrument.

SS: Did you influence any of the internal architecture of the DX7, in terms of it's user interface?
DB: Not really, but we did give a fair amount of feedback which proved useful for minor improvements.

SS: Did Yamaha give you any lessons, and how long did it take you to fully understand how to create patches?
DB: No lessons, but we had both had 2 years experience by now with the GS-1 and GS-2. These were simpler FM instruments with 2-op algorithms, so we did have a chance to train our ears with the basic timbral dimensions of FM synthesis.

SS: Did you find that an understanding of sound engineering, acoustics, harmonic relationships etc went a long way in terms of successfully creating 'pleasing' patches, or did you just naturally bond with the DX range?
DB: Working with synthesisers automatically gets your ears trained and both Gary and I had worked with synths for many years. For myself, I definitely “bonded” with the synth characteristics of FM and the DX7 for some reason, and it has been post-DX7 that I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to study and learn acoustics, psychoacoustics, digital audio and so on. I do think this background is invaluable now, and I always teach these basics when I find myself giving any sort of presentation or class on programming, MIDI or electronic music.

SS: Did you think “right, I'll create a slap bass patch now” and go straight for it, or was there a sort of random approach – ie were there a lot of 'happy accidents'?
DB: The honest answer to this is a mixture of both. As I mentioned, I had developed an ear for FM and was able to associate the timbral behaviour with the various parameters, so in some cases, I was ready to “go for it”. I also had years of careful listening behind me together with a deep interest in sound and the psychology of music. There were also plenty of serendipitous events!

SS: The DX7 was shipped with two cartridges – Are any of the patches on those cartridges yours, or did you start programming after the initial launch?
DB: Yes, about 50% of the original DX7 factory patches were mine and 50% Gary's. Gary and I did a sort of Lennon/McCartney thing though we did both produce individual “signature ROMs” for Yamaha later on.

SS: How long did you typically spend creating and fine-tuning each patch?
DB: That's hard to say for individual patches. All I know is, Gary and I locked ourselves into Studio-6 at Yamaha's factory in Hamamatsu from about 8am in the morning till after midnight for four days solid. We downed a fair bit of whiskey I have to admit, and developed a close bond with each other and the engineering and management team at Yamaha (which has lasted to this day – I value my association with Yamaha very highly, and consider myself one of the team). Anyway, in those four days we came up with about 90% of the “Factory Presets” that appeared on the two cartridges. The DX was introduced into Europe before the States, so Gary had a little extra time back at his home to fine tune a few of the patches, but basically, that was it .

SS: Did you create the sounds using only the DX7, or did you have a patch editor back then?
DB: We just used the DX's interface. There were no patch editors back then.

SS: Can you remember the first time you heard one of your patches on the radio and if so, what was the song? (and the patch?!)
DB: They were everywhere all the time during the 80's

SS: Were you surprised by the ubiquity of the DX7 during the 80's, or did you feel right from the start that Yamaha had created something which would dominate electronic music for a long time?
DB: It was really like being in on the start of something big and we all felt it. Apart from being the first major digital synth, the synth engine itself was entirely new, there was a LCD for naming voices, there was a voice-preset memory bank and of course MIDI. Yamaha hoped to sell 15~18,000 DX7 and DX9's. In the first year or so they sold and pre-sold 150,000 units. It was a music industry phenomena.

SS: How long ago did you last create a new patch on your DX7?
DB: Probably 20 years ago

SS: The DX7's programming architecture has confused thousands, but clearly not yourself - have you ever been completely stumped by a synthesizer, or have you been pretty much able to program anything that's been put in front of you?
DB: Yes, as long as I have patience with it and I can hear the timbral dimensions, I can program it. I have enjoyed FM7 by Native Instruments.

SS: Which has been your favourite Yamaha synthesizer?
DB: I think SY77/99. I still love FM synthesis and SY was a nice hybrid.

SS: I understand you have been working with Yamaha again more recently?
DB: Yes. Three years ago, I got a call from an old colleague at Yamaha. I finished my first association with Yamaha in about 1992 after a stint at their R&D centre in London – they were having some big reorganisation in Europe at the time, and I felt it was time for a change. I began consulting with Emu Systems who were developing some neat filter synthesis. In about 1994 I moved to the states to work at their headquarters in Santa Cruz. I enjoyed a good few years but eventually the job faded away due to Creative Technology issues, the parent company. That was when (fortunately for me) I received this call from Yamaha. They had essentially ported the DX7 architecture into a mobile device chip. So yes, I ended up voicing FM synths again. The advent of the MP3 phones eventually put the lid on this activity, and though I wrote lots of demo music for Yamaha (both for their synths and in the last few years, cell phones) I realise that I really enjoy voicing.
Dave continued his work with the DX and TX range of synthesizers right up to the SY range in the early 90's, providing many of their familiar preset patches. During the 1980's, Dave became firm friends with the inventor of FM synthesis, Dr John Chowning and during their time together at IRCAM in Paris, they wrote a book called "FM Theory and Applications" ( ISBN 4636174828).

Dave Bristow has his own website, www.timbremerchant.com , which further explores the use of FM synthesis.

 

 

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I've been giving more time to my DX9 lately and I'm soooo glad something is finally happening between it and me! I tried to program it for so long, feeling kind of frustrated about it because everyone talks about FM as being the ultimate synthesis approach and I was just able to produce meh sounds. But I'm starting to have nice results now, finally it gets rewarding. Now I really want another synth of that sort, no velocity really sucks. A TX81Z would be lush but I'm starting to quite like programming on hardware with the shitty buttons... DX11 for Christmas maybe, but it doesn't look too easy to find.

 

thanks to this thread anyway, it helped me to get there

Good to read that! It's a struggle sometimes innit.

 

Got myself as tx81z a couple of months ago, but am still on the surface of it. I wrote up an editor for it, which is just slightly less spartan than using those buttons. I've managed to squeeze out some nice sounds, and the multitimbrality is really nice as well. Lately bass is amazingly addictive, and i like the Space Vibe preset, which can be heard at the beginning and ending of Ceephax's Ceeland B side.

 

About its midi buffer, yes it's small. This only turned out a problem for me when controlling parameters through sysex, so i had to regulate the data bandwidth in my editor program. After this had been taken care of, no problems at all.

 

Get it while it's cheap!

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Love my tx81z too. Made my own template for novation zero sl mkII (and remote sl as well) to edit tx.

 

 

14431558558_e074afd029_b.jpg

This one is second version and it ultilizes 3 pages of zero sl instead of 4 (like on novation's stock template)

 

 

 

I find it warm sounding and it sounds even warmer than alpha juno (which i sold finally). You can do super fat pads with it by multiplying pad patches via perfomance and detuning them slightly. It has funny pseudo-delay fx for perfomance mode, but you also can preview this fx in single mode and abuse it.

 

It has 2 downsides btw. Too coarse frequency control: you cannot lower fixed frequency under 32Hz (or ratio under 0.50)

And its S&H isn't really random, as i want it to be. It starts from 0 every time, so you can't make random FM acid like in AFX's Crappy (or Formula).

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