Saturday, 19 December 2015

Sine3Generator

I've just published a new sound generator on the MaxForLive.com web-site. Here's the usual extended user guide...


Sine3Generator is a sound generator - and yes, I've done them before, and this is another one. Currently in a 'light' version with purple trim, I will update it to a 'dark' version over the next few weeks, and I may be unable to resist making a few tweaks too. 


This sound generator does not respond to MIDI inputs - it just sits there and makes noises continually...

What seems like a long time ago now, I wrote a series of 15 generators in 'Reaktor', and this represents a revisiting and updating of those ideas in M4L. There is lots of history to this type of stand-alone 'sound generator'. Modular synthesisers lend themselves quite well to this type of FM chaining, particularly if there are only a few VCOs... Back in the 1970s I built cascaded relaxation oscillators using injunction transistors, and discovered that frequency ability and tuning were very important, which is very apparent in some synthesisers of the time - the vernier dials on the EMS VCS3 are a good example, and the VCS3's matrix interconnection panel lends itself very well to complex chains of devices... 

More recently, Noisedrone .1 and Noisedrone2 have used Max For Live (M4L) to make sounds using cascaded chains of oscillators, and these have been popular downloads on the MaxForLive.com web-site. Another popular generator is my Noise Generator 0.4... So with 15 designs languishing on my hard drive, it seemed like a good time to blow the dust off them and try publishing them again.

The basic idea is very simple. A sine wave oscillator with LFOs that can modulate the pitch and the output is frequency modulated by another similar oscillator, which is modulated by another similar oscillator. It's a simple FM generator with a lot of controls, and a flexible output stage. The output allows mixing of three harmonically-diverse outputs: the third modulated oscillator itself ('Sine'), the ring modulated output of the third and second oscillators ('Ring') and the output of the second oscillator 'sample & hold' processed by the third oscillator, with LFO modulation of the mixing, plus LFO panning as well. 

A good way to start is to turn all the controls to the leftmost minimum position (and save this as a preset of course!), and then to select the Sine button, adjust the volume to your preference, and choose the pitch you want in Oscillator 3 (there's just a Pitch control there, so it is easy to find!). This is a good place to learn the output options: LFO modulation of volume, plus LFO panning. A lot of my M4L has similar approaches to things, so if you've seen one of my 'Pan' sections, then you will recognise the same controls across many of my devices. One variant here is that my 'usual' LFO has the ability to free-run or to sync with the Live timing, but for Sine3Generator, then you only get free running LFOs. 

Once you have the basic Oscillator 3 under your control (some ping-pong echo is very often applied to the output of this type of generator...) then there is the LFO modulation of the pitch of the oscillator to try out. 'Under control' is an interesting phrase. When I worked in a music shop we used to do listening exercises: someone would play a chord and the rest of us would say what it was, or someone would make a sound on a synth and everyone would have to recreate it from scratch. Rick Wakeman was famous for being able to set up a sound on a MiniMoog just by adjusting the knobs, and then playing it without the incremental audition/edit cycle that you often see, and of which I'm often a big user, particularly for FM synthesis. Which neatly brings me back onto the topic...

When you are comfortable with all of the controls for Oscillator 3, then you can try moving to the left and try exploring the pitch and modulation controls for Oscillator 2, then the LFO pitch modulation for that oscillator, and so on. (There's a bit of a theme here too - my devices often start in the middle and move outwards, but just to keep your awake, some of them start on the left and move to the right. Which format I use usually depends on the workflow...)

Because Oscillator 1 is at the top of a stack of FM then it can cause big changes to the oscillators underneath it, so be cautious at first with the pitch and modulation controls. If everything gets too much, then just go back to the 'all leftmost' preset that you saved and start again from Oscillator 3.

There's a lot to explore in Sine3Generator, and a lot of sounds waiting to be created. Recording the output and processing it further is thoroughly encouraged! Audacity is my editor of choice here, although mine is very customised...



(As always, my M4L stuff is a 'work in progress', so it may not be perfect (in fact, it probably won't be, because perfection is a rare thing indeed!), and early versions tend not to have very much help on controls included in the M4L. I know that this is a good thing to have, but I'm short on time an speed gets you fun things quickly, and none of my stuff is supposed to be professional, with timely support and detailed help inside. But please feel free to report bugs via the comments on MaxForLive.com, and I will try to fix them when I can find time. )


There is now also a 'dark' version...
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