Creating tension in transitions and breakdowns usually involves a sound that increases in volume and intensity as it nears the next phrase (usually an 8 or 4 bar segment where the music changes). These sounds are commonly referred to as sweeps, and when it involves pitch or frequency increasing it is called a riser. One of the old school methods of making sweeps was to take a stab or single note hit and reverse the playback of the waveform. This is just fine and still proves to be a good way of creating sweeps, especially with a lot of the pitch preservation tools allowed with stretch functionality in current DAWs. However, creating sweeps in a VST instrument can provide much more flexibility and control over the sound and understanding how to make them will allow you to create some really nice transitions.
In this tutorial, we will use Image Line’s Harmor synth to create a sweep/riser.
Here we see Harmor’s default Volume Envelope:
We will first modify this volume envelope by clicking on the “Tempo” option and altering the envelope so that the last three nodes are all on the same point and move them to create a ramp (this example shows a 2-bar ramp):
If you play a note you will notice the sound emerges from nothing and continually increases in volume – not exactly a killer sweep at this point, but with some additional envelopes it will get better.
Select “Pitch” from the envelope drop down menu and create a pitch envelope. A riser will increase the pitch as it progresses, but you can do whatever you like here to create a custom pitch sequence for your sweep. This example show a pretty straightforward pitch rise:
Now to add a little more complexity to the sweep, lets adjust a couple of parameters. First, turn the “Unison” to “3”. Second, turn waveform mix to the right (the Square Wave). Third, turn the “Phaser Mix” all the way to the right. Fourth, select “Phaser Mix” in the envelope drop down, select the “Tempo” option, and create an envelope that adjusts the amount of the “Phaser Mix” that matches the length of your sweep. This example shows a 2 bar sine wave that oscillates at the same speed until it gets to the final 1/4 bar:
Keep on fiddling with other parameters to change the sound of the sweep. You can also change the length of the envelopes to create longer sweeps.
Here are some free downloads of remixes by my good friends Superfly and Shakka. These were originally going to be for sale, but they decided to give them away instead. Enjoy.
Here is a video tutorial of how to sync full length audio tracks (i.e., songs) with a consistent tempo without the use of any plugins in FL Studio, such as Newtone.
This is useful for syncing up tracks for DJing in performance mode. You may also be interested in the DJ Performance Mode Templates that are set up for the APC40 and Launchpad.
There are other methods for syncing up audio using Newtone in a way similar to Ableton Live’s warp feature, but the method in the video works fine for most electronic music.
Once you have synced the audio file you may want to adjust the “Time Stretching” to the audio output you prefer.
The default is “Resample”, which works like a turntable and raises or lowers the pitch consistent with the raising or lowering of the tempo. This is the least resource intensive when manipulating the audio file, but if you raise or lower the tempo too much (usually within +-10 bpm of the original tempo) it starts to sound funny in my opinion. To maintain the original pitch, the “Pro Default” and “Pro Transient” options work best.
Also, one other consideration to make when using full length tracks in Performance mode for DJing is to separate the track into multiple parts as potential cue points.
Image Line’s Harmor plug-in is a powerful, but complex virtual instrument that I am still attempting to figure out. It is not as intuitive as more popular virtual instruments like Native Instrument’s Massive, but there is no question that it’s capabilities far exceed those of Massive and other similar synths. The following tutorial will demonstrate how you can create a custom interface in FL Studio 11 using Patcher to have more intuitive control over Harmor.
Creating 8 Macro Controls
One of my favorite features of Massive is the 8 Macro Controls on the bottom right. So I’m going to emulate those Macro Controls using Patcher, but not assign them to any particular function at this point, they are for assigning to different controls depending on the Harmor preset. In order to get the same control over the range and direction of these Macros (like in Massive), Fruity Formula Controller will be used to control the range of values on whatever parameters in Harmor you want to control (and there are tons of them).
The first step is to set up the Macro knobs on the Surface Control of Patcher by clicking the “E” button, and right clicking to add 8 knobs (using whatever style and size you like). The result should look something like this.
Connecting the Macros to Parameters and Using Fruity Formula Controller
Now click on the “Map” tab to add Harmor to the Patcher preset (right click -> “Add plugin” -> Harmor). Now go to the “Editor” tab and in Harmor, select a preset that you want to be able to tweak with your Macro control (right click anywhere on the two arrows on the right of the top bar for the plugin to browse the presets). Once the preset is loaded, play around with the controls to see which one(s) you want to control with the first Macro knob. Once you decide which controls in Harmor you want to tweak, right click and select “Activate”. Now going back to the “Map” tab you will see a red dot for each control you activated (the Hint bar in the top of FL Studio will indicate what control (parameter) the red dot represents).
You could simply connect the Macro directly to the control in Harmor to have a full range of control over the parameter. However, to get that fine control and directional control like you have in Massive, you can place an instance of Fruity Formula Controller between the path from the Surface Control and Harmor corresponding to Macro knob 1 and the activated parameter.
Go to the “Editors” tab and go to the Fruity Formula Controller and enter the following formula: a+c*(b-a), then hit Compile. You’ll want to save this as a preset in Fruity Formula Controller (or you can download here).
Corresponding this setup to Massive, the “c” knob in Fruity Formula Controller is the equivalent to the Macro Knob in Massive. Think of the “a” knob as the current position knob in Massive, and the “b” knob as the semi-circle that defines the range.
Continue to do this for all the parameters you want to control and now you have your own set of Macros for Harmor that have that Massive-like control. You can even add more or less if you like.