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165 modern presets, created by me, for Lennar Digital Sylenth synth. Visit

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Tons of presets that will bring a new life to the Novation V-Station synth Visit

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Synth Programming Secrets Articles

If you really want to understand all the stuff related with Synth Programming then you should read the whole Sound On Sound magazine series called Synth Secrets. It contains stunning amount of 30 parts (plus another 32 parts related somehow with Synth Secrets series) !!! and covers almost every aspect of synth programming.

Beginners should start from Synth Secrets part 1: What's In A Sound?, more advanced users can pick any part from this link (list of all available Synth Secrets parts). I guess that Synth Secrets articles + earlier introduced "How to make a noise" guide should be enough to learn "a little bit" about Synth Programming :)

ps. Almost forgot, all articles are available for free, you don't need to buy Sound On Sound subscription, or register or other crap :)


Anonymous said...

Ello again Greeg. I'd like ask you how did YOU start with the synthesis. All these tutorials are great, but personally I'm curious about how does it develop. I mean the skill, everyone starts basically with the "random way" - turning knobs and listen how the sound changes. And later when you know the basics of synthesis, you'd like to make your own patches, but then you realize that you can't still do it, 'cause this aint the sound which you wanted. So you try that again and again and you get lovely sound but not the one you wanted. This is my level, so I'm asking you what should I do? Or better question, how did you specifically moved from this step to the next one? Thank you and by the way, could you tell us which DAW do you use?

Greeg said...

About DAW - long time ago I used Fruity Loops (won it in some competition - that was version 3.56 I guess hehe). FL is a great DAW but somehow it didn't work for me. Interface wasn't bad but I knew that I need something different. At the same time I started dj'ing and from that point I knew that i need to test Ableton. After all, everyone was talking that Ableton is a great software not only for composing music but also for playing live, mixing, creating mashups etc. I bought EMU X-Board49 keyboard and there was Ableton LE included.

I installed it, and 15 minutes later I knew that this is it. I love the interface, i love the whole zooming thing with mouse - it just feels so creative...

Greeg said...

hehe, this will be longer ;)

About synth programming. Well, I still consider myself as a guy who is learning too :) About 8-9 years ago, when I won that FL DAW, i fell in love with all VST Instruments. Casual people were collecting stamps, I was collecting VSTs ;) I guess that was the time when I learned really basic stuff about subtractive synthesis - using oscillators, lfos etc. I stayed at this level for few next years - mainly because I had too many hobbies ;).

Few years later I decided to take music composing hobby more seriously. At least I wanted to learn a little bit more about synth programming. But still I was making the same mistake - I had tons of VST Instruments, presets I didn't use at all. I didn't understand the strengths of each instrument. I learnt few basic tricks (for example pick 2 saw oscillators and detune them) and in every synth I repeated those tricks with hope that i'll discover something new. But it didn't happen hehe. I just thought that soft-synths are crap and all those commercial guys have great sound because of hardware. Well, at least it was a good excuse ;)

But then, the situation changed a little bit. People on boards / forums started talking that artist X uses Y DAW with Z plugins and It became clear that commercial guys also use software, also use vst instruments. I realised that my skills were just bad :)

I wanted to improve. The best thing I did was to pick 1-3 plugins and stick with them. Actually this was the turning point. I learnt few details (for example: effects such as EQ, Delay, Reverb can change the sound dramatically) and started to actually see the differences between vst instruments. But still I was lacking something. Once, friend showed me Waldorf Blofeld - actually this was the first hardware synth I touched. It took me 20-30 minutes to learn interface and I realised that being able to ... touch knobs is great. So I thought that maybe I should get Novation Nocturn and control plugins like hardware. The best thing about Nocturn was ... mapping part. I wanted to create my own mapping - but to do some decent mapping you need to know the meaning of each knob you VST instrument has, you need to know if knob X is somehow connected with osc x etc. Nocturn was great for small instruments + some effect plugins but I wanted to map bigger plugins. I was lucky - I bought used Novation Remote Zero SL controller about 50 % cheaper than new and then the fun started. I mapped my Novation V-Station and actually had a feeling like i'm controlling hardware. It's possible that without Novation controllers I wouldn't learn as much - those controllers just mobilized me to spend more time with each plugin. As a result I learnt every knob in V-Station (actually most V-Station presets from Greeg SOundset were created during learning) and It helped me to understand synthesis more. I managed to learn about using LFOs to modulate any parameter you can, about Ring Modulation, Pulse Width Modulation. I finally started to understand plugins, to see the differences between them :)

Then I created sound bank for Minimogue VA. Minimogue VA is pretty limited and that's a good thing :) You just focus on those few options you have and as a result you learn a lot. For example while creating Minimogue sound bank I learnt to use 12Oscillator Sync'ing. In previously V-station bank I almost didn't use Osc Sync because I had so many possibilities that I just skipped Osc Syncing. With Minimogue this was impossible because Osc Sync is one of the key features of Minimogue.

About my presets. Many presets are created accidentally. When I use Novation Remote Zero SL, I usually play some note, then I pick one plugin "feature" (in Osc Sync, Ring Modulation, Filter Overdrive) and start tweaking knobs. Sure, the more you learn about synthesis the less chaotic preset creation process is :) For example, you want to create Electric Piano preset. if you have knowledge about FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesis then you know, you'll need a plugin with FM. If you need trancey, detuned pad - you need a plugin with good unison options. How to learn about it ? Well, practise :) and i subscribe Computer Music + Future Music magazines. They're both good. Ahh and Sound On Sound too.

As a complete beginner, i would just pick one subtractive VSTi with just 2 Oscillators (with Sine, Square, Triangle wave), 1 Lfo, 2 Envelopes, Filter, portamento and start learning (iblit is nice). Then, i would pick plugin with all the previous options + included effects such as Delay, Chorus, EQ, Reverb. Then, plugin with (all the previous stuff +) Osc Sync, Ring Modulation, Noise Oscillator and maybe some Matrix. The worst mistake is to constantly switch between plugins. It's better to stick with one and master it ...

Anonymous said...

Thank you a lot, I did the same mistake you've mentioned. I've lots of plugins, but I'd do as you said and pick few of them and try understand 'em deeper. I'm using Synapse Orion as my DAW, it's easy and it has user-friendly interface, but it does lack of better support for automation, but that should be handled in version 8. I've tried Ableton demo last year, but it was something completely different and it looked way complicated to me. I'd love to give Ableton another chance tho, when I saw some of the tutorials you've posted on this blog. It has a lot of lovely features. About midi controller, I've only two knobs and one slider on it :), Korg nano series looks nice and cheap tho. I'm playing with Tripple Cheese at the moment, it could make so pretty harsch sounds which is perfect, 'cause I'm trying to write industrial/experimental tunes. Thank you again for all of your advices and I'll try to do my best. About CM magazine, I've ordered few of the CM special, about synthesis and 101 best plugins. GenesisCM, ZebraCM and CM-505 are just fan-fucking-tastic. Cort

Greeg said...

hehe, yes I agree - CM plugins are great :)

I tried Triple Cheese today - it's always nice to see such creative plugins not just another subtractive synth with pulse and saw wave available hehe

and it's nice to see that someone actually reads this blog - thx :)

synthstudent said...

I've recently started a blog on synth programming, that offers free tutorials for absolute beginners. I'll be great if you can have a look and write about it, if you feel it's helpful.

I'd also like to hear pointers from you on the future direction of these tutorials so that they can be of help to newcomers.

Thanks in advance!



Greeg said...

some nice articles you have there :) Definitely I'll write about it :)

synthstudent said...

Awesome! Thanks. :)

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