Tempest Recipes: Hi-Hats, Shakers, Zaps

March 4, 2012

So, I was diverted away from drum syntheses and a fun time was had. But now it’s time to get back to kit basics, with at look at creating Hihats, shakers, maracas, cabasa and their ilk – important drivers of any rhythm.

It’s no big secret that noise is the major component of interest. There are no definable harmonics here – all frequencies are represented. We don’t create a tone, but rather we sculpt this block of frequencies with the filters to just those we want at any particular time.

In broadest terms, the difference between synthesizing a hi-hat and shakers is the attack of the Amplitude. Whereas hats are struck causing an immediate sound, shakers are, well, shaken (more accurately – swung), and so the attack is softer, as is the tone overall. Cabasa and maracas share similar properties to shakers in this respect. They are played differently, and are made of different materials, but they have similar foundations, and usually perform the same function in a rhythm.

The basic recipe for shakers is band-passed white noise, but…

  • try the 4K resonant noise sample, as applying a small amount of pitch envelope adds interest. The other colours of noise cannot be pitched, however their perceived pitch can be changed by modulating the filter frequencies.
  • The amount of amp attack needed will vary according to your tempo. The release should be approximately the same value, however giving slightly different release times and envelope shape for the filters / pitch allows you to eek-out different variations using the Tempest’s reverse function.
  • To get the most variation from the shakers, stay in 16 Tunings mode and try playing the different pitches. Key-tracking the filter and pitch provides plentiful ‘playability’.
  • Using the 2-pole filter gives more ‘natural’ results.

I tend and leave the roll function on, setting roll quantize to 16ths initially and play the pads for some very natural and groovy rhythms. Overdubbing triplet 8th over 16th is possible. Assigning the sound to one voice and setting a short MIDI delay (try dotted 8ths) can add a little extra shuffle. Heavy use of velocity control is highly recommended.

I hope I’m not insulting anyone’s intelligence here 😛

For the HiHats, putting the Amp attack back to zero immediately gets us into the right territory. It’s perfectly feasible to use the same sound for open and closed hat and assigning one of the FX sliders to the envelope decays. If using one voice you are assured that that hats will cut each other, which is the common practice for realistic hat progressions.

Real HiHats are made of metal. In the absence of a ring modulater (grrrr :?), I’ve found that using noise as a modulation source on Osc frequency gets pretty close to a realistic metallic sound.

  • Starting with a triangle in Osc 1, map it’s frequency to the noise source in ModPaths.
  • As you turn up the amount to maximum the sound gradually become more noisy, but it is a softer noise and retains some of the flavour of the underlying Osc.
  • Try changing the Osc shapes and see. Notice how the sound changes while changing the pulsewidth. Very useable – not just here, but for other sounds that need a less harsh noise whilst keeping the filter open. I’m thinking snares and claps.

Also, as we sweep-up the pitch, it is reminiscent of the gritty lo-fi sample-and-hold ‘Defender’ noise I’ve been seeking. Turning pitch way down gets into interestingly bleak electronic noise territory. I’m trying it on the single-cycle digital samples and mixing them together at different pitches. I like what I hear. Reminds me very much of noises from a circuit-bent Casio.

But I digress.

  • Pitched-up, our noise-modulated Osc1 begins to take on a more metallic tone. To me it provides a slight metallic click (also helped by the instant envelope attack).
  • Mixed-in with a small amount of noise from the digital Oscs it provides, to me, a nice basis for further exploration. Along with modulating the filters, adding a touch of Amp Feedback gives a nice boost to the metallic aspect.

There are other ways to get hi-hat sounds (fast LFO, Filter FM) but this is proving most satisfactory for now. That’s not to stop you…

Still haven’t found the familiar 909 ‘tssssssk’ without layering samples. I will 😛

Bandpassed noise on it’s own is a very useful percussion instrument.

  • Cranking-up the resonance on a 24dB filter and opening the cutoff with a fast envelope is your ticket for Kraftwerk-style Zaps.
  • Apply LFO to filter and it’s bubbly time! Much to explore here – careful with that spliff! (and the resonance).
  • In ADSR mode it’s all big disco whooshes and the like – best drowned in reverb for maximum effect.

Yay for noise!

Keep twiddlin’.

Next up: Snares

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