Serum Bass Tutorial: Sound Design for 3 Patches

In this tutorial video, Vespers shows you 3 bass patches in the new XFer Records Serum synth by Steve Duda. Each patch is explored step by step, and includes detailed walkthroughs of drag and drop audio to wavetable conversion, creation of wavetables using the visual editor, and one of the synth’s preset wavetable oscillators. You’ll learn several ways of morphing frames, the different styles of filters, the unison engine, the noise module, the sub oscillator, creative modulation routings, the mod matrix, the effects section, and the infamous warp function. Sound design has never been so immediate, visual and fun as with this monster of a synth.

By looking at the way these patches are put together, you’ll see practical examples of Serum in the context of a track. Isolated sound design examples can be fun, but to really get a feel for a synth and a patch it’s great to demo it inside of a real tune. This Serum bass tutorial flexes some of the impressive sound design capabilities of the synth. I hope to make many more tutorials on Serum, ranging from bass to percussion to leads and special FX. Serum is such a full-featured and capable piece of kit that it’ll have a plethora of applications for electronic music production, music for picture, sample pack sound design, SFX and beyond.

Right now, XFer Records has discounted Serum for first movers. It’s selling for only $129 until October 31st, 2014. After that it goes up to it’s MSRP of $189. Take a peek over at the XFer Records site: http://www.xferrecords.com/products/serum/

For more tutorials on Serum and to dramatically improve your bass sound design skills, check out the Blitz Bass Sound Design Ultra Class and Template: http://vespers.ca/shop/ableton-live-templates/blitz-bass-the-bass-sound-design-ultra-class-with-vespers/


Serum Tutorial: Highlights & Pro Tips

In this tutorial video, Vespers does a review of the new XFer Records Serum Synth by Steve Duda, including many of it’s highlights and pro tips for sound design.  You’ll learn how to import audio to make your own wavetables, how to draw and morph between frames in the visual editor, and how to apply warping to bend the wavetable readout.  You’ll see the unison engine, some of the best filter types, the sub oscillator, modulation routings, and macros.  We’ll unleash the beast and get deep into the synth’s inner workings in this Serum tutorial!

This is the first of many tutorials you’ll see from Vespers on this new “go-to” synth.  Serum is fresh to the scene and will be evolving quickly.  Steve Duda has been super responsive on the forums and there’s a large community of producers and sound designers using the plugin.  We expect to see big things from this stellar new piece of kit.  It’s been a long time coming too.  There hasn’t been a synth that’s excited me this much since the release of NI Massive years ago.  Serum has quickly been dominating my production and replacing other plugins because of how intuitive, user friendly and immediate it is.

Currently, XFer is doing a large discount on purchases during the synth’s introduction period.  It’s on for only $129 until October 31st, 2014.  After that it goes up to $189.  Check it out over at the XFer Records site: http://www.xferrecords.com/products/serum/

For more detail on Serum and to really amp up your bass sound design skills, check out the Blitz Bass Sound Design Ultra Class and Template: http://vespers.ca/shop/ableton-live-templates/blitz-bass-the-bass-sound-design-ultra-class-with-vespers/


Give Some Love To The Flanger

Last week I showed you a quick, creative use for Lives gate – an under appreciated little device that has lots of quick creative options lurking under its simple appearance.


This week, let’s keep cracking on that theme with a look at Lives Flanger – a go to of mine for both transition noise sound design and adding cool, psychedelic overtones to synth sounds.


Flanger work by creating extra versions of a signal and offsetting them, or delaying them slightly against the original signal.  The result is a harmonically pleasing sweep that usually has two main (and self explanatory) controls – rate and depth – we’re pretty much all familiar with Flangers I’d assume, so let’s get to how to use them in a more interesting fashion.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.35.33 AM

Lose the LFO = Comb Filter Gold! 

One of the cool techniques I use to create interesting rising effects is to actually reduce the lfo amount to zero, and then automate an adjustment of the delay time to coincide with a rising effect, over the course of 4 or 8 bars.


Once you’ve tried this, I guarantee it’ll be a staple.   Mix it in subtlety or layer a couple Flangers in series with slightly offset delays and you’ll get drastically different effects.  The sound really comes alive when put through a nice dub delay.


I’ve included an example of this in an ALP you can download below – it’s on track one.

The other super quick and cool usage involves resampling.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.49.56 AM

Synth tones often benefit from some interesting harmonic effects being applied as an overtone, just to liven them up or add a bit of psychedelic edge.  In the case of the Flanger, by tuning the delay time to the incoming root note, we can create a nice sparkle or metallic characteristic where there wasn’t one before.

Upside = easy to do, sounds great.

Downside = no midi input means that the delay time (or pitch) of the Flanger needs to be adjusted or automated manually.  Or does it?

When I say tuning, really what I mean is listening for a sweet spot interaction between an incoming tone and the Flanger.   Don’t overthink this one; just fire a saw wave through a Flanger and find a spot you like while holding down a key.  C is probably easiest as the next step is to simply freeze and flatten the track, turning the output of the synth and the Flanger tone into a single file.

At this point, we simply bounce that new audio clip into Sampler, adjust our zone, and now the relationship between the synth sound and the Flanger is “imprinted” into the sound, so we can play it up and down the keyboard.  Super useful concept in resampling, as many effects create pitched outputs, and this is a really cool way of integrating them into your sound design.

I’ve given you two tracks to listen to: one where a simple saw is put through a flanger and played at two notes, and one resampled.  You can instantly hear the difference resampling makes, as the comb effect is now “part” of the sound.

Grab the ALP file HERE.


Give Some Love To The Gate

Sometimes the most rewarding production tricks or techniques are the simplest ones. Certainly they are often the ones that yield the most “happy accidents,” the term I use for when experimentation yields something that rocks.

Over the next while, I’m going to go through some of my go-to tricks for inspiration from unlikely sources – the often overlooked, sometimes misunderstood, always unappreciated devices in Live’s catalog.

Today we’re going to kick it off with a not-so-common use of the Live’s Gate.

This little guy right here:


Everyone (or rather MOST people) know about Live’s sidechain input on its compressor. It’s an often utilized and ubiquitous effect that gives production pump, groove, oomph, boom, whatever you want to call it. I’d argue that its one of those rare things that falls into the category of being both and effect and a mix technique.

What many people don’t know about, or at least don’t utilize, is the sidechain in on the Gate device.

Like sidechain compression, it’s a useful feature to pull out when making things dovetail together in the mix to clean up a signal, but in general when I use it it’s for an entirely different purpose.

There are often points where I want a simple, groovy lead but am lacking inspiration – sound design I find easy. Melody sometimes harder.

Well, this is an easy shake and bake approach that can yield extremely cool results, and I’d suggest you give it a try. I’ve even made it easy for you by packing up a quick project for you to check out in the link below.

Basically the approach is this:

1 – Take a sustained note from a synth.

2 – Add a Gate.

3 – Set the Gate to respond to a sidechain signal from an audio track.

4 – Grab a cool beat that you like, preferably something bounding with syncopation and interesting rhythmic content, and drop it in the audio track the sidechain is listening to. You can leave this audio track active or you can drop its volume, whatever you like.

5 – Hit play, then adjust the threshold, return and hold on the Gate until you start hearing magic. (You’ll also want to drop the floor to -inf db to get the right effect)

Gate Setup

Simple right? Amazingly so, but unlimited in it’s ability to produce cool effects.

Change the beat? Totally different melodic element.

Change the tone? That’s a whole new set of results.

Many people will recognize this as a “trance gate” style of effect. If you do, congrats! If not, don’t worry, its not all about little fluffy clouds – try putting a gnarly basstone through it with a ton of modulation and you’ll start developing amazingly cool riffs.

If you want to level up from this, use your imagination – as an example, try putting a beat repeat on the drumloop and take the Gate’s input from after the beat repeat – you can get some really cool stuttered playback effects.

If you’re making a pad sound, try splitting the audio flow through an audio effect rack, and then applying a reverb with 100% wet signal to one of the chains, and put the Gate after that. Your ears will thank you!

Grab the Live Pack and see exactly what I’m on about.

Grab the ALP file HERE.