Jigsawz

Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now – this is an experiment. It was partially successful, and it was interesting, and it’s another song posted, so we’ll call it a win.

Most soft synths first load with a default patch. Sometimes this is a nicely programmed sound, but in the case of Omnisphere, it’s a very basic sawtooth wave. Every now and then when it loads up, I wonder if it would actually be a usable sound, and now you have today’s experiment. Here are my rules:

  • I can use as many instances of Omnisphere as I want, but only using the default sawtooth.
  • I can use as many effects as I want.
  • I can only use one patch from Stylus RMX for drums – no multi-drum loop shenanigans.
  1. Jigsawz Ray Toler 2:09
  2. Jigsawz (Broken Blade Mix) Ray Toler 1:50

Generally, synths start with a relatively simple waveform or two, then do things to those waves to make the sound more complex. This includes filtering some frequencies, changing the width of pulses, adding tremolo or vibrato, effects, and so on. In this experiment, I’ll be doing all of that outside the synth itself.

Sawtooths make great 80s-style synth bass sounds, so I started there. Ok, now I know what kind of drums I want. Let’s add those. Ok… lead sound now… good… needs some variety, so let’s add some off-beat stuff… fine… nice little groove going, but it needs to go some where.

I love songs that use octaves as a hook. One of the most obvious ones to me is My Sharona by The Knack, but there are lots of examples in pop. I also love the step-down back to the root note, so let’s throw that in as well while we’re at it.

How about a Prince-style “horns” thingy. Fine. Ok, now it’s time to start manipulating these sounds a bit more with effects.

For the bass, I just used some light distortion to give it some grit. The lead sound is a bit more involved, first going through a delay and pan to give it dimension, and then through two guitar pedals for EQ and distortion. I also doubled the raw sound of the lead and auto-panned it at a lower volume to bring out some of the raw bite of the sound and add some motion.

For the off-beat bit, I got a little more radical, using a multi-effects box to soften the sound, then running it through a filter running a synchronized patter and a delay at the end for good measure.

The Prince horns bit first goes through a chorus, which doubles and detunes the wave, then we add some echo and light panning automation to give it some life.

For the drums, I used parallel compression – one of the most useful techniques I’ve learned in recent years. The way it works is that you have your normal drum mix which should be nice and dynamic, but then you send that entire mix to another channel where it gets all of the dynamics squashed out. This would be boring on its own, but you bring that compressed mix up in volume just enough to fill out the drums. You still get the nice transients and dynamics, but more of everything gets heard and it’s a bit more predictable for the overall mix volume.

And that’s pretty much it. As usual, I ran the whole thing through Ozone to do final mix EQ and get the volume level where it needed to be. Done.

I was working pretty quickly and not worrying too much about the final product. It was a little surprising to me how little I was able to change the wave in my initial effects trials, but I realized after I’d already posted the final that I completely forgot to do any radical EQ filtering. That might be a new experiment for another day.

I’ve included the raw version of the track without any effects so you can hear the difference. This was a fun little thing, and it’s very educational to work these types of projects to hone techniques for mixing. It’s also not a bad groove, and I’m a bit impressed that there are only four tracks for the sawtooths, so I’m happy with it for what it is.

Colophon

  • All instruments: Omnisphere (default sawtooth patch)
  • Drums: Stylus RMX
  • Effects:
    • Eventide H3000 Factory
    • MOTU Micro G, RXT, AutoPan, and Chorus
    • iZotope Trash 2
    • CableGuys Filter Shaper 3
    • Valhalla Delay
    • Soundtoys PanMan
    • FabFilter Timeless 2, Pro-C 2
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

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