Synth programming is simple. It is just a matter of tweaking a few parameters by controlling oscillators’ pitches, ADSR-envelopes and modulating the signal.
Understanding how these parameters work is one, but really understanding how these parameters are interacting with each other is a totally different story. Sometimes changing one parameter can completely change the whole sound. It happens to me now and then that while I am in the middle of creating a nice sounding patch, I forget to save the patch and by turning a couple of parameters to improve the sound, the patch is starting to sound worse. Instead of improving it, I am ruining my own patch!
So yes, rule number one: save often and add a version number at the end of the patchname.
Reason‘s Subtractor synth is a classic synth, based around filtering the oscillators. Although it might look simple, there’s a lot to explore by finding out how the parameters interact with each other. When I first bought Reason version 1.0, in 2000, and started programming Subtractor patches for my own use I was only scraping the surface. At that time I was not interested in VSTi’s, so Reason was my only sound source. So there was this urge for me to master the tool. Being able to focus on one instrument really helped me a lot. Yes, rule number two: numbers do count, start by mastering one tool, before considering buying another one. Buddhists have got it right: simplicity is the way for “moment-by-moment awareness and ‘seeing deeply into the nature of things'”.
The other important factor, rule number three, is patience and time. Time changes everything and by doing something for a long time, you will get better in doing it. When I was programming Substractor and Malström patches for the Reason 3 Factory Soundbank that was a relative easy task because I had explored those synths for a couple of years, day in, day out.
But what works for me, might not work for you. Please let me know how you feel about creating patches. Would extra tutorials from my side be helpful? Some screencasts maybe? Just leave your comments. Although creating patches for synths is part of my profession, I feel that tutorials might even be more helpful for anyone who would like to create their own patches.
Photo by ica~icarus
Note: If you are interested to find out what kind of sound design work I have been doing for powerFX, Propellerheads, FabFilter, ReasonBanks just check the Sound Design page.