How to Easily Create a Lo-Fi Synth Starting From a Simple Saw Wave
One of the major downsides of digital music production is that often, sounds can feel lifeless or too static. One of the main reasons many people love analog gear is because of its unpredictability. But there are tricks that we, as producers, can use to easily create in our DAWs sounds that are full of movement and character.
In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to turn a simple saw wave sound into an awesome Lo-Fi synthesizer using Ableton and a single instance of Yum Audio’s LoFi Flux Machine. If you don’t have Flux Machine installed on your computer, you can download it and use it for free for 14 days.
Building your lo-fi sound
First, we need to record a saw wave in our project in Ableton. We can quickly do that using the analog software synthesizer. Once the instrument is loaded, just make sure the default waveform is set to saw wave.
A saw wave is a great foundation to build our sound because it has a lot of harmonics, which gives us plenty of sonic material to work with. The default saw wave sounds very harsh, bright, and too digital but we're going to transform it into a sweet and tasty lo-fi sound.
To start doing that, go into your plugins and load a LoFi Flux Machine instance on the same track as the synthesizer. Even at its default state, Flux Machine already adds some nice pitch modulation to our basic saw wave.
The first step to make that sound more lo-fi is to remove some of the saw wave’s harshness by turning up the dark slider in Flux Machine. This will make the overall sound brighter and smoother.
Next, let's increase the intensity of the pitch warble effect by turning up the warble amount dial. This will add some subtlety and give the listener the impression the sound is evolving. You can also adjust the overall warble time which will change how long the warbling takes. We suggest also increasing the warble width to create a nice and long chorus effect.
You can also play around with the instability to add any amount of random variation to the sound. If you go for 100%, it'll make your audio a little unpredictable, which is a characteristic of lo-fi music and makes the overall sound feel more alive.
Then, you can also use the noise and saturation controls as well as Flux Machine’s tone section to give your sound some grit and nice distortions. All these elements will contribute to make your sound more unique.
Lastly, we suggest adding some flutter. This is a super-fast modulation in pitch that you can control by adjusting the flutter amount, and by selecting one of the flutter styles.
If you’ve followed along, applied all the steps, and play back your sound now, you should hear it sounding a lot more lo-fi! With only one instance of LoFi Flux Machine on a simple saw wave, we already created a sound full of character.
If you want, you can check the difference again using the intensity slider. Once you're satisfied with the results, you can save your settings as a preset and load it into any synthesizer you'd like to use in the future.
Creating a lo-fi synthesizer
To build a synthesizer with the sound you just created, you’ll need to commit the sound to audio, and then use a sampler to play it live with your keyboard.
To do that in Ableton, start by freezing the track—this will literally freeze the sound in place— and then flatten the track to commit it to audio. Once that's done, you’ll have an audio file of your wave. You can now take this audio file and load it into your sampler. You can choose whichever sampler you like in Ableton, simply select your audio file and drag it into your chosen sampler.
For the best results, make sure the attack, decay, sustain, and release parameters are set for a nice pad sound. You'll get that by giving your sound a long attack and a long release.
If you want to go even further, you can load another instance of Flux Machine and add some real-time modulation to the sound. Just have some fun messing around with the different presets while you're playing live. Once you're satisfied, make sure to save the sound so you can use it in any of your future projects.
You can use the technique from this tutorial on all kinds of sound sources! You're not limited to a saw wave. Be creative and use it to generate your own and custom lo-fi synths for your productions.
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