VS 26: Parallel Modulations

Recently, I’ve figured out a very simple and obvious way to do parallel modulations in Renoise. It works great for basses, it works great for synths and it’s very easy to apply effectively. I’m pretty sure others have been using this sort of workflow since forever but having years of “normal” DAW experience hardwired to my brain, it sometimes takes time to realize I can do some things much more simply and effectively inside the Renoise paradigm.

So what is parallel modulation? It’s the opposite of serial modulation. And what is serial modulation? It’s simply adding one effect after another. The difference of parallel is you apply the effects not consecutively but in a parallel signal path, meaning you duplicate or split the original signal, apply the second effect in this new lane and then sum two signals. The benefit of this is usually a more complex/thick modulation, and it’s especially apparent with modulated filters.

I generally used to do this process in the FX section using sends to split audio but it actually seems to work much better when you duplicate a sample and use modulations instead. Not sure if there’s any actual difference but it seems to be more compatible with the Renoise architechture somehow. There are also a few extra benefits you’ll see below.

Downloads: Renoise project file, Redux patch.

So, let’s take a closer look. For this sound, I’m using a single cycle waveform from AKWF waveform pack.

Pretty standart. Naturally, a filter modulation is in order. This one’s a bandstop/notch filter and I’m modulating it’s cutoff with an LFO. Not visible in the image but in the drive tab, there’s also some saturation dialed in.

Still nothing too exciting. So now time for the fun part, parallel modulation. To set it up, just duplicate the waveform, add a new modulation set and route the second sample to it. I’m using a lowpass filter here with an LFO modulating the cutoff. The LFO speed is different from the previous one and when combined with different filter types this causes the complex filtering sound you hear. There’s also an extra step: If you take a closer look at the waveform controls, you’ll see it’s detuned & panned slightly. This causes the flanging/phasing effect and the widens the stereo image, so it’s a great way to add some fattening to the sound.

Much better now. Here’s another layer, utilizing a highpass filter with a more complex LFO shape. It’s also detuned & panned to the opposite values to balance the previous layer & thicken the sound even more.

The sound is basically done at this point but for the sake of presentation, let’s add a couple more touches. First, a random chord created by the randomize notes tool. What I do here is create a phrase first, add a 3 note chord and then set up the tool like this. This generates a new random chord in the 3-5 octave range every time you randomize it. Not going for a progression here, so one cool sounding chord does the trick.

Now a simple chromatic melody and some lowpass filter automation on the whole sound. I actually added another layer of parallel filtering in this step using FX this time but it doesn’t really contribute much to the sound, so not worth an extra audio example and you can skip this step safely.

Finally a few extra effects to spice things up and we’re done.

Final thoughts: Now this one tutorial doesn’t really do justice but I really love this method as you can get rich sounding synth sounds so easily. Normally if you are doing it with effects you would use chorus to add thickness but detuning works much much better. And for more “static” synth sounds you can skip detuning and it works great too.

I’d REALLY love to have a delay control on the sample level since it’s a way to introduce phasing without detuning and that would open up a lot of possibilities. Another thing is free running LFO’s. For a synth sound like this that would be much more useful. So yeah, here’s to hoping!

The obvious next step here is resampling (meaning you record a one shot note and put it back to a new sampler). When you resample you can not only repeat this method to get even more complex modulations but also use 0Sxx to alternate the starting point of the sample (therefore use the good bits of the complex modulations you created). That is huge, definitely try it out! I’ll be making a bass sound soon to demonstrate how powerful it is.

Until then, I hope you enjoy this one. See you!


(Background image by Christmas Junkie.)