Hi. After a while, I’m back with a new tutorial. This post’s concept is really simple: A basic field recording, minimally edited with CDP, chopped up, and processed live inside Redux. But even such a modest setup can yield a lot of cool sounds, just by using fundamental processing techniques. We’ll see how.
Without further ado, here’s the starting sample:
To be honest, I’m not sure what this sample is and for some reason I didn’t bother with naming as I recorded it back in the day so yeah, just some unknown field recording.
As the first process, I’m using CDP envelope warp. In this setting it seems to work simply as a gate tool. This step isn’t very necessary (or even useful) but it’s just something I’ve thrown in there for good measure. The idea is simply adding some random gaps to the sample. You could skip this altogether and chop it right away. Shouldn’t make much difference. In any case, here’s the result after CDP:
Now it’s time to slice the sample. I’ve done it in a totally random fashion, as usual. What we need is just as much as variation we can have among different hits. An extra step here is to “destructively render slices” (via right clicking any slice in the “samples” window on the left side of Redux). This converts slice markers into actual samples so that you can further edit them, like fading in/out, reversing etc.
After we have the sliced samples, it’s time to get started on processing and mangling them. Now I’m not going into step by step descriptions this time as there are too many samples here and everything is live inside the Redux patch anyway so you can analyze them easily. For each sample there is a modulation set and a device chain assigned. So you can go one by one and see how things work. But I’ll write a general guideline on my technique below.
So this approach often involves a 3-step processing.
1st, manipulating the sound on the sample level:
- I often start with trying to find a cool sounding pitch first. Transposing a sample up or down is the simplest thing yet it’s always so effective. And I often end up re-tweaking this as the sound evolves.
- Reversing is also a simple and great trick. You can easily turn a percussive hit into a swelling ambience etc. I mean most sounds work better when reversed right?!
- Loops & crossfade loops. When you want sustaining sounds (and you often do) looping is great. Depending on your input material, you can get many different results by trying various looping techniques: Forward, Reverse, Pingpong and Crossfade loops. Only thing we’re missing here is the Ableton sampler’s ability to do crossfade loops live. Man, do I miss that feature!
- Another useful technique here is duplicating and detuning sounds (and panning them). This is great for adding wideness, thickening, movement and stereo. But I haven’t utilized this technique in this tutorial to keep the slice list tidy.
2nd, modulations. There’s not a distinct line between step 2 & 3 for Renoise/Redux but for me this step is generally about shaping the input sound with filters/filter modulations and volume/pitch modulations:
- Volume envelope is something I tend to overlook sometimes but it’s extremely important for pretty much all sounds.
- A filter is also very useful for shaping the sample, especially when you get it moving by an envelope/LFO. Also some of the unusual Redux filters work great (vowel, AM, etc).
- Panning is also something I usually forget until I’m mixing, but it’s an important parameter nevertheless.
- Last but not least, pitch modulation is often a strong option for mangling.
3rd, effects. Effects can do many different things, but the usual suspects:
- Reverb & delay for spatial effects and ambience.
- Chorus & flanger & phaser for widening/detuning/thickening. In Redux, it’s now possible to reset the internal LFO of these devices and I’m a fan of this feature for it works great on percussive sounds by being consistent on every hit.
- Distortion & saturation for grit and keeping the dynamics in check. I’m also really fond of Cab Sim. It’s great for changing the sound up and thickening it quickly.
- EQ for general frequency shaping. I realize I mostly do this task by using filters but EQ’s can work pretty well too.
- Convolver DSP deserves some extra words here as it’s just an endless sound design tool. I really abused it for this tutorial and if you go ahead and turn it off for some of these sounds you’ll notice it adds so much depth to even the simplest samples. You can either use it as a glorified reverb tool, or totally alter the sound by convolving it with something random. For this tutorial I often added ambient samples as impulse responses. Playing around with start offset, resample (pitch of the impulse) and length, you can almost always get useful sounds out of everything. Love this bad boy!
And there it is. The order for approaching a sound usually goes from top to bottom for me but going back & forth as the sound evolves is usually pretty important since for example transposing the sound after adding effects can change it radically or transposing your AM oscillator alters how the reverb sounds etc.
A final note: At this point there’s nothing stopping us from resampling these new sounds and applying the above techniques again from the beginning. This will yield much more complex sounds if you consider what we had in the beginning. So, doing this kind of sound design consistently over time yields a unique sample library which is pretty cool, in my opinion.
For the fun of it I’ve made a quick demo out of this week’s sounds and you can hear that below:
There’s minimal mixing going on there and if you’re curious to see that here’s the project file. Renoise 3 file with samples rendered, a few instances of Camel Crusher used though.
That’s all for this week, bye!
(Background image by Alywn Ladell)