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Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synth

Postby Johannes » 26 May 2009, 11:41

Hi,

after browsing a lot trough all kinds of web pages regarding synthesizer programming, I still felt the need fo getting more into ACTIVELY getting all out of the Stage's Synth section (the analogue part, so far) and I bought a copy of the Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook (http://www.synthesizer-cookbook.com) in order to start from scratch to build some programs for the Stage starting by replicating his suggestions. The major aim of this exercise are to
  • get good patches that somehow replicate natural instruments
  • Get a deep understanding of the Analogue Section of the Stage
  • See how far you can get with the Stage's "limited" Synth capacity
  • Hopefully get together some kind of reference/database of what you can do with the NS Synth

While the Synthesizer Cookbook is covering only analogue substractive synthesis, I would also be interested in FM and the Wavetable engine but postpone that for the moment.
So far, I have been mainly experimenting and somehow created some sounds I really liked by tweaking-as-you go, I hope to get a better understanding of substractive Synthesis and as a by-product some useful sounds out of the Stage.

The limits of the Synth are mainly that it only has two Envelope Generators with moreover only two parameters and the limitation to only one oscillator (you get two only with sawtooth). The latter can be overcome by using the two synth sections simultaneously which is why I will post the results as complete programs (.pgm files).

If you are interested or have any comments or your own experiences, feel free to post them here.

Johannes
Last edited by Johannes on 03 Jun 2014, 09:59, edited 3 times in total.
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Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synth


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Re: Analogue Synth Programs (using Welsh's Synthesizer Cookb

Postby Mindsynth » 28 Jun 2009, 22:39

I am very much interested in these synths programs, as I am using my Stage also for a techno live-act.
I'm working on some synth sounds myself, and having these could be of lots of help.

do you have them available for download?

thanks in advance
Last edited by Mindsynth on 03 Jun 2014, 09:59, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs (using Welsh's Synthesizer Cookb

Postby Johannes » 02 Jul 2009, 17:20

Hi there,

so it took me quite some time to figure some technical stuff out about the Analog synth in the Nord Stage. But after doing some calibrations, FFT analysis etc. I finally have the tools layed out to start building the patches.
Note that while I've played shortly at friends' places e.g. a Moog and others, I am not an expert of Analog Synths. So reading Welshs Cookbook (http://cgi.ebay.com/WELSHS-SYNTHESIZER- ... 918wt_1037) was really a great inspiration and helped me a lot. Still, the following might be a bit too technical for complete Newbies, while for sure completely obvious for Analog Freaks (who hardly would by a Nord Stage for its Synth I guess...). UPDATE: Here you can now find a PDF version: http://synthesizer-cookbook.com/SynCookbook.pdf
For those completely new to this stuff, http://www.soundonsound.com/search?url=%2Fsearch&Keyword=%22synth+secrets%22&Words=All&Summary=Yes is a good and huge reference if you don't want to invest in a book.
It is basically my experience in the quest to get EVERYTHING out of the NS Synth. For the farer future, I am planing on buying a Moog LP or Voyager, but given I just spend a fortune on the red beauty, this has to wait, so for the moment I stick to learning and getting all I can out of the Nord (starting to understand the values of all the parameters etc.).
In any case, any ideas, own experiences, critics are highly welcomed, in particular since IMHO the manual is not too informative on the Synths capabilities.


The basic things you need for creating some nice Patches with an Analog Style synthesizer are two oscillators, Filter, Envelopes, LFOs and some additional small tools. Given that the Nord Stage Synth engine is kind of stripped down compared e.g. to the Nord Lead, I had to figure out how to overcome some shortcomings. Moreover, the Documentation in the Manual is not perfect as in particular the settings for the Timbre control are not well documented so I had to measure them myself.
In the following I report my findings which I am currently using to build some patches of natural instruments as well as recreating some classical Analog synths.

1) Oscillators:
Typically, two oscillators will suffice for most basic jobs.
(a) non-synched
The basic ones used are the Sawtooth(S), Pulsewidth(P), and triangle(T) forms along with noise(n) and SINE(C/ turning Timbre to zero).
However, only the Sawtooth is available also with two oscillators (Sd). In this case, the relative pitch of the second osc can be adjusted with the timbre know where 0=-1Octave, 5.0=equal, 10.0=+1Octave, i.e., one semitone equals 0.42 on the scale. On top, the oscs can be detuned up to 10cents using the UNISON knob. Shortcoming: the level of both oscs is fixed and equal.
The T & P oscillators don't allow two different oscillators at a time. One method of overcoming this limitation is using both Synth sections of Panel A & B at the same time which allows at least to detune the oscillators by +/- 1 octave (e.g. for a Marimba sound). You have a second option if you need the oscs only slightly out of tune using the UNISON knob in its first half of the range which allows adding a second oscillator up to 10cents out of tune.
Remarks
  • The Pulsewidth Waveform is important and the pulsewidth can be adjusted by the timbre knob where 0.0=50% and 10.0=1%, i.e. increasing the value by 1.0 decreases the width by 5% (e.g.,20% width would be timbre=8.0).
  • A Sine wave is not directly integrated. You can use the "C/" waveform but i found that it has a very strong second harmonics and weak 3th and 4th, no idea why. Another option is the FM program 1 with TIMBRE set to zero which looks/sounds more like a true sine wave, or lastly:
    Use the NOISE generator, Resonance at 10.0, 24db Filters and adjust the frequency to the desired tone (Set the Cutoff to 330 Hz (i.e., the cutoff frequency shown in the display is the one applied if one plays the note E1) if you want to play the notes as if it where a Piano (A1=~A1). While not being a perfect sine, this allows on top using the keyboard track buttons to create a oscillator which is independent of the key you play (which on a traditional synth you can select using the KeyTrack switch and is useful for some sounds).]
The last point is also a way of having e.g. a Square wave on one Synth and mixing it with a Sine with continuosly varying relative pitch as is needed for a variety of sounds! So how to calculate the Cutoff frequency if you want the Sine, say, a fifth that is 7 semitones (dx=7) above the other, fundamental pitch? Just calculate it as 330*(2^(dx/12)) Hz, e.g., for a fifth over the fundamental pitch (=7 semitones), just set Cutoff=494Hz.


(b)synched
The Stage features a second oscillator for creating hard-synched sounds which can be created on any analogue >=2 Osc oscillator by swithinc Sync ON, so in this case we are fine with the stage. The timbre know in this case controls the pitch of the synchronized osc (thus changing only the color of the tone, as the main pitch is controlled by the Master osc). Using the timbre knob you can set the pitch of the slave osc (which must be higher than the Master's pitch). At 0.0, the pitches are equal, at 3.8 the slave's pitch is one octave higher, at 7.6 it is two octaves higher, i.e., one semitone equals approximately 0.3 on the scale.

Filters
Obviously there are a wide range of filters used in analog synths, still, the LP is by far the most common so the NS does a good job in this section.

Envelope Generators
You get basic stuff with the Nord Stage, but it suffices for most what I am currently looking at: an AEG and FEG with two adjustable parameters each. Obviously, the classical 4 Parameter ADSR envelope would be nice to have but I can mostly live with it.
The only "real" shortcoming for me is if you want an LFO you cannot use the FEG at the same time.

LFOs
At the beginning I did not quite use it a lot but after working a lot with the Synth section, I now consider it really well done by CLAVIA to squeeze it in the Stage.
IMHO you have several LFO options on the Nord Stage
(a) Vibrato/Pitch-LFO: The vibrato Switch allows to set some basic vibrato which can be set to 4-8Hz in ths SYSTEM menu and is triggered differently. If you want it always, assign it to the Wheel and always have it up.
(b) Tremolo/Amplitude-LFO: Using the Tremolo effect gives you this effect when set to the Synth section
(c) But the most important LFO (and the one most likely to resemble a "real" one) is the repeat mode of the Filter Envelope Generator. By adjusting the Attack and Decay Value you can create basically anything between a triangle and Sawtooth waveform. If you want to set it to a particular frequency, knowing that frequency is just the inverse of time, compute f=1/(t_Attack+t_Decay). So if you need an LFO of triangle waveform with 10Hz, you need a cycle length of 1/10=0.1Seconds implying 50ms for both Attack and Decay.
This LFO can than be either used to control the Cutoff frequency (WahWah, for this, you could also use one of the WahWah FXs) or the Timbre Parameter of the oscillator. In particular, when applied using a Pulsewidth Oscillator, you have PulseWidthModulation(PWM)!

The rest
What do classical Analog Synths have on top of these basic tools? You might find the UNISON feature which enriches the sounds by adding slightly detuned oscs, which the NS has integrated, a Sample&Hold Waveform which creates computer-type sounds (NS doesn't have one), Glide/Portamento (NS does), Legato/Mono/Poly modes (as well), Ring Modulation(see the FX section) and switching Keyboard tracking on/off (can be somehow replicated using the Noise generator with fullResonance).

Bottom line, the NS is for sure not the most tweakable VA on the market and has certain limitations (Most importantly, not all osc combinations/tunings are possible, only LP filter and only two parameters per Envelope Generator). However, after working hard on replicating several sounds I heard from classical Moog etc. Synths I must say that you can do still quite lot. On thing however is to interpret the values of some of the knobs since they are not always meaningful and have to be calculated in order to get the desired result (e.g. detuning a second sawtooth e.g., 7 semitones).

In the following posts I will upload some of the results I obtained using above descriptions in recreating some "classical" sounds.


UPDATE: An updated version of this post can be downloaded in the downloads section: Nord Stage – How to use the Virtual Analog Synth
Last edited by Johannes on 12 Jun 2015, 11:16, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby Gustavo » 02 Jul 2009, 21:06

Thanks for that, it is definitely usefull to know. Althogh I have until know used mainly my hearing in order to get a desired sound, rather than theory to replicate or make one.

Also of note are the envelopes, they are actually quite cleverly made, specially for the LFO like Env. Wile you can only control attack and rel/decay, you are able to put a sustain, which lasts for as much as you keep the key pressed (I find it that only in this case the Env really does release), you are also able to set it to simply attack and decay. This is due to the fact that both the AEG and FEG have something called ENV MODE, which is selected by pressing shift and moving the decay knob, and looking which one is lighted up. Each have a third mode, on the FEG, you have the LFO like feature while in the AEG you got an envelope shaped differently, kind of a middle ground between sustain and simply decaying, almost like a piano-like envelope.

Gus
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby nateohara » 04 Oct 2009, 20:15

Johannes, thanks for posting your thoughts and learned abilities surrounding the synth portion of the NS.

I have a NS88 Rev B (owned just under a year) and as I become more fluent with the machine and diving more into the synth section, I am uncertain its as flexible as I hoped. I knew from day 1 that it was more than I knew, but was sure that it was just a learning curve. Prior the NS, I have only played the motif's, roland rx8, and an old korg trinity and a wee bit of the triton. While I played many over the past 15 years, this is the first I owned because I never found a board I REALLY liked until the NS.

In the past month I have began research and training into creating synth patches but am still just trying to grasp the signal flow and use of controllers/oscilators etc. I am reading the articles on Sound on Sound, but wondered if you (Johannes) would be willing to snapshot from your NS what you've listed out in your samples above? I have attempted to recreate and even from my amateur knowledge don't think I'm even close.

Back to sound on sound....

Nate
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby monsterjazzlicks » 02 Jun 2012, 16:50

Hi Johannes,

Did you upload any demonstrations of your synth programming yet as i would be very interested to hear the results ??

Best,

Paul
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby Johannes » 02 Jun 2012, 18:17

Hi,
good point. So fqr there qre no sound or video demos, but I agree it could be helpful! From what I found out from talking to other keyboard players, there could be a huge benefit from having an easy to understand tutorial or video or sound to explain all the EGs, VCOs etc. and how to get a sound that is desired. Possibly there will be a project to create a platform for such an information! But ill take some time!
Ciao! johannes
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby monsterjazzlicks » 04 Jun 2012, 00:56

Hi Johannes,

i meant could you please post some mp3 audio clips of the programing you have been doing (not tutorial videos etc). i am very interested to hear your created sounds.

Best,

Paul
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby DJKeys » 04 Jun 2012, 17:31

Awesome!! Thanks Johannes-
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Re: Analogue Synth Programs & All secrets behind the NS Synt

Postby Eisenhans » 11 Jun 2015, 19:49

Hi Johannes!

I know you wrote this six years ago, but maybe you can answer a few noob questions about a formula you used.

You wrote something to the effect that, if you want a harmonica sound (1), you must calculate the cut-off frequency needed to detune the sine wave dx=8.05 (2)(3) above the square wave. Calculate it as 330*Exp(0.06*dx)Hz. (4)(5) For a fifth over the fundamental pitch (7 semitones), just set the cut-off frequency to 502Hz (6).

(1) Is this information from a recipe in Welsh’s Synthesizer Cookbook?
(2) What does “dx” refer to?
(3) Does 8.05 mean 8 semitones and 5 cents?
(4) Did you use 330 because you set the cut-off frequency to 330Hz earlier?
(5) What is “Exp”?
(6) How did you arrive at 502Hz?

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