Sculpture Tutorial:  Creating Basic Sounds

This section covers the creation of basic types of sounds, such as organs, basses, guitars, and so on. It contains a collection of programming guidelines, tips, tricks, and information to assist you in creating particular types of sounds in Sculpture. For a more detailed look at programming particular types of sounds, see Advanced Sculpture Tutorial:  Programming Electric Basses and Advanced Sculpture Tutorial:  Programming Synthesized Sounds.

The idea here is to provide you with a starting point for your own experiments and to introduce you to different approaches for tone creation with Sculpture.

As you become more familiar with Sculpture and component modeling, you’ll find that there are many ways to achieve an end result. In other words, each component of the sound can be modeled using different techniques and parameters.

This flexible approach allows you to create a brass sound, for example, in several ways—using the Waveshaper as a major tonal element in one sound or the filter and Body EQ to emulate the same sonic component in another sound.

It is helpful to have a good understanding of the physical properties of the instrument you are trying to emulate. Although you can do some research on the Internet to obtain this type of specialized knowledge, for most sound creation tasks with Sculpture you can follow the general approach set forth below.

How is the sound of the instrument created?
  • Is it a string that is vibrating and resonating in a box (such as a guitar or violin)?

  • Is it a column of air that is vibrating in a tube (a flute or trumpet)?

  • Is it a solid object that is struck, causing vibration (a woodblock)?

  • Is it a hollow object that is struck, causing vibration or resonance (a drum or bell)?

What is the instrument made of?

When you answer this question, don’t just consider the body of the instrument. Take into account the string material—nylon or steel on a guitar, or perhaps the thickness and material of the reed in a clarinet or oboe, or a mute in a trumpet.

Is the instrument polyphonic or monophonic?

This is a significant factor, which ties in to the next question about how the instrument is played. Some differences between monophonic and polyphonic instruments are obvious, such as the inability to play chords on a flute. A more subtle difference involves the way a modeled string will interact with any currently active string. This, of course, can’t happen in a flute, which is strictly a one-note instrument.

How is the instrument played?

Is it bowed, blown, struck, or plucked?

Are there other elements that form part of the instrument sound?
  • Changes in lip pressure and mouth position with brass and wind instruments.

  • Breath or mechanical noises.

  • Momentary pitch changes—for example, when fingers are pressed into a fretboard, or when a string is plucked.

  • Momentary tonal or level changes—such as when brass players are running out of breath, or fluttering the valves.

After you mentally, or physically, construct a list of properties, try to emulate eachcomponent that contributes to the sound’s character. This is what component modeling is all about.

Before you begin, it should be stressed that the following examples are just that—examples. There are many ways to model each component of the sound.

  • Experiment with the suggested parameters to create your own versions of sounds, and feel free to use your own parameter values if the supplied values don’t quite match your ideal bass sound.

  • Subtle changes—particularly when it comes to Keyscale parameters—result in more controlled sounds. Take your time, and try everything as you follow these examples.

  • Make use of other user settings, and the factory settings—either as a starting point for your own sounds or as an object of study. Looking at existing settings provides an insight into how the sound was created. Enable and disable different parameters to see what each does.

Have fun and take risks—you can’t break anything!

Creating Bass Sounds with Sculpture

Creating bass sounds with Sculpture is fairly straightforward.

To create a bass sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Open the Transpose pop-up menu at the top of the interface, choose the +1 Oct. parameter, and play a few notes around C2. You’ll note that the general color of an acoustic bass is already there.

  3. You can certainly drag the ball on the Material Pad toward the Nylon corner, but first open Object 1’s Type pop-up menu and choose Pick.

  4. Play your keyboard, and adjust the ball position while doing so.

  5. Now take a look at the Strength, Variation, Timbre, and VeloSens parameters of Object 1, and adjust each in turn, to taste.

  6. You may also wish to adjust the amplitude envelope’s Release parameter (the vertical R slider in the section to the right of the circular Material Pad).

  7. To make your bass more woody, adjust Object 1’s pickup position toward the right (drag the #1 slider in the Pickup section, which is at the left side of the interface). At extreme positions (the left or right end), you’ll find that the bottom end of your bass is lost. Try it out!

  8. Now adjust the position of Pickup A and Pickup B by dragging the horizontal sliders. As you’ll hear, you can quickly recreate a picked acoustic or electric bass sound.

  9. To instantly make the sound a hybrid (or full-on) synthesizer bass, click the Waveshaper button (directly above the circular Material Pad), open the Type pop-up menu above it, and choose one of the types.

  10. Use the Save Setting As command from the Settings menu to save your settings with new names as you go. You’ll probably come up with several new sounds in just a few minutes. Each of these can be used as is, or as templates for future bass sounds you will create.

Creating Bell Sounds with Sculpture

At a basic level, bell-like sounds are quite easy to produce with Sculpture. The creation of truly interesting bells involves a little more effort, but the harmonic richness and detuning during the decay/release phase makes all the difference.

To create a bell sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Open Object 1’s Type pop-up menu and choose Strike.

  3. Drag the Material Pad ball to the very bottom of the pad, and place it halfway between Steel and Glass. Play a few notes, and notice that the sound is already more bell-like.

  4. Now drag the Media Loss slider nearly all the way down. Again play a few notes, and you’ll hear that the release phase of the sound is considerably longer.

  5. Drag the Resolution slider all the way to the right.

  6. Drag the Pickup A slider to about halfway (0.48).

  7. Drag Object 1’s pickup position to a value of 0.10. You should be starting to get pretty bells now … play a few notes.

  8. Now click the Delay button in the upper-right section to activate the Delay unit.

  9. Click the Sync button at the bottom of the Delay section, and drag the Delay Time slider to a value of 20 ms.

  10. Adjust the Wet Level knob to 66%.

  11. Click the Body EQ button in the lower right to activate it. Ensure that Lo Mid Hi is selected in the Model pop-up menu.

  12. Adjust the Low knob to 0.55, the Mid knob to 0.32, and the Hi knob to 0.20.

  13. At this point, you will have a working bell sound, but you’ll probably find that there is a tuning issue below C3, in particular. This programming approach was taken because the harmonics of the sound are most noticeable after all other parameters have been set. The solution to the tuning issue primarily lies in the Inner Loss and Stiffness Keyscale parameters. To adjust, first select the Keyscale button, then drag the green horizontal line within the Material Pad up or down for low notes, or drag the blue horizontal line up or down for high notes.

  14. Use the Save Setting As command from the Settings menu to save your settings with a new name, and use it as the basis for new bell sounds, or your next Christmas album.

Creating Brass Sounds with Sculpture

Brass instruments are notoriously difficult to recreate with electronic instruments. Samplers do a reasonable job in the right hands, and with the right sample library, but they lack the organic warmth of a real brass player. This is a simple and generic brass setting that can be played as a solo instrument or as a brass section.

To create a generic brass sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Set Object 1’s type to Blow.

  3. Activate Object 2, and set its type to Noise.

  4. Adjust the Strength of Object 1 to around 0.90.

  5. Set Object 1 VeloSens to around 0.30.

  6. Drag the Material Pad ball to a position that is diagonally between the “I” of Inner Loss, and the “l” of the word Steel, while playing middle C. The sound should be quite brassy.

  7. Now play the E above middle C and you’ll hear a weird “mandolin meets a telephone ring” kind of sound.

  8. Drag the Resolution slider to the left or right while playing middle C and a few notes down an octave or so. You’ll discover that a range of sounds that cover everything from sitars to flutes is possible, just through manipulation of this parameter.

  9. Now click the Keyscale button and—while playing up and down the keyboard—independently adjust the Resolution slider, plus the Resolution Low and High Keyscale sliders until the range of the keyboard you wish to play (an octave or so around middle C, for example) doesn’t suffer from those mandolin/phone artifacts. Make sure your sound retains the “brassy” quality.

  10. Move Pickup A’s position to around 77%.

  11. Turn on the Waveshaper and select Scream as your preferred type. Adjust the Input Scale and Variation parameters to taste.

  12. Turn on the Filter. Select HiPass mode, and adjust the Cutoff, Resonance, and other filter parameters to taste. (As a suggestion, Cutoff at 0.30 and Resonance at 0.41).

  13. Save setting as with a new name.

There are countless directions this sound could be taken in—as a muted trumpet, French horns, and even sitars or flutes.

To make further changes to your brass sound
  • Use the Waveshaper to radically alter your sound.

  • Use the Delay to emulate a space for your instrument.

  • Use the Body EQ to cut the lows and boost the Mids and His.

  • Drag the Material Pad ball toward the Nylon corner to see how this affects the nature of the sound.

  • Choose Blow as Object 2’s type, and then experiment with the Object 1 and 2 positions. This can also result in different brass sounds.

Creating Flute-Like Sounds with Sculpture

Use this approach as the basis for instruments in the wind family, including flutes, clarinets, shakuhachis, pan pipes, and so on.

To create flute-like sounds
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Keyboard Mode should be set to “mono,” as flutes and other wind instruments are monophonic. After you’ve created the setting, feel free to experiment with this parameter while playing, and make your choice.

  3. Set Object 1’s type to Blow.

  4. Set Object 2’s type to Noise.

  5. Set the Gate of both objects to Always.

  6. Adjust Object 2’s Strength to a value of around 0.25.

  7. Adjust Object 1’s Velosens parameter to a value around 0.33.

  8. Move the Material Pad ball to a position between the end of the Inner Loss text and below the Nylon text.

  9. Play the keyboard and you should hear a flute-like sound, but with a long release—which obviously isn’t ideal. Drag the Amplitude Envelope Release slider down to around 0.99 ms.

  10. Pickup A should be set to a value of 1.00 (far right).

  11. Set Object 1’s pickup position to around 0.27.

  12. Set Object 2’s pickup position to around 0.57.

  13. Now activate the Waveshaper and select the “Tube-like distortion” type.

  14. Play a few notes, and adjust the Waveshaper Input Scale and Variation parameters to taste (try Input Scale = 0.16 and Variation 0.55, for example).

  15. As you play sustained notes, you may notice a distinct lack of interesting timbral shifts (typical of real flute sounds—due to changes in the player’s breath, lip position, and so on) as the note is held.

  16. A number of approaches can be taken to add interest to the sustained sound. These include using the vibrato modulator (assigned to aftertouch, perhaps), recording or drawing in an envelope, and controlling the Waveshaper Input Scale via Velocity and/or String Media Loss. You could even use the Loop Alternate Sustain Mode. Feel free to experiment!

  17. Save setting as with a new name.

Creating Guitar Sounds with Sculpture

Guitar, lute, mandolin, and other plucked-type instruments, including harps, can be created from this basic setting.

To create a guitar sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Set the Voices parameter to a value of 6—there are only 6 strings on a guitar. Obviously, pick 7 for a banjo, or as many as possible for a harp.

  3. Set Object 1’s type to Impulse, if not already chosen.

  4. Activate Object 2 and set its type to Pick.

  5. Now move Pickup A’s position to the extreme right.

  6. Move Object 2’s Pickup position to a value of 0.14.

  7. Activate the Body EQ, and select one of the Guitar models.

  8. Adjust the various Body EQ parameters. These have a major impact on the overall brightness and tone of your guitar sound. (Try Model Guitar 2, Intensity 0.46, Shift 0.38, and Stretch 0.20, for example.)

  9. Set Fine Structure to a value of around 0.30 to 0.35—let your ears be the judge.

  10. Click-hold the Spread Pickup semicircle, and drag vertically to increase the perception of stereo width (a value around the 10 o’clock/2 o’clock mark is nice).

  11. Activate the Filter, and select Lo Pass mode.

  12. Adjust the Cutoff and Resonance parameters to taste (try both at 0.81).

  13. Adjust the Tension Mod slider upward, and play the keyboard to see how the momentary detuning effect caused by this parameter affects the sound. Set it to an appropriate amount.

  14. Set the Level Limiter mode to “both.”

  15. Save setting as with a new name.

You may notice that a different approach was taken in the creation of this setting. The reason for this is the major impact that the Body EQ model has on the sound. In some cases, like this one, it may be better to work slightly out of sequence, rather than to strictly follow the signal flow.

To create other, guitar-like sounds
  • Adjust the Object Strength, Variation, and Timbre parameters.

  • Reposition the Material Pad ball to create a completely different tone to your guitar.

  • Use Delay or Vibrato to emulate the double-strike picking of mandolins.

Creating Organ Sounds with Sculpture

Organ sounds are among the easiest and quickest sounds to emulate in Sculpture, because they have no release phase. This simplifies things in that you don’t need to set Keyscaling parameters for the basic tone. You may, however, do so at a later stage—for modulation routing or specific sound design purposes.

To create an organ sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file. (Object 1’s type should be set to Impulse. If it isn’t, change it now.)

  2. Set the Voices parameter to a value of 8, or higher if you wish.

  3. Drag the Material Pad ball to the top-left corner.

  4. Activate Object 2 and set the type to Bow.

  5. Set the Object 2 Gate mode to Always.

  6. Drag the R(elease) slider of the amplitude envelope all the way down.

  7. Play a C chord, and you’ll hear a flute-like sound.

  8. Drag Pickup A to the far right.

  9. Play a C chord, and you’ll hear a cheesy organ sound. As you can see, Pickup A’s position has a significant effect on the overall sonic character of the sound.

  10. Now drag the Object 2 pickup while holding down the C chord. When you find a position that meets your “that sounds like an organ” criteria, release the object pickup.

  11. Now very slightly adjust Object 2’s Timbre parameter upward.

  12. Carefully adjust Object 2’s Variation parameter downward and upward until you find a tone you like.

  13. You may at this point want to move the Object 2 pickup parameter to another position. Hold down a chord while doing so.

  14. You can make further tweaks to the Variation and Timbre parameters of Object 2.

  15. To introduce a little key click, change Object 1’s type to Strike, and adjust the Strength and Timbre parameters.

  16. To add a little of that detuned organ vibe, set the Warmth parameter between 0.150 and 0.200.

  17. At this point, you should have a basic organ tone. Save setting as with a new name. You can use this as the basis for your next organ setting.

Tip: Play notes or chords while adjusting parameters, so you can hear what each parameter is doing to the sound.

You probably notice some intermodulations that are introduced when you’re playing chords. Apart from the pitch differences between notes in the chord, this is a result of the interactions between each voice being produced by Sculpture. These slight variations between each voice—or string—and their harmonic interactions with each other are not dissimilar to the harmonic interactions of a violin section in an orchestra—even when playing identical lines.

Creating Percussion Sounds with Sculpture

Percussive sounds, such as drums, tend to share a similar type of envelope. They contain a strike element, where most of the sonic character is exhibited, followed by a short decay phase. The release phase will vary depending on the instrument itself—a snare drum as opposed to a woodblock, for example—and depending on the ambient space it is placed in—a cavern, a bathroom, and so on.

To create a percussion sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Set Object 1’s type to Strike.

  3. Activate Object 2, and set its type to Disturb 2-sided.

  4. Set Object 2’s Gate mode to Always.

  5. Object 1’s Strength should be about 0.84.

  6. Object 2’s Strength should be about 0.34.

  7. Drag the Media Loss slider up and down while playing to hear its effect. Find a suitable setting.

  8. Similarly, you can change the Material Pad ball position—although its effect on the overall tone of the sound is heavily reliant on the Media Loss value.

  9. Activate the Body EQ and Filter, and adjust the settings to your heart’s desire.

  10. Save setting as with a new name.

This sound can be used as the starting point for a vast range of percussive sounds—including drums, blocks, industrial percussion, and even rhythmic sequenced synth sounds. New and quite different sounds can be quickly created by adjusting the ball position in the Material Pad, and by altering the Media Loss slider position.

Creating Solo String Sounds with Sculpture

Solo stringed instruments that are played with a bow, such as violins and cellos, can be created in much the same way. This sound can also be played polyphonically.

To create a solo string sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Set Transpose to −1 Oct.

  3. Set Object 1’s type to Bow.

  4. Play the lower half of your MIDI keyboard, and you’ll hear a viola/cello-like sound, which could obviously be improved.

  5. Set the Object 1 Velosens slider to match your playing style and that of the music, as you’re playing the keyboard. Adjust later, if desired.

  6. Drag the Tension Mod slider slightly upward, so that the arrowhead covers the “D.” This emulates the momentary detuning effect of the bow stretching the string.

  7. Move Pickup A to a position around 0.90.

  8. Move Object 1’s pickup position to a value around 0.48.

  9. Activate Body EQ, and select the Violin 1 model.

  10. Set the Body EQ parameters as follows:  Intensity 0.73, Shift +1.00, and Stretch+1.00.

  11. Adjust the Fine Structure slider to taste.

  12. Click-hold the Spread Pickup semicircle, and drag downward until the light blue dots reach the 10:30 and 1:30 positions.

  13. Set the Level Limiter mode to “both.”

  14. Save setting as with a new name.

To further customize your solo string sound
  • Set up a modulation, such as a vibrato, that is introduced into the sound after a short period.

  • Follow the example above to create higher-pitched solo string instruments, but pay special attention to all Keyscale parameters. Careless settings can lead to an out-of-tune violin or viola.

  • Use the Body EQ to alter the sound. Take care with settings as they can have a large impact on the upper octaves in particular.

  • For a truly radical change (using the example settings above), change Object 1’s type to Pick, and you’ll have a round and rubbery synth bass sound in the lower octaves, and a passable harp across the rest of the keyboard.

Creating Classic Synthesizer Sounds with Sculpture

One of Sculpture’s great strengths is the ability to create endlessly evolving pad and atmospheric sounds. It can also easily do fat synth basses, powerful leads, and other types of typical synthesizer sounds.

Sculpture has an advantage over traditional synthesizers in that its core synthesis engine produces a wider variety of basic tones, and these tones have an organic quality and richness to them.

To create a basic synthesizer pad sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Set the Voices parameter to 16.

  3. Set Object 1’s type to Bow.

  4. Set Object 2’s type to “Bow wide.”

  5. Drag the Material Pad ball to a position at the extreme left of the Pad, exactly halfway between the top and bottom—on a line with the Material label.

  6. Play a C chord (middle C), and you’ll hear a pad sound.

  7. Move Pickup A to a position around 0.75, and the pad will become a little sweeter.

  8. Move Object 1’s position to a value of 0.84.

  9. Move Object 2’s position to a value of 0.34.

  10. As a final step, click the Points icon that has five dots in the Morph Pad section.

  11. Drag the Int slider in the Morph Pad Randomize section to a value of 25%, for example.

  12. Click the Morph Rnd button one time.

  13. Choose File > Save Setting As, and type in a new name, such as “vanilla_pad”, for example.

You’ll be using this basic pad sound for several other examples. Don’t be shy about doctoring the “vanilla pad”—anything goes, so make use of the Filter, the Delay, EQ, and Waveshaper to create new sounds.

To create an evolving synthesizer pad sound
  1. Load the #default (or your “vanilla pad”) setting file.

  2. Click the LFO 1 tab at the bottom left of the interface.

  3. Click the 1 button, and play the keyboard. Not much difference there, right?

  4. Now drag the “amt” slider left and right, while holding down a chord. Finally settle on a value of 0.15.

  5. Open the Target pop-up menu by the 1 button and choose Object 1 Strength. You’ll hear a fluttering sound.

  6. Now click the “sync” button, and adjust the Rate knob to a value of 1/8t.

  7. Activate the second LFO 1 object by clicking the 2 button, and then choose Object 1 Position from the Target pop-up menu by the 2 button.

  8. If you play the keyboard, there’s not much that’s different.

  9. Open the “via” pop-up menu by the 2 button and choose Velocity.

  10. Play the keyboard at different velocities, and you’ll hear some shifting of the Object 1 pickup position. And now, to make it interesting …

  11. Open the Waveform pop-up menu and choose Sample&Hold, then play the keyboard at different velocities. If you’ve got a sustain pedal, use it. Listen to the endlessly evolving sound.

  12. You might like to experiment with the project tempo and the LFO rate.

  13. You may want to alter the Spread Pickup value, and introduce LFO 2 or the other modulators.

To create a morphed sound
  1. Load the #default (or your vanilla) setting file.

  2. Click the R(ecord) button in the Morph Trigger section.

  3. Play a chord on the keyboard, and drag the Morph Pad ball in a circle.

  4. When you’re done, click the R(ecord) button again.

  5. Now change the Morph Mode to Env only, and you should see your Morph circle.

  6. Play the keyboard. There’s your morphed pad!

  7. Feel free to adjust the morph envelope parameters.

If you created and saved the “vanilla_pad” setting earlier in this tutorial section, you were asked to use the Morph Points, Intensity, and Rnd parameters as part of the setting. This was to ensure that there would be several morph points already available for your morphing pleasure.

You can, if you wish, retain the path of your morphed pad, and continue to click the Rnd button and adjust the Int(ensity) slider for an endless variety of sounds.