ES2 Tutorial:  Creating Sounds

This tutorial will guide you—from scratch—through the creation of commonly used sounds. The “Using Templates” tutorial will also guide you through the sound creation process, but it starts you off with a number of templates. See ES2 Tutorial:  Using Templates to Create Sounds.

To see the settings for these tutorials in the ES2 window, open the Settings menu and choose Tutorial Settings.

ES2 Sound Design from Scratch, Filter Settings, Digiwaves

The Analog Saw Init tutorial setting is designed to be used as a starting point when you are programming new sounds from “scratch.” When programming entirely new sounds, professional sound designers like to use this type of setting, which has an unfiltered sawtooth wave sound without envelopes, modulations, or any gimmicks. This type of setting is also useful when you are getting to know a new synthesizer. It allows you to access all parameters without having to consider any preset values.

  • Start with the filters, the heart of any subtractive synthesizer. Check out the four lowpass filter types—12 dB, 18 dB, 24 dB, and fat (Filter 2)—with different values for Cut (Cutoff Frequency) and Res (Resonance). Define Env 2 as the filter envelope. This modulation wiring is preset in the Router.

  • Set Filter Blend to its leftmost position, which will allow you to listen to Filter 1 in isolation. In many circumstances, you’ll probably prefer Filter 2, but Filter 1 has its advantages. In addition to the lowpass filter with 12 dB/octave slope (Lo), Filter 2 also offers a highpass, peak, bandpass (BP), and band rejection (BR) mode. Filter 1’s lowpass sounds “softer” when compared with Filter 2. It is best-suited to sounds where the filter effect is or should be less audible, such as with Strings and FM sounds. Distorted TB-303-style sounds are more easily achieved with Filter 1.

  • This setting is also ideal for checking out the oscillator waveforms. The analog waveforms can be set in the Editor view. To select the Digiwaves, set Osc 1 Wave to Digiwave.

Creating Fat ES2 Sounds with Oscillator Detuning and Unison Mode

“Fat” synthesizer sounds have always been popular and are likely to remain so, given their use in modern trance, techno, R & B, and other styles. The Analog Saw 3 Osc setting features three detuned oscillators, and sounds fat as it is. The following will introduce you to some additional tools to fatten the sound even more.

  • Check out the 3-oscillator basic sound with different filter and envelope settings.

  • Check out the chorus effect at different Intensities and speeds.

  • Engage Unison mode and select a higher setting for Analog. Because the sound is polyphonic, each note is doubled. The number of notes that can be played simultaneously will be reduced from 10 to 5. This makes the sound rich and broad. Combining Unison and higher values for Analog spreads the sound across the stereo or surround spectrum.

In many factory settings, the Unison mode is active. This demands a lot of processing power. If your computer isn’t fast enough, you can switch off the Unison mode and insert an Ensemble effect in a bus, for use with several plug-ins. This will save processing power. You can also save CPU resources by freezing or bouncing several software instrument tracks.

Creating Detuned Monophonic Sounds and Effects with the ES2

The Analog Saw Unison setting is a fat, heavily detuned, unfiltered basic sound. Three sawtooth oscillators are used, but they are further detuned. The combination of Unison and Analog (set to a high value) is essential—but this time monophonic mode is used to stack ten voices. Without further effects, the result is a huge lead sound, much like those used in countless dance and trance productions. With appropriate filter and envelope settings, electro sounds that are ideal for arpeggiation and sequencing can easily be set up.

  • Set the Cutoff Frequency of Filter 2 to 0. This activates the preset filter envelope. Feel free to check out different envelope settings.

  • Switch Osc 1 to sound one or two octaves lower.

  • Increase Drive or Distortion.

  • Set Env 2 to be velocity sensitive. This allows for velocity-sensitive filter modulations.

  • Insert a delay effect in the instrument channel strip of the ES2 (or a bus target).

Creating Clean Single-Oscillator Bass Sounds with the ES2

Not every sound needs to consist of several oscillators. There are numerous simple, effective, sounds that make use of a single oscillator. This is especially true of synthesizer bass sounds, which can be created quickly and easily with the Analog Bass Clean setting.

The basic sound is a rectangular wave, transposed down by one octave. The sound is filtered by Filter 2. What’s special about this sound is its combination of Legato and Glide (portamento). When you play staccato, no glide effect will occur. When you play legato, the pitch will smoothly glide from one note to another. All keys must be released before you strike a new key, in order to retrigger the envelopes.

  • Check out different filter and envelope settings.

  • Replace the rectangular wave with a sawtooth.

  • Vary the Glide settings.

It’s best to make your edits while a bass line is playing. Create or play a monophonic bass line, with most notes played staccato, but some legato. This can provide some interesting results with very long Glide values.

Creating Distorted Analog Basses with the ES2

In the Analog Bass Distorted setting, Filter 1 is engaged, with high settings for Drive and Distortion. This filter is better suited to the creation of distorted analog sounds than Filter 2.

  • Check out Filter 2 by setting Filter Blend to its rightmost position. Notice that Filter 1 works better with distorted sounds.

  • To control the filter modulation, move the green sliders of the first modulation channel in the router. This controls the modulation intensity.

Using FM Intensity and Frequency to Create ES2 Sounds

The FM Start setting is great for familiarizing yourself with linear frequency modulation (FM) synthesis. You’ll hear an unmodulated sine sound, generated by Oscillator 1. Oscillator 2 is switched on and set to produce a sine oscillation as well, but its level is set to 0:  Drag the small square in the uppermost corner of the Triangle to change the settings.

In the ES2, Oscillator 1 is always the carrier, and Oscillator 2 the modulator. In other words, Oscillator 2 modulates Oscillator 1.

  • Adjust the intensity of the frequency modulation by slowly moving the wave selector from Sine to FM. You will hear a typical FM spectrum, with the carrier and modulator set to the same frequency.

  • Alter the modulator frequency (Oscillator 2) by adjusting Fine Tune from 0 c to 50 c. You’ll hear a very slow frequency modulation, which can be compared to the effect of an LFO. The frequency modulation, however, takes place in the audio spectrum. It is adjusted in semitone steps by the frequency selector. Check out the entire range from −36 s to +36 s for Oscillator 2. You’ll hear a broad spectrum of FM sounds. Some settings will remind you of classic FM synthesizer sounds.

  • Select other waveforms for Oscillator 2. Sine is the classic, standard FM waveform, but other waveforms lead to interesting results as well, especially the Digiwaves.

  • You will achieve further interesting results by altering the carrier (Oscillator 1) frequency. Check out the entire range, from −36 s to +36 s here, as well. The odd intervals are especially fascinating. Note that the basic pitch changes when you do this.

Controlling ES2 FM Intensity with an Envelope and FM Scaling

In the FM Envelope setting, you can control the FM intensity with an envelope, generated by Envelope 2. The modulation target is the range that falls between Sine and FM in the Oscillator wave selector. The first Router channel is used for this modulation routing. You can control a wider range by using additional modulation routings, which have been pre-prepared for you. All you need to do is set their values. As these modulations work without velocity sensitivity, you can set them in the Editor view by moving both the lower and upper fader halves to their topmost positions.

  • Set the second modulation channel to 1.0. You’ll hear how the modulation now “wanders” through a broader sound range.

  • Set modulation channels 3 and 4 to a value of 1.0 as well, and listen to the increase in the sound range.

  • After these drastic augmentations to the modulation range, the sound will become uneven across the keyboard. In the lower and middle ranges it sounds nice, but in the upper key range the FM intensity appears to be too severe. You can compensate for this effect by modulating the Osc 1 Wave target by keyboard position (kybd) in modulation routings 5 and 6. This results in a keyboard scaling of the FM intensity.

  • As the sound range is so vast (due to the 4 modulations), two modulation routings are required to compensate for this. Set the lower slider halves to their lowest positions. Good keyboard scaling is essential for any FM sound.

Using FM Drive and Filter FM to Change the Color of ES2 Sounds

The FM Drive setting illustrates how dramatically the character of FM sounds can be altered when you apply Drive and Filter FM. The results are reminiscent of the feedback circuits of classic FM synthesizers.

  • Check out different Drive and Filter FM settings.

  • Lower the Cutoff Frequency of Filter 2 to 0. Envelope 2 modulates Filter 2. This modulation routing is already present in the setting.

Creating FM Sounds with Digiwaves in the ES2

In the FM Digiwave setting, a Digiwave is used as an FM modulator. This results in bell-like spectra from only two operators. With traditional FM synthesis, this type of timbre could normally be produced only with a larger number of sine oscillators.

To create a fatter, undulating, and atmospheric quality to the sound, the polyphonic Unison mode has been engaged. Filter and amplitude envelopes have been preset to shape the sound.

  • Check out the variety of Digiwaves as FM modulation sources.

  • Check out different Analog parameter values.

Creating FM Sounds with Wavetables in the ES2

You can program the most vivid FM sounds when the modulation source morphs between different Digiwaves. The morphing in the FM Digiwave setting is controlled by LFO 2. The tempo of LFO 2, and therefore the morph, depends on the host application tempo—here, 2 bars.

  • Set LFO 2 to different waveforms. Lag S/H (smooth random), in particular, should be fun.

  • Check out different FM intensities and oscillator frequencies.

  • Alter the modulation intensity of the first modulation channel (LFO2 modulates Osc2 Wave) and the LFO 2 rate.

Creating Distorted ES2 FM Sounds with Monophonic Unison

The FM Megafat setting is well-suited for distorted basses and guitar-like sounds. This sound gets rather “rude” in the upper key range. This cannot be compensated for with key scaling, but not every sound has to be “nice” across the entire keyboard range!

  • Check out extreme detunings by adjusting the Analog parameter.

  • Check out the Flanger with this sound.

  • Engage the filter envelope by lowering the Cutoff Frequency of Filter 2 down to 0.

  • Add some Glide to lead sounds.

  • As always when it comes to FM, you can dramatically alter the sound by varying the frequencies of the oscillators. Make sure you check out the odd intervals, as well.

Creating FM Sounds with Unusual Spectra in the ES2

If you’re unconcerned with the pitch of your sound, you can get the weirdest spectra out of odd frequency ratios—oscillator intervals.

The FM Out of Tune setting offers a bell-like sound, reminiscent of a ring modulator. It was achieved through a setting of 30 s 0 c, with the modulator set to a value of 0 s 0 c. Sounds like this were commonly used in the electronic music of the eighties and have had a resurgence in popularity in ambient and trance music styles.

You can further develop the sound by applying filtering, envelope modulations, and effects. There is, however, one small problem—the sound is out of tune.

  • Use Oscillator 3 as a reference for the tuning of the FM sound by dragging the square icon in the Triangle.

  • You’ll notice that the sound is 5 semitones too high (or 7 semitones too low, conversely).

  • Transpose both Oscillators 1 and 2 five semitones (500 ct) lower. Transposing them upward is not practical, as you’d need to select 37 s 0 c for Oscillator 1, which has a maximum value of 36 s 0 c.

  • It’s important to maintain the frequency ratio (interval) between Oscillators 1 and 2. This means that Oscillator 1 will sound at 25 s O c and Oscillator 2 at −5 s 0 c.

Setting Pulse Width Modulations with Oscillator 2 in the ES2

Pulse width modulation (PWM) is one of the most essential features of any analog synthesizer.

  • Choose the PWM Start setting, and move the Wave control slowly back and forth between the rectangular and the pulse wave symbols. Both are green. What you will hear is a manual pulse width modulation.

  • Choose the PWM Slow setting. Here, LFO 1 controls the pulse width modulation source, not your manual movements. The result should be quite similar.

  • Raise the LFO 1 rate from its preset value of 0.230 to 4.400. The result is a classic, fast PWM.

  • In this and the next step, the PWM will be set so that it sounds slower in the lower keyboard range and faster in the upper range. This is desirable for many sounds, such as synthetic strings. First, reduce the LFO 1 Rate to 3,800.

  • Change the modulation intensity of the second router channel (target = LFO1 Rate, Source = Kybd) to 0.46. This will alter the scaling of the PWM, making it sound faster in the treble range. You can also hear this type of effect in the PWM Scaled setting.

    Tip: Avoid Drive and Distortion with PWM sounds.

Creating ES2 String Sounds with Pulse Width Modulation

To make the sound fatter, add Oscillator 3, which can also be pulse width modulated. In fact, even the first oscillator can deliver PWM. In the PWM 2 Osc setting, both oscillators are detuned quite significantly. Develop your own personalized PWM string sound, using this setting as your base.

  • Adjust the Chorus intensity. You’ll probably choose higher values, which make the sound rather broad.

  • Program Envelope 3 according to your taste. You should, at the very least, raise the attack and release times. Define it to react to velocity, if you prefer. If you want to use the sound for something other than a simple pad, a shorter Decay Time and a lower Sustain Level of about 80 to 90% may be more appropriate.

  • Reduce the Cutoff Frequency and Resonance of Filter 1 to make the sound softer.

  • Save the new setting.

  • Compare the result with the original PWM 2 Osc setting. You’ll hear that the sound has undergone a remarkable evolution.

  • Also compare it to PWM Soft Strings, which was created as described above. You’ll probably notice a few similarities.

Creating Sounds with Ring Modulation in the ES2

A ring modulator takes its two input signals and outputs their sum and difference frequencies.

In the ES2, Oscillator 2 outputs a ring modulation, which is fed with a square wave of Oscillator 2 and the wave of Oscillator 1, when Ring is set as Oscillator 2’s waveform.

Odd intervals (frequency ratios) between the oscillators result in bell-like spectra, much like those heard in the Ringmod Start setting.

The third oscillator can be used as a tuning reference, to maintain a kind of basic tuning. On occasion, you may find that it’s nice to leave the sound out of tune—for use as a source of overtones and harmonics for another basic wave, supplied by Oscillator 3.

Try to program an atmospheric bell sound. Use your imagination, but here are some hints that may help:

  • Experiment with the various frequency ratios of Oscillators 1 and 2. You may want to use the 29 s 0 c/21 s 0 c ratio, which doesn’t sound out of tune at all. Ring modulation is not only useful for bell-like sounds, it’s also good for a great variety of spectra that tend to sound weird at lower frequency settings. Also try alterations to the fine-tuning of the Oscillators.

  • Check out an Intensity of 50% and a Rate, set to around 2/3 of the maximum value, for the Chorus effect.

  • Set the Attack and Release Times of Envelope 3 to taste.

  • Check out Drive and Filter FM, if you like your sounds a little “out of control.”

  • The rest is up to you.

Creating Sounds with Oscillator Synchronization in the ES2

If you select the synced square and sawtooth waveforms for Oscillators 2 and 3, they will be synchronized with Oscillator 1. In the Sync Start setting, only Oscillator 2 is audible, and Oscillator 3 is switched off.

Typical sync sounds feature dynamic frequency sweeps over wide frequency ranges. These frequency modulations (the sweeps) can be applied in various ways.

  • Try the pre-programmed pitch modulation, assigned to the modulation wheel first.

  • In the second router channel, an envelope pitch modulation has been preprogrammed (target = Pitch 2, Source = Env 1). Setting the minimum value to 1.0 results in a typical sync envelope. Also check out shorter Decay Times for Envelope 1.

  • To avoid a sterile, lifeless sound (after the decay phase of the envelope), you may also want to modulate the oscillator frequency with an LFO. Use the third router channel, and set the minimum modulation applied by LFO 1 to about 0.50.

  • Substitute the synchronized square wave with the synced sawtooth wave, and see if you like the results.

Note: Pulse width modulation is also available via the synchronized square wave of Oscillators 2 and 3. A modulation of the wave parameters of these two oscillators results in a PWM when the synced square wave is selected.

Getting Started with Vector Synthesis in the ES2

This tutorial section provides some hints for Vector Envelope programming. In the Vector Start setting, the “mix” of the oscillators is controlled by the Vector Envelope. Each oscillator has been set to a different waveform.

  • Switch from the Router view to Vector view.

  • In its basic (default) setting, the Vector Envelope has 3 envelope points. Point 1 is the start point, point 2 the Sustain point, and point 3 is the target in the release phase. By clicking the points, you can see that the mix is always set to 100% for Oscillator 1, in the Triangle.

  • Click point 2, and drag the square icon in the Triangle to Oscillator 2. You’ll hear a square wave, instead of Oscillator 1’s sawtooth.

  • Engage the Vector Envelope by switching the Solo Point parameter off. When it is switched on, you hear only the selected point, with no dynamic modulation. When Solo Point is switched off, you’ll hear the sound moving from saw to square, with every triggered note.

  • Alter the preset time of 498 ms between points 1 and 2.

  • While holding Shift, click between points 1 and 2. This will create a new point 2, and the point formerly known as point 2 will become point 3. The total time span between point 1 and point 3 is divided into the times between points 1 and 2, and 2 and 3. The division takes place at the click location. If you click at the exact midpoint, the new time spans are equal.

  • Click the newly created point 2, and then drag its corresponding square icon in the Triangle to Oscillator 2.

  • Click point 3, and drag its corresponding square icon in the Triangle to Oscillator 3. Listen to the three oscillators morphing from sawtooth to square to a triangular wave at the final Sustain point.

  • Click point 4 (the end point) and drag its corresponding square icon in the Triangle to Oscillator 1, if it’s not already there. Listen to how the sound returns to Oscillator 1’s sawtooth wave, following the release of the key.

Using the Planar Pad for Vector Synthesis in the ES2

The Vector Envelope setting starts where the Vector Start setting left off. You have a simple Vector Envelope consisting of 4 points, which is set to modulate the oscillator mix (the Triangle).

In this example, the Vector Envelope will be used to control two additional parameters—the Cutoff Frequency of Filter 2 and Panorama. These are preset as the X and Y targets in the Planar Pad. Both have a value of 0.50.

  • Switch on Solo Point, to more easily listen to the settings for the single points.

  • Click point 1. You will hear only Oscillator 1’s sawtooth.

  • Drag the square icon in the Planar Pad to the far left, which results in a low cutoff frequency for Oscillator 2.

  • Click Point 2. You will hear only Oscillator 2’s rectangular wave.

  • Drag the square icon in the Planar Pad all the way down, which results in the rightmost panorama position.

  • Click Point 3. You will hear only Oscillator 3’s triangular wave.

  • Drag the square icon in the Planar Pad all the way up, which results in the leftmost panorama position.

  • Switch on Solo Point. The sound begins with a strongly filtered sawtooth wave and turns into an unfiltered square wave. It initially sounds from the right, and then it moves to the left while morphing into a triangular wave. After you release the key, the saw sound will be heard.

Using Vector Synthesis Loops in the ES2

The basic sound of the Vector Loop setting—without the Vector Envelope—consists of three elements:

  • Oscillator 1 delivers a metallic FM spectrum, modulated by Oscillator 2’s wavetable.

  • Oscillator 2 outputs cross-faded Digiwaves (a wavetable), modulated by LFO 2.

  • Oscillator 3 plays a PWM sound at the well-balanced, and keyboard-scaled, speed of LFO 1.

Unison and Analog make the sound fat and wide.

These heterogeneous sound colors will be used as sound sources for the vector loop.

A slow, forward loop is preset. It moves from Oscillator 3 (PWM sound, point 1) to Oscillator 1 (FM sound, point 2), then to Oscillator 3 again (PWM, point 3), then to Oscillator 2 (wavetable, point 4), and finally it returns to Oscillator 3 (PWM, point 5). Points 1 and 5 are identical, which prevents any transition from point 5 to point 1 in the forward loop. This transition could be smoothed out with Loop Smooth, but this would make the rhythmic design more difficult to program.

The distances between the points of the Vector Envelope have been set to be rhythmically exact. Given that Loop Rate has been engaged, the time values are not displayed in ms, but as percentages. There are four time values (each at 25%), which is a good basis for the transformation into note values.

  • Switch off the Vector Envelope by setting Solo Point to on. This allows you to audition the individual points in isolation.

  • Take the opportunity to alter the square icon positions in the Planar Pad according to your taste. The X/Y axes of the Planar Pad control the cutoff frequency of Filter 2, and the panorama position. Adjustments to these make the sound more vivid.

  • Activate the Vector Envelope by setting Solo Point to off. Check the result, and fine-tune the square icon positions in the Planar Pad.

  • Alter the Loop Rate from the preset value of 0.09 up to 2.00. You will hear a periodic modulation, much like that of an LFO. At this point, the modulation is not synchronized with the project tempo. To synchronize the loop speed with the project tempo, move the Rate to the far left, and set a note or bar value.

  • You can create faster rhythmic note values by clicking between two points and setting the new time values—which result from the division that occurs—to a value of 12.5%, for example.

Creating ES2 Bass Drum Sounds with a Self-Oscillating Filter and the Vector Envelope

Electronic kick drum sounds are often created with modulated, self-oscillating filters. This approach can also be taken with the ES2, particularly when the Vector Envelope is used for filter modulation. An advantage of the Vector Envelope, in comparison with conventional ADSR envelopes, is its ability to define and provide two independent decay phases. The distortion effect applies the right amount of drive without sacrificing the original sonic character of the drum sound.

Note: To make the Vector Kick setting really punchy, you must activate Flt Reset, because all oscillators are switched off in this setting, and the filter needs a little time to start oscillating. At the start of each note, Flt Reset sends a very short impulse to the filter—making it oscillate from the outset.

By tweaking the Vector Kick setting you’ll be able to create any dance-floor kick drum sound your heart desires. These are the parameters that allow for the most efficient and significant variations:

  • Filter 2 slopes:  12 dB, 18 dB, 24 dB

  • Distortion:  Intensity and Soft or Hard

  • Envelope 3’s Decay Time:  (D)

  • Vector Envelope Time 1 > 2:  preset to 9.0 ms

  • Vector Envelope Time 2 > 3:  preset to 303 ms

  • Vector Time Scaling

Creating Percussive ES2 Synthesizer and Bass Sounds with Two Filter Decay Phases

As with the Vector Kick setting, the Vector Perc Synth setting uses the Vector Envelope to control the filter cutoff frequency, with two independently adjustable decay phases. This would not be possible with a conventional ADSR envelope generator. Try creating further percussive synthesizers and basses by varying these parameters:

  • Vector Envelope Time 1 > 2 (= Decay 1)

  • Vector Envelope Time 2 > 3 (= Decay 2)

  • Vector Time Scaling

  • Square icons in the Planar Pad for points 1, 2, and 3 (= Cutoff Frequency)

  • Waveforms (choosing other waveforms)