ES2 Tutorial:  Using Templates to Create Sounds

Welcome to a brief programming tour of the ES2!

While working on the factory preset programming for the ES2, a number of testers, sound programmers, and other people involved in the project indicated that it would be nice to start their programming work from templates, rather than entirely from scratch. This feedback resulted in a number of tutorial templates that were added to the Settings menu of the ES2 window (open the Settings menu and choose Tutorial Settings to see these templates).

Needless to say, creating templates that cover all sound genres is an impossible mission. As you spend time familiarizing yourself with the ES2’s architecture, you’ll start to understand why.

Nevertheless, this programming tour of the ES2 is included as a part of the toolbox to help you learn the ES2’s architecture through experimentation. You’ll find that this approach is fun. You’ll also discover, as you work through a number of simple operations, that results come quickly when you start to create your personal sound library.

As you become more familiar with the ES2 and its myriad functions and parameters, you can create your own templates to use as starting points for designing new sounds.

Using the ES2 Slapped StratENV Setting

The target of this setting is the sound of a Stratocaster, with the switch between bridge and middle pickup in the middle position—in phase. It attempts to emulate the noisy twang typical of this sound’s characteristics.

This might be a useful template for emulations of fretted instruments, harpsichords, clavinets, and so on.

Take a look at its architecture:

Osc 1 and Osc 3 provide the basic wave combination within the Digiwave field. Changing the Digiwaves of both in combination delivers a huge number of basic variations—some also work pretty well for electric piano-type keyboard sounds.

Osc 2 adds harmonics with its synced waveform, so you should only vary its pitch or sync waveform. There are a couple of values that can be changed here, which will give you a much stronger, more balanced signal.

An old trick, which delivers a punchy attack, was used—to create an effect that the use of a naked wave wouldn’t deliver, even with the best and fastest filters available:  You use an envelope (in this case, Env 1) for a quick “push” of a wavetable’s window—or all wavetables together, where it makes sense.

Set up Envelope 1’s decay time for this short push by moving the wave selectors for all oscillators. (Although it makes no sense to do this on the synced sawtooth oscillator, Osc 2, use the envelope trick regardless.)

This allows you to vary the punchiness of the content between:

  • Envelope 1’s contribution to the overall attack noise and changing decay length—a short decay results in a peak, a long decay results in a growl, as Envelope 1 reads a couple of waves from the wavetable.

  • Modulation destination—you can always assign this to each of the oscillators separately.

  • Start point—you vary the wave window start with minimum and maximum control of EG1/Osc.waves modulation:  negative values for a start wave before the selected wave, positive values for a start wave from a position behind the selected wave that rolls the table back.

Feel free to experiment with this wavetable-driving trick. The growl effect works well for brass sounds, and some organs absolutely shine with a little click, courtesy of a wavetable push.

Envelope 2, which controls the filter, provides a slight attack when used for “slapped” characteristics. Setting it to the fastest value eliminates the wah-like attack, while retaining the punch.

For playing purposes, you’ll find that LFO 2 is used as a real-time source for vibrato. It is assigned to the mod wheel and pressure.

Don’t concern yourself too much with the different wheel and pressure settings. Feel free to change them.

Velocity is set up to be very responsive, because many synthesizer players don’t strike keys like a piano player would with a weighted-action “punch.” Therefore, you should play this patch softly, or you may find that the slap tends to sweep a little. Alternatively, you can adjust the sensitivity of the filter modulation’s velocity value to match your personal touch.

Feel free to increase the Voices to maximum—six strings should be enough for a guitar, but for held or sustained notes, a few extra voices may come in handy.

Using the ES2 Wheelrocker Setting

This quite ordinary organ patch doesn’t hold any deep, high-end sound design secrets—it is just a combination of three oscillators with mixed wave levels. You’ll probably find a different combination that more closely matches your vision of what an organ sounds like. Check out the Digiwaves.

Focus your attention on the mod wheel’s response—hold a chord, and bring the wheel in by moving it slowly upward until you reach the top (maximum).

The intention behind the programming of this mod wheel modulation is to simulate an accelerating Leslie rotor speaker.

The modulation routings do the following:

  • Modulation routing 1 assigns envelope 2 to Filter 1—the only one used for this patch—and produces a little organ key click with the envelope. The filter is opened slightly (with Keyboard as via) when you play in the higher keyboard range, with the maximum value.

  • Modulation routings 2 and 3 bring in LFO 1 vibrato, and both oscillators are modulated out of phase.

  • Modulation routing 4 does not need to be adjusted, but you are free to do so. It has been set up to use ENV1 to “push” the wavetable. Adjust ENV1 Decay to make the sound more pipe organ-like. Adjust ENV1 Attack to sweep through the wavetable.

  • Modulation routing 5 reduces the overall volume according to personal taste, but the organ’s level shouldn’t increase too drastically when all modulations are moved to their respective maximums.

  • Modulation routings 6 and 7 detune Oscillators 2 and 3 against each other, within symmetrical values—to avoid the sound getting out of tune, overall. Again, both work out of phase with modulation routings 2 and 3; Oscillator 1 remains at a stable pitch.

  • Modulation routing 8 brings in LFO 1 as a modulator for panorama movement—this patch changes from mono to stereo. If you prefer a full stereo sound with a slowly rotating Leslie in its idle position, just set an amount equal to the desired minimum value, thereby achieving a permanent, slow rotation. Another modification you may wish to try is a higher value, resulting in more extreme channel separation.

  • Modulation routing 9 speeds up LFO 2’s modulation frequency.

  • Modulation routing 10:  A little cutoff was added to Filter 1, increasing the intensity of the big twirl.

Feel free to find your own values. While doing so, keep in mind the fact that there are two modulation pairs that should only be changed symmetrically—modulation routings 2 and 3 work as a pair, as do modulation routings 6 and 7. So, if you change Pitch 2’s maximum to a lower minus value, remember to set Pitch 3’s maximum value to the same positive amount—the same rule applies for modulation routing pair 6 and 7.

You can also bring in LFO 2 to increase the pitch diffusion against LFO 1’s pitch and pan movements. Just exchange it for LFO 1 on modulation 2 and 3. Note that there will be no modulation source for the Leslie acceleration, so you’ll need to use it in a static way, just fading it in. Alternatively, you’ll need to sacrifice one of the other modulations in favor of a second twirl.

For another stereo modification of the static sound, you can use the patch in Unison mode with a slight detune—make sure to adjust the analog parameter for this.

Using the ES2 Crescendo Brass Setting

The oscillators are used for the following tasks:

  • Oscillator 1 provides the basic brass wave—sawtooth.

  • Oscillator 2 provides a not particularly “brassy” pulse wave, which brings in the ensemble. It is pulse-width modulated by LFO 1 (modulation routing 4).

Note: The following critical point should be taken into account for any modulations. There are four parameters that behave in an entirely different fashion when any one of them is changed. Therefore, all four must be changed when making adjustments:

  • You may adjust the initial pulse width of Oscillator 2’s wave parameter. A “fat” position, close to the ideal square wave, has been chosen for this patch—in order to program a full, voluminous synth-brass sound.

  • Modulation routing 4 adjusts the modulation intensity—how far the range differs from fat to narrow when being pulse-width modulated. Set with the Minimum parameter.

  • The rate of LFO1 directly controls the speed of the movement of the pulse width modulation. For this patch, both LFOs are used, to achieve a stronger diffusion effect at different modulation speeds.

    Tip: You should use LFO1 for all permanent, automatic modulations, because you are able to delay its impact with its EG parameter. You can use LFO 2 for all real-time modulations, which you intend to access via ModWheel, pressure, or other controls while playing.

  • A keyboard assignment was set up as the source for modulation routing 4. This is because all pitch, or pulse-width, modulations tend to cause a stronger detuning in the lower ranges, while the middle and upper key zones feature the desired diffusion effect. When using this parameter, you should initially adjust the lower ranges until an acceptable amount of detuning (resulting from the modulation) is reached. When set, check whether or not the modulations in the upper zones work to your satisfaction. Adjust the relationship between intensity (Max) and scaling (Min) values.

Oscillator 3 generates a Digiwave, which is “brassy” enough, within the overall wave mix. As an alternative to the Digiwave, another modulated pulse wave could be used to support the ensemble, or another sawtooth wave—to achieve a “fatter” sound, when detuning it with Oscillator 1’s sawtooth wave.

The primary aim, however, is to have a little bit of “growl,” achieved through a short wavetable push, as described in Using the ES2 Slapped StratENV Setting. This configuration is set up in modulation routing 3 (Oscillator 3 Wave moved by Envelope 1’s Decay).

Other controls have a variety of functions:

  • Envelope 1 also effects the pitch of Oscillator 2 against Oscillator 3. This results in both pitches clashing with each other, and also with the stable pitch of Oscillator 1 in the attack phase of the sound.

  • The filter envelope’s design closes with a short stab in the attack phase, then reopens for a slower crescendo phase.

  • A further real-time crescendo has been assigned to the mod wheel, which also brings in an overall pitch modulation, controlled by LFO 2.

  • In addition to all of this, a “contrary” real-time modulation by pressure—which closes the filters—has been programmed. This allows you to play with an additional decrescendo, remotely controlled by touch. Try to get a feel for the patch’s response. You’ll find that it offers quite a few controls for expression—velocity, pressure after note-on, and pressure in advance. Listen to what happens when you press with the left hand before hitting a new chord with the right hand and allowing the swell to come in.

Using the ES2 MW-Pad-Creator Setting

This is an attempt to create a patch that is able to automatically generate new patches.

Again, Oscillator 2 is used for a pulse width modulation—which creates a strong ensemble component (for more information, see Using the ES2 Crescendo Brass Setting.

Oscillators 1 and 3 are set to an initial start wave combination within their respective Digiwave tables. You can modify these, if you wish, and start with a different combination of Digiwaves from the outset.

Modulation 3 “drives” the wavetables of all three oscillators, via the mod wheel. Stated simply, you can simultaneously scroll through the Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 3 wavetables, and change Oscillator 2’s pulse width—by moving the mod wheel.

Try a careful, very slow movement of the mod wheel, and you’ll hear drastic changes within the wave configuration. Each incremental position of the wheel offers a different digital pad sound. Avoid rapid movements, or this will sound like an AM radio.

Another potential modification procedure is hidden in the modulation intensity of the Oscillator 1, 2, and 3 wave parameters. As mentioned for the Slapped Strat setting, the value of this intensity parameter assigns both the step width, and direction, through the wavetables. You can try modifications to the amount, using positive or negative values.

An interesting side-effect of FM assignment to Filter 2 (modulation routing 4—Lowpass Filter FM) occurs when the mod wheel is moved to higher positions:  the frequency modulation of the filter is increased, causing all cyclical beats (vibrating pitches, detunes, pulse width) to be emphasized. This also adds a rough, “hissing” quality to the overall sound character.

FM offers vast scope for experimentation, and you can decide between:

  • An initial FM, using Filter 2’s FM parameter, which you can redraw (set a negative modulation amount for modulation routing 4’s maximum) by moving the mod wheel to its top position.

  • Permanent FM (and another modulation setup, saved for a different assignment). You can also switch off FM, if you consider its effect too dirty sounding.

Real-time control is via pressure for a vibrato (modulation routing 10), and also for a slight opening of the Cutoff to emphasize the modulation (modulation routing 9).

Using the ES2 Wheelsyncer Setting

Never obsolete—and undergoing a renaissance in new popular electronic music—are sync sounds.

For a description of the technical aspects of forcing an Oscillator to sync, see Synchronizing the ES2 Oscillators. Here’s the practical side of the playground.

Wheelsyncer is a single-oscillator lead sound; all others are switched off.

Although Oscillator 2 is the only one actively making any sound, it is directly dependent on Oscillator 1.

If you change Oscillator 1’s pitch or tuning, the overall pitch of the sound will go out of tune or will be transposed.

The pitch of Oscillator 2 provides the tone-color (or the harmonics) for the sync sound. Pitch changes are controlled by modulation routing 7—Oscillator 2 pitch is assigned to the mod wheel.

If you move the wheel, you can scroll through the spectrum of harmonics that have been programmed—for real-time changes. Any modification here starts with the pitch of Oscillator 2 itself, which is set to 3 semitones below the overall pitch. Feel free to start with a different pitch for Oscillator 2; it won’t affect the tuning of the sound.

The next modification may be modulation routing 7’s intensity (or the interval). The maximum value has been chosen—if this is too extreme for your needs, feel free to reduce it.

Another modification lies in the tone color of the lead sound itself. Oscillator 1 is switched off, because the patch is OK as it is. If you switch it on, all Oscillator 1 waveforms—including Digiwaves, standard waveforms, or a sine wave (which can be further modulated by FM)—are available for use.

All real-time controls are via the mod wheel, which is used for opening the filter on modulation routing 6, a panning movement on modulation routing 8, and acceleration of panning movement on modulation routing 9. If you have deeper modulation ambitions, a similar setup is used for a Leslie speaker simulation in the Wheelrocker setting (see Using the ES2 Wheelrocker Setting.