There are many, many ways to source prefabricated sound effect samples, but it can be cheaper and quicker to make bread-and-butter transition effects yourself. What’s more, synthesising your own effects gives you far greater control over their duration, movement and timbre, which makes it easier to get them sounding perfect in your project.
TAL Software’s free virtual analogue synth TAL-NoiseMaker is a relatively straightforward instrument, but it’s got a number of capabilities that make it ideal for creating a wide variety of sound effects. In this Weekend Workshop, we’ll show you how to make nine effects that you’ll find useful for all kinds of dance, electronic and pop music.
If you’re the impatient sort you can download the finished patches here, but learning how they’re created will give you techniques for developing your own unique effects. What’s more, the techniques we’ll use are transferable to other virtual analogue synths, and working through this tutorial will hopefully give you some inspiration for new sounds no matter what your favourite synthesiser.
What you’ll need:
- A DAW
- TAL-NoiseMaker which is available in AAX, AU, and VST formats for Windows and macOS
1. Programming a basic noise riser
Start by loading up TAL-NoiseMaker on an instrument track in your DAW. In the instrument’s Master panel you can see that the initial patch has both Osc 1 and the Sub oscillator turned up. We just want to use Osc 1, so turn the Sub oscillator all the way down.
We can use Osc 1 to generate noise. In the Osc 1 panel click the oscillator’s wave shape, which is currently set to Saw, and select Noise instead.
Now playing a note will result in pure, unfiltered white noise. This doesn’t sound very appealing currently, but with a little filtering, it can be made into something useful.
Click the Synth 2 panel tab to bring up the instrument’s Filter panel. If you play a note and adjust the Cutoff knob in the Filter panel you’ll hear that the lower the filter cutoff frequency goes, the duller the sound is. By automating the Cutoff knob, you can sweep the noise in and out and, unlike using a white noise sweep sample, you can control the exact timing and even the shape of the movement of the sweep.
What’s more, you can accentuate the filter movement by turning up the Reso (resonance) knob in the Filter Panel. Let’s go for a value of 0.50 which gives us something ear-catching but not overly harsh.
We could set up a modulator like the dedicated filter envelope to move the cutoff for us, but automation is often more useful for this kind of articulation because it allows you to control the timing and movement of the parameter very precisely. Let’s save out this patch using the Save Preset button at the bottom right-hand corner of the synth.
When you save presets, it’s useful to name the virtual instrument in the filename because it makes finding patches with search easier, and also means you’ll never forget which plug-in a patch is associated with. Let’s call the patch something helpful and descriptive like ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Noise Sweep’.
2. Morphing into a pitched sweep
TAL-NoiseMaker’s filter is self-oscillating, which means that when its resonance is turned up to extreme values it begins to create its own tone. A word of caution: this can create some piercing sounds, so please take care of your ears, and reduce the output level accordingly! Turn the Reso knob in the Filter panel up to its maximum of 1.00.
Now when you play a note and move the Cutoff knob you’ll hear that you’ve got a defined tone in there as well as the filtered noise.
You can control the level of the noise in the mix by adjusting the Osc 1 knob in the Master panel. Let’s turn it all the way down so we just have a pure, pitched tone with no noise.
Let’s save out this patch as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Pitched Sweep’ before we move on.
3. Fast filter cutoff modulation
So far, the sounds we’ve made couldn’t be much more basic, but next we can create something much more texturally interesting by further modulating the filter cutoff frequency. We can assign LFO 1 to modulate the Cutoff by clicking the modulation destination in the LFO 1 panel that currently says ‘Off’, and switching it to Filter.
This won’t have any effect on the sound at first, because the Amount knob is currently set to 0 (12 o’clock on the knob). Turn this up to around 0.2 and you’ll hear that the pitch of the self-resonating filter very slowly moves around even when the Cutoff isn’t swept or automated.
We can speed this movement up by changing LFO 1’s Rate knob. Turn this up to its maximum available value, 514.22Hz.
A lot of synths only have LFOs that go up to 20Hz, the low end of the human ear’s frequency range. TAL-NoiseMaker’s LFO goes well into the audible frequency range which, to cut a long story short, means it gives us some really interesting-sounding results when used to modulate a parameter.
Let’s play a note and sweep the Cutoff again. Rather than a simple-sounding sweep, this gives us a much more complex effect. Let’s save this as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Filter LFO Sweep’.
4. Sample & Hold sweeps
TAL-NoiseMaker offers a variety of LFO shapes, and while the basic shapes will only change the timbre of the sound slightly, there’s one mode that gives us really interesting results: Sample & Hold.
Select this mode and the sound is transformed into a dirty, wet monstrosity that sounds great when the Cutoff is swept. Let’s save this out as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Filter S&H Sweep’.
This is an intriguing tone, so let’s turn down the LFO speed and hear what’s going on. At an LFO Rate of around 8Hz, you’ll get an old-school, sci-fi, bloopy computer mainframe effect.
Sweep the Cutoff and it turns into warped, synthetic birdsong. Let’s save this version out as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Filter S&H Slow’ just in case either of those comes in handy.
5. Fluttery LFO effects
Let’s make a different effect with the LFO. Set LFO 1’s waveshape to triangle. This produces a regular rhythmic movement creating an interesting fluttery effect when swept over an extended duration. Save this patch as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Filter Flutter Triangle’.
We can make a very quick variation on this sound by changing the LFO shape to Pulse.
We can develop this sound a little with TAL-NoiseMaker’s Master section. To access this, click the Control tab. In the Master section, turn up the Vintage Noise and Filter Drive knobs to maximum. This gives us a harsher and more dramatic variation on the patch.
Let’s save out this version as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Filter Flutter Pulse’.
6. Synced noise effects
The Filter Drive is really grunging things up, so let’s see what happens when we bring the noise back into the mix. In the Master panel, turn up the Osc 1 level to 0dB. This gives us an even more choppy and dramatic-sounding effect.
Let’s sync this to the DAW’s tempo by activating the Sync switch in the LFO 1 panel, and set the Rate to 1/16. Now the LFO pulse movement is synced to the tempo and will play in time with the rest of a project.
You can get interesting results using triplet values for the LFO such as 1/8T. Save this patch out as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Noise Chop Sync’.
7. Applying TAL-NoiseMaker’s onboard FX
Finally, let’s show a little love to TAL-NoiseMaker’s onboard FX. Turn down the LFO 1 Amount to 0 to negate the LFO movement, then click the Control tab again to bring up the FX section.
All of the sounds we’ve created thus far have been entirely mono, but we can introduce some stereo movement with one of TAL-NoiseMaker’s chorus effects. The chorus effects are as simple as you could possibly imagine: each just has an on/off button, that’s it, no parameters to worry about here! We can have both Chorus effects active at once, but we’re just going to use Chorus I for this sound. We can also add some reverb and delay by turning up the Wet levels of those effects.
The chorus, delay and reverb effects all add satisfying stereo width to the sound, although the default Feedback setting on the delay causes the sound to ring out for an eternity, so turn it down to 0.70 to make it shorter. Let’s save this patch as ‘TAL-NoiseMaker Noise Sweep FX’.
There you have it, nine exciting effects to spice up your tracks. Remember to download the patches here if you’d like to compare your work with ours. To load a patch, simply click the Load Preset button at the bottom right-hand corner of the instrument’s interface and navigate your way to the desired .noisemakerpreset file. Happy noise making!
Share the results of this workshop in the new MusicTech Creator Community Facebook Group for community feedback. We’d love to hear what you come up with.
Don’t forget to check out our past Weekend Workshops as well, and look out for more every Friday.