Howard Scarr

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

“Swap­ping out mod­ules to check how they af­fect the sound is fun, but what makes the dif­fer­ence be­tween a medi­ocre pre­set and a killer one is the sum of many de­tails. Here are a few ex­am­ples of such tweaks…”


“Try us­ing Poly2 more of­ten. It's not just a CPU-saver – it also gives the voices a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter'…

“Load HS Ganymede from the 4 Dream Synth folder, hold a chord with your left hand and play a fairly slow melody over the top. Af­ter the ini­tial slow at­tack, as long as you leave some space be­tween notes, that melody will sound like a sep­a­rate lit­tle monosynth. Now switch Mode (the se­lec­tor im­me­di­ately above Ac­cu­racy) to Poly and com­pare. The melody blends into the back­ground now – it loses that solo char­ac­ter.

“By the way, the ob­vi­ous way to save CPU is to set a lower Ac­cu­racy – it doesn't al­ways have to be Divine – set it to Fast and play that Ganymede pre­set again. Hon­estly now – how much dif­fer­ence can you hear be­tween Fast and Divine mode while play­ing this par­tic­u­lar pre­set? Now try Draft mode.”


“Pres­sure, in Diva-speak, is a great source of ex­pres­sion, but the re­sults can be too sub­tle or too rad­i­cal, with very lit­tle ‘sweet spot' in be­tween.

“Try slow­ing it down. Lo­cate Lag in the Mod­i­fi­ca­tions panel and choose Pres­sure as source. Turn the Lag knob up to about

50, then use Lag as a mod­u­la­tion source – for the fil­ter Cut­off, for ex­am­ple.

“The next trick doesn't af­fect the range but en­sures that medium aftertouch stays fairly sub­tle: Choose Pres­sure for both Mul­ti­ply sources, then use Mul­ti­ply as your mod­u­la­tor. Think of it like this: Zero re­mains zero, half be­comes a quar­ter, one re­mains one.”


“Use the Stack­In­dex to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing rhythms. Load INIT Mon­grel-2 from the 8 Tem­plates folder. In the fil­ter, drag Cut­off down to min­i­mum, and Cut­off mod­u­la­tion from LFO2 up to max­i­mum. Also set En­ve­lope 1's Sus­tain to max­i­mum so that sus­tained notes don't fade out. Hold a low note. You should hear a reg­u­lar ‘wub'.

“In LFO2, choose Stack­In­dex to mod­u­late the rate (the se­lec­tor be­low Po­lar­ity) and turn Rate Mod up to pre­cisely 1.00. LFO2 is now twice as fast as it was be­fore. Set Stack to 2 and hold that note again. The LFO2 in one of the voices is four times as fast as the other (dou­bled in voice 1, halved in voice 2).”


“Let's quickly turn this into a kind of ‘cin­e­matic march' sound. In the os­cil­la­tor, choose Noise and Saw­tooth and set both

Vol­umes to 50. Turn the amount of LFO2 cut­off mod­u­la­tion down to about 50 and add re­verb. Re­place Env 2 in the fil­ter with ModWheel and turn the amount up to about 30. Now play a low mi­nor chord and ride the mod­u­la­tion wheel.”


“It's worth get­ting a feel for the ranges of pa­ram­e­ters in the Trim­mers page, as this is the ul­ti­mate source of all ana­logue ‘slop'.

“Load INIT Mon­grel-2 again. All off­sets in Os­cil­la­tor Voice De­tune are scaled by

De­tune Amt, so you won't hear any voice de­tun­ing if this is set to zero. Turn it up to

max­i­mum, play the same note re­peat­edly and lis­ten for a while…

“Ad­just the top row of Trim­mers to ex­treme val­ues and lis­ten again. Turn

De­tune Amt down to min­i­mum and turn Voice Drift up in­stead. Hold a note and lis­ten to how much the pitch wa­vers. Quite sub­tle. Sim­i­larly, check out what max­i­mum Vari­ance does to each pa­ram­e­ter.”


“Don't delete prim­i­tive ver­sions of your sounds be­cause you feel that later ver­sions are so much more so­phis­ti­cated. Check your orig­i­nal ‘raw power' ver­sions again – if one of them sounds great, keep it!”

Where bet­ter to learn how to master Diva than from one of the synth’s orig­i­nal sound de­sign­ers? We hunted down Howard Scarr for his pro tips

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