FM synth rout­ing

Future Music - - FM TOOLKIT -

The key to crack­ing fre­quency mod­u­la­tion syn­the­sis is suss­ing how your synth’s op­er­a­tors… er, op­er­ate! Let’s see how it’s done in three synths FM syn­the­sis in­volves wiring var­i­ous op­er­a­tors into oth­ers. It’s up to you to pick which are heard in the sig­nal path (car­ri­ers), or in the back­ground (mod­u­la­tors) – which is where an FM synth’s al­go­rithm comes in. In FM speak, an al­go­rithm is your cur­rent oper­a­tor topol­ogy, or sig­nal flow – ie, which can be heard, how one is routed into an­other, and so on. Many FM synths let you choose one from pre­set rout­ings, while oth­ers let you cre­ate a cus­tom setup via patch ca­bles or mod­u­la­tion ma­trix. Set­ting your al­go­rithm should be your first job when de­sign­ing an FM patch. Say you want a four-op synth: you may set up two car­ri­ers in the au­di­ble sig­nal path, each mod­u­lated by its own mod­u­la­tor; or, just have one au­di­ble car­rier, and in­flu­ence its har­monic change with three sep­a­rate in­audi­ble mod­u­la­tors.

In Na­tive In­stru­ments’ in­sanely flex­i­ble FM8, you cus­tomise your own rout­ing set­ups in the Ex­pert >> FM Ma­trix sec­tion. Op­er­a­tors A-F are the ‘main’ op­er­a­tors, while X is noise and Z is a fil­ter. Drag at an in­ter­sec­tion to mod­u­late one oper­a­tor by...

In Live’s four-op Oper­a­tor, click on the Global Shell sec­tion, then choose from the 11 pre­set rout­ing al­go­rithms. Coloured squares give os­cil­la­tor topol­ogy – hor­i­zon­tal oscs can be heard in the sig­nal path, while a ver­ti­cally-stacked osc mod­u­lates the...

Ar­turia’s DX7 V, based on Yamaha’s clas­sic synth, is a six-op FM synth. Again, the six op­er­a­tors are colour-coded – use the cen­tre win­dow to select one of the 32 pre­set al­go­rithm rout­ings as found on the orig­i­nal DX7.

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