Gran­u­lar fun with Alchemy

A gran­u­lar in­stru­ment is es­sen­tially a sam­pler on steroids. Here’s how to use Logic’s four-osc vir­tual beast to man­gle au­dio


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Choose File >> Ini­tial­ize Pre­set. The in­stru­ment’s four os­cil­la­tors, called Sources, are ca­pa­ble of mul­ti­ple syn­the­sis and sam­pling types. Click Saw A’s top header and choose Im­port Au­dio to open the Im­port screen. After set­ting the bot­tom Anal­y­sis Mode to Gran­u­lar, hunt down a vo­cal sam­ple and punch Im­port.

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Bash MIDI notes, and Alchemy plays back the au­dio, sam­pler-style. Set Speed to 0%, then sweep Po­si­tion to move the play­head through the au­dio file. Now to the right Gran­u­lar con­trols: set Den­sity to 1, and a sin­gle grain is out­put once the pre­vi­ous one has fin­ished. Sweep Size from the min­i­mum 2ms to the max 230ms to lengthen and shorten the grain.

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So far, we’ve just been re­peat­ing one ‘chunk’ of au­dio. Den­sity de­fines how many grains will be played back at once (be­tween one and 10) at the play­head po­si­tion. Set Den­sity to 10 grains, then play a chord while sweep­ing or mod­u­lat­ing Size. This ‘fluffi­ness’ can be per­fect for syn­the­sis­ing those soft, ethe­real, pad-like tim­bres.

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For stereo in­ter­est, flip the Source’s Mono/ Stereo but­ton to Stereo mode, then raise the Gran­u­lar >> Ran­dom Pan (RPan) knob. The pan po­si­tion of each grain is now ran­domly off­set for a lush stereo ef­fect. And, as you’d ex­pect, ‘gran­u­larised’ sig­nals like this sound gor­geous when doused in re­verb and/or de­lay.

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Shorter Size val­ues can re­sult in harsh, atonal ef­fects. To com­bat this, gran­u­lar synths au­to­mat­i­cally cross­fade each grain, re­duc­ing harsh­ness and shap­ing grain-to-grain tim­bre on a mi­cro­scopic level. The fade ‘curve’ of this cross­fade can be changed, how­ever: choose from eight Grain Shapes via the menu.


The RTime knob ran­domises grain play­back po­si­tion. A short Size value and 0% RTime cre­ates ob­vi­ous buzzing, be­cause the grains are sim­ply re­peated. Raise RTime and the sig­nal turns ‘fluffy’ again. From here, mod­u­late gran­u­lar pa­ram­e­ters and play­back Po­si­tion for tim­bral in­ter­est.

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