Getting Started with Sound Design

Two Basic Approaches to Synth Programming

Contributed by Roland US Team

Do you experiment with sound design? One common misconception about programming synthesizers is that it’s easier to modify an existing patch (tone) than to start from scratch.

You’ve probably sat with your favorite synth, found a patch that you like, and went to town tweaking the parameters. Suddenly, you begin to find that your knob and slider adjustments are getting you further and further away from the original sound. This is the main problem with modifying existing patches. You often have to search for and remove unwanted parameters (which may be affecting the tone quite drastically) only to end up with something far from the original and a lot of frustration.

Axial: Roland Synth Sound Library

Learn Sound Design by Imitating…

Analyzing existing preset patches in any synthesizer can teach you how the different parameters affect one another. Synthesizer parameters are interactive. Sometimes changing one parameter in a synthesizer, even slightly, can affect the overall sound in a way that you didn’t expect. Instead, the easiest way to get the tone you want is to analyze the preset patch, learn its signal flow (which will teach you how the parameters affect each other). This can teach you quite a few tricks that you can carry over to new patches.

Once you understand the workings of a patch, start from scratch with a new tone and apply the tricks you learned from your study. This will improve not only your programming skills, it will also help you learn the ins and outs of your synthesizer. Merely tweaking presets won’t teach you about how your synthesizer works. Mastering your synth’s primary functions will develop your sound design skills and patch edits.

Sound Design clean slate for gaiaFor example, if you wish to program from scratch on the Gaia SH-01 Synthesizer, press the CANCEL/SHIFT and the WRITE button to start your sound design from a clean slate. All Roland synthesizers, including guitar and drum synthesizers, have a way to initialize a patch or tone for programming.

Creating Unique Sounds…

Creating unique synthesizer patches is another way to help set your music apart from everyone else. Most musicians will tell you, there’s nothing like being able to say that you programmed all the sounds on your recordings. It’s a great statement that your music is completely original, even down to the synthesizer sounds.

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Created by Roland V-Drums specialist Simon Ayton, these patches were designed using the internal factory sounds and many of the techniques covered in the TD-50 guide. Enjoy exploring the possibilities!