Many of the most admired sound designs by popular electronic artists today feature synthetic “talking” – that throaty, sinister, robotic belch. This effect can be achieved a number of ways including subtractive EQ (see blog: Using Formants to Synthesize Vowel Sounds), bit crushing, resampling, and certain modulation effects. Each of these methods has its own character. Check out these clips that demonstrate the distinctions.
Resonant Subtractive EQ – The most subtle technique. This example alternates between 2 EQ parameter settings to say “ah-oo-ah-oo”
Bit Crushing – The noisiest, dirtiest technique. I processed this example with Lumit’s bit crusher and automated the parameters. Notice that “eeyoo” sort of sound.
Drastic Resampling – similar process as bit crushing except less noisy because it does not affect bit depth. It sounds more glitch and alien-like. In this example resampled the same melody above at a much higher rate.
Shifting Ring Modulators on Formants – a combination of formant frequencies and modulation effects. It sounds really modern, digitized, and robotic. In this blog I will go over this technique in detail. It involves the formant oscillator, the modulation oscillator, some enveloping, and some automation. When done tastefully, it sounds like this…..Download the patch (HERE)!
Here’s how you can make the above patch from scratch in Massive.
1. Open a new sound in Massive.
2. For the first oscillator, select the sine-square waveform and transpose it down to -24. Select formant as the waveform type.
3. Set the Wt-position all the way to the right (100% square wave) as well as the intensity and amp. You may want to automate these later.
4. Turn on the modulation oscillator. Set it to control ring-mod for oscillator 1 and bring its pitch to 20. Leave RM at about half.
5. In env4, lengthen the attack and release a little bit (the knobs should be just past 7 o’clock) and take the sustain all the way up. Leave the decay and release where they are.
6. Use 3 env to control the pitch of the modulation oscillator by dragging the cross-hair icon from 3 env to the first box under the modulation oscillator’s pitch. Drag the value in that box down to -24 and increase the attack time on the envelope to about 11 o’clock.
7. Turn on Filter 1 and select comb as the type. Set the pitch to about 10 o’clock, damping to 12 o’clock and feedback to about 9 o’clock. Automate these later if you wish.
8. Turn on the first insert effect and select “dimension expander”. Adjust it to your liking but go easy on the wetness and size. You don’t want to drown the sound.
9. Read the pitch of the modulation oscillator to Lumit’s XY plane and map a knob on your MIDI controller it. Do the same for the intensity parameter of oscillator 1.
10. As you play the synth, move the mapped parameters from step 9. The mod oscillator’s pitch will have a sweet spot between 20 and 50. This process is really what makes the sound talk. You may want to adjust the min/max bounds of your mapping because these are very temperamental parameters.